The Senate met at 2 p.m., the Speaker in the chair.
Business of the Senate
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, there have been consultations and there is an agreement to allow photographers in the Senate Chamber to photograph the introduction of new senators and welcoming remarks.
Is it agreed, honourable senators?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I have the honour to inform the Senate that the Clerk of the Senate has received certificates from the Registrar General of Canada showing that the following persons, respectively, have been summoned to the Senate:
William Brent Cotter
The Hon. the Speaker having informed the Senate that there were senators without waiting to be introduced:
The following honourable senator was introduced; presented Her Majesty’s writ of summons; took the oath prescribed by law, which was administered by the Clerk of the Senate; and was seated:
Hon. Judith Keating, of Fredericton, New Brunswick, introduced between Hon. Marc Gold, P.C., and Hon. Percy Mockler.
The following honourable senator was introduced; presented Her Majesty’s writ of summons; took the solemn affirmation, which was administered by the Clerk of the Senate; and was seated:
Hon. Brent Cotter, of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, introduced between Hon. Marc Gold, P.C., and Hon. Kim Pate.
The Hon. the Speaker informed the Senate that each of the honourable senators named above had made and subscribed the declaration of qualification required by the Constitution Act, 1867, in the presence of the Clerk of the Senate, the Commissioner appointed to receive and witness the said declaration.
Congratulations on Appointments
Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): What a great pleasure and honour to welcome our two new colleagues here in the Senate. I know that this brings back memories to us all of when we were first sworn in. It’s so wonderful to have you with us.
Both Senator Keating and Senator Cotter bring a lifetime of professional experience and devoted public service to this chamber. By now, you have read about them in the press and others will have more to say about their professional accomplishments. But in the brief time that I’ve come to know them, I can say one thing with absolute confidence: They bring the right spirit, the right devotion and a deep understanding of the parliamentary process, the public policy process and the legislative process, and, most important, they bring to this chamber that which we all share —
— a dedication and commitment to Canada, to ensuring that the Senate can fulfill its constitutional role and promote the well-being of Canadians.
I won’t presume ever to speak on your behalf — this is a chamber of independent senators — so I will speak only for myself and for the members of the Government Representative office. Welcome to the Senate. We’re so happy to have you with us and we’re counting on you to help us improve the way that we do business on behalf of all Canadians.
Hon. Donald Neil Plett (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, it’s a pleasure for me to rise today to welcome two new senators to this chamber. Senator Cotter and Senator Keating, I, too, speak as an independent senator, but I am also speaking on behalf of an entire Conservative caucus.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
Senator Plett: I would like to offer my warm welcome and congratulations to both of you on your appointment to the Senate of Canada.
We all remember that day very well: the phone call from the Prime Minister, the flicker of uncertainty as you wonder if you are the victim of a prank call and the dawning realization that this is actually happening in spite of being surreal.
But it’s all very real. The Prime Minister has placed his confidence in you by recommending your appointment to the Governor General. And here you are today on this memorable occasion as you take your seat in this chamber for the first time. Savour every moment of it with the family and friends who are here to celebrate with you. It is a day to remember. It will be short-lived.
In the coming months and years, you will find this journey you have embarked upon to be both fulfilling at times and frustrating at others. Public life is not easy. And in a country as diverse as ours, as Canada, there will always be those who disagree with you, no matter what position you take or explanation you offer.
Of course, I have never experienced this myself, but that’s what I’ve been told.
In all seriousness, along with the great honour of being appointed to this chamber, there comes great responsibility. The oath that you just took was the same oath taken by the very first senators 153 years ago at Confederation. It has not changed. In my mind, this illustrates the trust that has been passed on to us from previous generations.
We are not just stewarding the dreams of those who are alive today but also the hopes of those who went before us. It is our duty to remember both and to serve honourably and with humility, as I am certain both of you will. You each bring an impressive list of credentials and accomplishments, and your wealth of experience and expertise will be of great value to this institution and to the nation.
We welcome you to this chamber as fellow senators and look forward to working with you in the months and the years ahead. Welcome.
Hon. Yuen Pau Woo: Honourable senators, it is my pleasure, on behalf of the Independent Senators Group, to extend a very warm welcome to our new colleagues, Senator William Brent Cotter representing Saskatchewan and Senator Judith Keating from New Brunswick.
With these appointments, the Senate is inching ever closer to gender parity. We now have 48 female senators and 52 male senators.
Senators Keating and Cotter have been leaders in advancing reconciliation in Canada. In New Brunswick, Senator Keating was the provincial Chair of the Working Group on Truth and Reconciliation. Senator Cotter, in turn, is a member of the Federation of Law Societies of Canada Advisory Committee on Implementation of Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action. He is also a former Deputy Minister of Intergovernmental and Aboriginal Affairs in Saskatchewan.
Senators Keating and Cotter have had distinguished careers in law. Each has served as their respective province’s Deputy Minister of Justice and Deputy Attorney General. Senator Keating is a pioneer in the legal field. She was the founder of New Brunswick’s Women in Law and the first woman to be New Brunswick’s Deputy Minister of Justice. In 2002, she was appointed Queen’s Counsel.
Senator Keating was also the 2015 recipient of the Muriel Corkery-Ryan Q.C. Award of the Canadian Bar Association’s New Brunswick branch, granted to recognize the outstanding contributions of an individual to the profession.
Senator Cotter is a leading scholar in the field of legal ethics in Canada. He was awarded the Canadian Bar Association of Saskatchewan’s distinguished service award, the Teaching Excellence Award from the College of Law at the University of Saskatchewan as well as the Saskatchewan Centennial Medal.
Senators Cotter and Keating, we welcome you to the Senate family, and we welcome your families to the broader Senate community. As you work long hours and deal with weighty and arduous matters, their support will be so important to you, as we know support is so important to all of us here. We look forward to working with you as colleagues and friends in the years ahead.
Hon. Scott Tannas: I’d like to add just some brief comments, on behalf of the Canadian Senators Group, to you, Senators Keating and Cotter.
Although I would like to say, starting off, that Senator Cotter’s appointment raised some eyebrows amongst the legal community in the Senate here, it turns out that Senator Cotter, Senator Wetston and Senator Black (Alberta) all graduated practically together from Dalhousie law.
Some Hon. Senators: Oh, oh!
Senator Tannas: We will wait for the other lawyers in the room to press for proportionality with their alma mater.
But in all seriousness, you are two eminent Canadians. It is our privilege to welcome you today to this chamber with your skills and your perspectives, particularly as senators from the outer regions. You are fellow soldiers. We need your perspectives, we need your skills, and we look forward to working with you. On behalf of the Canadian Senators Group, welcome.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Hon. Jane Cordy: By the way, the Speaker was also a graduate of Dalhousie Law School.
On behalf of my colleagues in the progressive Senate group, I would also like to welcome Senators Keating and Cotter to our chamber. Both senators have had successful careers in law and public service before arriving here. My colleagues have already spoken about their extensive accomplishments in their professions.
Senator Judith Keating is a fellow Maritimer who brings 30 years of experience with the Government of New Brunswick. She is a talented legal adviser, and I know that she brings her advocacy for language, rights for women and Indigenous peoples with her.
Senator Brent Cotter will represent the province of Saskatchewan. An academic, a former public servant and community builder, he will no doubt add his own skills and expertise to our Senate deliberations.
Senators Keating and Cotter, we are fortunate to add you to our numbers of the many dedicated and hard-working senators here in this chamber. You will hear much about the Senate being the chamber of sober second thought. That has been a hallmark since its creation. We take the long-term view on policies and legislation. We do not rush our examinations because senators know that, in our haste, we might miss recognizing the unintended consequences of our actions. We owe Canadians the time to get it right because Canadians must always be our priority. I have no doubt that each of you will put your past experiences to good use as we move forward together.
As a former teacher, I would like to pass along some advice because teachers always do that.
First, senators, reach out to work with honourable senators from all groups in this chamber. You can work with people from all parts of Canada with different life experiences and different political philosophies, and that’s a positive thing.
Second, read the farewell speech of our former colleague Senator Joyal. He provided many words of wisdom for the role of a senator and what we can accomplish together here in the Senate.
Third, to our new senators, it is important to keep your sense of humour. It really helps on those long days and those long nights.
Again, welcome to this chamber. The progressive group is looking forward to getting to know you and to working with you both. Thank you.
Business of the Senate
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I know that many senators wish to speak about the recent air disaster. I understand that there is therefore agreement to extend the time for statements to 45 minutes.
Is it agreed, honourable senators?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Victims of Tragedy
Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752—Silent Tribute
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I wish to take a moment to mark the tragedy of Ukraine International Airlines flight 752 on January 8.
The flight, bound for Kyiv from Tehran, carried 167 passengers and 9 crew. All 176 were killed shortly after takeoff. Included among the victims were 57 Canadian citizens and a further 29 permanent residents. We extend our sincere condolences to all those affected by this tragedy.
I now invite everyone to rise for a minute of silence in memory of the victims of this tragedy.
(Honourable senators then stood in silent tribute.)
Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 Tragedy
Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Honourable senators, twenty-seven days ago, Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 entered the skies of Tehran. Many on board were making their way to Canada to come home, to put down roots, to study, to work, to live in freedom, to raise children, to grow old. Their futures were taken away 27 days ago, tragically and needlessly. All 167 passengers and 9 crew now lost to their families, friends and loved ones. It has been 27 days of shock, horror, confusion, pain and loss.
On behalf of the Government of Canada, I offer our heartfelt condolences to the families and friends whose loved ones perished in this tragedy. We mourn their loss and we stand with you in sadness, in solidarity and in grief.
To Canada’s Iranian community, we mourn with you. To those who lost a friend or colleague, we mourn with you. To those who lost grandparents, parents, sisters or brothers, we mourn with you.
And to the parents — for we know that there were many young people on board — there are no words. Indeed, there are no words that can measure up to the loss that you all must endure.
Every community and every tradition has its own way of understanding death and dealing with such tragedies, but what is common to all traditions is an understanding that we all have a responsibility to reach out and take care of those who are suffering. And this is an understanding that is shared by all Canadians, that defines us as Canadians and that binds us one to another as Canadians, so as Canadians we stand together in this time of sorrow and grief.
May the memory of all who perished be a blessing and may all who mourn be spared any further sorrow.
Hon. Donald Neil Plett (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, January 8, 2020, is a date that will be forever imprinted on our hearts and minds. On that day, no one could have imagined the tragedy that was about to unfold.
It was 5:15 a.m. local time in Tehran, and Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 was supposed to be taking off. Instead, it waited, delayed for an hour. Although they had no way of knowing it, for the 176 people on board, that hour would be their last.
At 6:12, Flight 752 departed from Tehran International Airport and was expected to land in Kiev at 8 a.m. local time. As we know, it never arrived.
In spite of intense military activity, Iran had neglected to close its airspace and was allowing commercial airliners to fly in and out of Tehran. Less than two minutes after Flight 752 had left the runway, the Iranian regime aimed two missiles at the civilian aircraft and pulled the trigger. All 176 people perished.
When Canadians awoke to the devastating news, we were initially unaware of the enormity of our loss. But as the names and identities of those who were killed became known, the nation was stunned. Of the 167 passengers, 138 were travelling to Canada, 57 were Canadian citizens and 29 were permanent residents. From one end of the country to the other, families, friends and loved ones reeled under the weight of the breaking news.
The Canadians who perished came from six different provinces and included students, faculty and recent graduates from 20 universities, colleges and technical institutes across the country. They were engineers, dentists and doctors. They were academics, professors and volunteers. They were children, scientists, teachers and professionals.
But to those who loved them, they were so much more. They were mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives, sons and daughters. They were roommates and newlyweds, neighbours and colleagues. They were friends and they were family. And now they were gone.
This tragedy is far from over. In fact, for those who have just lost a loved one, it has only begun. In front of them stretches a lifetime of missed birthdays, anniversaries and celebrations. Every day they will see the empty places at the dinner table and the missing faces in the family photos. There are no words that can soften the blow of such a loss or hush the waves of regret that assault us in times of grief. There are no speeches that can dull the pain, stem the longing for one more chance to say, “I love you,” or to linger a little longer with a final hug.
To the families who weep and to the friends who mourn, our words cannot diminish your loss. But in them we hope you will feel our embrace. You are not only in our thoughts and our prayers; you are also in our hearts.
May God envelop you with his undying love and sustain you in your grief. Thank you.
Hon. Raymonde Saint-Germain: Honourable senators, on behalf of the Independent Senators Group, I wish to extend our sincerest condolences to the families and friends of the 176 victims of this terrible tragedy. I hope you can take some solace in the sympathy and solidarity expressed in this chamber today. Our hearts go out to you.
The 176 innocent victims of this tragedy included Ukrainians, Iranians, Britons, Germans, Swedes, Afghans and 63 of our fellow Canadians. This tragedy claimed 176 innocent victims plus many more, when we count their relatives, their friends, their communities and their countries. Seven of the victims were from Quebec, including a young couple returning from their honeymoon. There were also PhD students, engineers, professors, workers, individuals and families with young children. So much talent, expertise, diversity and human wealth has been lost to us forever.
The crash of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 is indeed a terrible human tragedy, and it is one that mostly could have been avoided. It is a strong reminder that too often in times of conflict between nations, the true victims remain the innocent bystanders.
This is why I want to take the time today to talk about the importance of diplomacy and openness in our society. Conflicts are often rooted in ignorance, misunderstanding, fear and hate. As parliamentarians, and in the memory of the victims of this tragedy, we need to think about ways to fight these persistent evils. We have to be leaders of change to set the example for everyone. Our words must be bearers of hope and truth. We have a responsibility to fight hate speech and the propagation of fake information.
Our role as senators enables us to create strong bonds with foreign parliamentarians. We should cherish those opportunities to promote diplomacy and mutual understanding in the hope that such tragedies never happen again. May the victims rest in peace.
You will not be forgotten. Faramooshetan nakhahim kard.
You will not be forgotten.
Hon. Jane Cordy: Honourable senators, I rise today to speak about those who tragically lost their lives aboard flight PS752 on the morning of January 8, 2020; 167 passengers as well as 9 crew members died on that flight. Of the passengers, 138 were travelling to Canada, including 57 Canadian citizens. This has been the largest loss of Canadian lives in aviation since the 1985 bombing of Air India flight 182.
While details of the crash are unclear and we are left with many unanswered questions, it is important that we continue to keep in the forefront of our minds the victims of this terrible incident and, of course, their families and friends who are dealing with the loss of loved ones.
Many of those aboard were students or academics returning to Canadian universities after spending the holiday break in Iran with family. One such student was Masoumeh Ghavi, a master’s student in engineering at Dalhousie University in Halifax. Ali Nafarieh, a professor at Dalhousie University and owner of the IT company where Masoumeh worked, said of her:
I can say she was for sure one of the top students. I remember she has always a smile on her face. What she brought in our company in addition to skills and knowledge and experience was her energy. She changed the atmosphere over there. We’ll miss her a lot.
Masoumeh’s younger sister Mandieh was also on board and was about to start university in Halifax as well.
St. Mary’s University lost two students who had been studying in the Master of Finance program. Maryam Malek and Fatemeh Mahmoodi were classmates and friends who had been returning from a holiday break celebrating the end of their first semester. Both women spoke three languages. Close friend Varun Agrawal said of the crash:
It should not happen like this. They were very innocent and it shouldn’t be like this.
Dr. Sharieh Faghihi, who was a Halifax dentist and an alumnus of the Dalhousie Dental School, has been described as having been an “absolute joy” and one of the kindest human beings. Dentist Ebrahim Kiani had worked with Faghihi and had met her 25 years ago when she was head of the periodontics department at the Shiraz University of Medical Science in Iran. In his words:
She was very kind, very generous with her knowledge and very skilled. She was published in many journals... She was a good mentor to me.
Honourable senators, these were real people: mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers and friends, who were flying to Canada. For loved ones left behind, this type of loss seems unimaginable. We are reminded, at times like this, that in the blink of an eye our lives can radically change. A seemingly normal day can quickly become a date seared in our memory forever, and it can become attached to so much pain.
Honourable senators, on behalf of the progressive caucus, I extend our thoughts and prayers to families and friends of those who passed away as a result of this needless tragedy. Our country has lost some exceptional Canadians.
Hon. Douglas Black: Honourable senators, I join with my Senate colleagues in expressing my profound sympathies for the terrible loss of life arising from the shooting down of flight 752. Alberta suffered a disproportionate and terrible loss; of the 57 Canadians murdered, 30 were from Alberta. The University of Alberta, one of Canada’s leading research institutions, suffered a grievous loss with 10 leading professors, researchers and outstanding students having been taken from us.
The Economist magazine, in its coverage of the tragedy, noted that the victims were many of the brightest minds in Iran. Canadian universities, as mentioned, including the University of Alberta and the University of Calgary, have been a tremendous beneficiary of this exodus from Iran over the last 40 years, and now many of those contributing community members have been stolen from us.
In addition to the brilliant academics and students, we lost newlyweds, community volunteers, a psychologist, an obstetrician and a family with young children. This pointless loss is too much to comprehend and impossible to forgive or forget.
Hon. Ratna Omidvar: Honourable senators, I, too, rise in grief and mourning to pay tribute to the victims of flight 752 from Tehran that killed all 176 passengers on board. The numbers are worth repeating because I would like to sear them into our national memory. Of the 176 passengers, 138 were headed to Canada. A full 57 were Iranian Canadians. A further 29 were permanent residents to Canada from Iran. At least 40 were academics or foreign students located in universities and colleges across our country, particularly Edmonton. There is therefore no real way of knowing how many future Canadians we lost on that flight.
A map of their lives tells us that many were doctors, lawyers, professors and scientists. Many more were destined to become contributing members of our society, but the real loss is the loss of a child, the loss of a mother, a brother, a friend. No price can be put on that. No price can be put on the grief that is running like a river through the Iranian-Canadian community.
We are a smallish community, just over 200,000 in Canada, mostly arriving, like me, after the revolution in 1978. There are less than six degrees of separation between us. Everyone knows someone who knows someone who was on that flight. It is inevitable that this tragedy dredges up memories of another crash nearly 35 years ago. As someone who is connected by birth to India, by marriage to Iran and by citizenship to Canada, my three worlds collided together on that early January morning.
The response then, in 1985, to the largest mass killing of Canadians was muted. The tragedy was treated as a foreign tragedy. We all know the sad story of the Air India victims and their long, hard fight to get attention and justice as Canadians. In comparison today, the families of the victims are receiving immediate personal attention, compensation and support, not just from the Government of Canada but from Canadians. They need that support to disentangle the enormous difficulties they face. If there is one thing that gives me solace, it is to see how our nation has come together. We have demonstrated by words and by actions that we are a nation of immigrants, that we not only celebrate our diversity but mourn collectively as a nation when called on to do so.
History may well show, honourable senators, that we have finally come of age, embracing and recognizing that a hyphenated Canadian is not a lesser Canadian. Thank you.
Hon. Paula Simons: On January 12, I had the honour of representing the Senate of Canada at a ceremony to pay tribute to the victims of the crash of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752. The ceremony was held at the University of Alberta. This tragedy hit my city, Edmonton, hard because more than a dozen of the victims lived there and most had ties to the university.
It was minus 38 degrees that afternoon, colder with the windchill, but more than 2,500 people packed into the university’s Saville Centre. Hundreds more who couldn’t fit into the room huddled in the hallways watching the live feed on their phones. On that day we wanted to be together, sharing our grief as a community.
One by one, colleagues, students, professors, coaches, friends and lovers of the victims came to the stage and to the microphone to tell us the stories — the personal, particular stories — of the brilliant, vibrant and joyous Edmontonians we had lost. And for two hours they lived again in the recollections of those who knew them, until the rest of us began to feel that we had known them too.
We laughed at the story of how Dr. Mojgan Daneshmand, an acclaimed engineering professor who held a Canada Research Chair in radio frequency microsystems, actually went into labour the day before she was supposed to defend her dissertation.
We laughed at the story of graduate students Arash Pourzarabi and Pouneh Gorji, an engaged couple who decided to host their friends for a real Canadian Thanksgiving — two literal computer geniuses who somehow miscalculated and didn’t get their turkey cooked until 1 a.m.
We laughed at the story of devoted sisters Sara and Saba Saadat, gifted young scientists and puckish peacemakers who once locked two of their best friends who were having a fight in a car until they made up; and who were fiercely proud of their mother, Dr. Shekoufeh Choupannejad, a physician who had re-qualified to work as an obstetrician in Edmonton. But our laughter was bittersweet knowing that Mojgan, her husband Pedram Mousavi — another beloved U of A engineering professor — and their two young daughters — Daria, 14; and Dorina, 9 — would never come back to Edmonton, the community they loved, and that Dorina would never play another soccer game.
We laughed and cried at the same time as we realized that Arash and Pouneh, who were married in Iran seven days before they died, would never organize any more dinners and that Sara and Saba would never help their friends again.
All those extraordinary lives were blown right out of the sky. One moment from the ceremony haunts me. A singer was invited to the stage to perform what we were told was a beloved Persian song. Overcome with emotion, his voice faltered; and then from the audience, people who knew the words joined in, singing along with him until he could regain his composure, supporting him to the end of the music.
Now it is our turn. We need to support the families and friends and colleagues and students left behind. The people we mourned in Edmonton that afternoon risked and sacrificed so much to start new lives here. They gave my city, my province and our country their gifts of light and love. May their memories forever be a blessing and a reminder of what makes Canada so extraordinary.
Hon. Stan Kutcher: Honourable senators, today we express deepest sympathies to all who lost family, friends and members of their community in the recent tragedy of Flight PS752. Every so often, unexpected events occur that result in needless loss. These remind us of the fragile nature of our own lives. No one can be certain that their loved ones, friends or neighbours will be here tomorrow.
We can understand the deep human cost of this tragedy because all of us have lived through loss. This event, however, is more painful because of the circumstances in which it occurred.
This may remind us of other tragic events that have affected us deeply or personally. For myself, I am reminded of the tragedy of Swissair Flight 111, which went down just outside Peggy’s Cove in my home province of Nova Scotia. I vividly remember receiving an urgent phone call that led to the mobilization of mental health personnel. Our response efforts took an emotional and lasting toll on many of those involved.
Lessons learned there, and from other tragic events, help us better respond to the heart-wrenching circumstances of Flight PS752. We know that neither medication nor grief counsellors can take away the pain of loss. We know that great loss can only be healed gradually. It is the families, friends and communities of the bereaved who play the most significant role in the healing process.
All Canadians have felt the impact of this tragedy and we can all be part of the healing community. While we may not be able to bring a casserole, we can help by donating. While we cannot give a hug, we can actively demand justice for those who lost their lives.
Honourable senators, I am certain that your thoughts and prayers, like mine, go out to those left behind. I am also certain that because we all understand the depth of loss, each of us will give an extra special embrace to those we care for most. Just because.
Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, it has been almost one month since Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 was accidentally shot down. It has been almost one month since 176 lives were ended far too early. We will never be able to begin to understand the love, talent, intelligence and joy we lost on January 8, 2020.
Countries from around the world, including Ukraine, Afghanistan, the United Kingdom, Germany and Iran, lost too many of their own. However, on that tragic day, 57 of our own were lost as well. We lost 57 Canadians who had lived here their entire lives and Canadians who came here for better lives. It does not matter if they were born here or how long they resided here. They were part of our great nation. They were Canadians.
Loving, talented, intelligent and valuable members of our communities were killed out of fear. Politicians, like ourselves, were fearful and they made decisions that cost 176 people their futures.
Dr. Forough Khadem had a very bright future ahead of her. Hers is a name that will be remembered throughout Canada thanks to the University of Manitoba.
The University of Manitoba announced on the day of Khadem’s memorial service that they would be establishing a scholarship in her honour. Khadem was a scientist who was killed on Flight PS752. She graduated in 2016 with a PhD in immunology from the University of Manitoba. She made important scientific discoveries and was working at a Canada-wide non-profit.
People who knew her said she embodied the best qualities of scientist, scholar, colleague and friend. Forough Khadem had her whole life still ahead of her, like many of the other people who died on that plane; and like all those people, she did not deserve the painful and unnecessary end she was given.
Honourable senators, when we heard that so many innocent Canadian lives were destroyed in a second by warmongering politicians, we were saddened as 176 innocent lives were lost. I urge all my colleagues today to look at establishing a ministry or department of peace focused on negotiating conflicts. Violence never solves problems; violence destroys innocent lives. There is no one more innocent than Kurdia Molani, a year-and-a-half-old Canadian baby whose innocent blood was spilled so senselessly.
As politicians who are meant to lead, we cannot condone the behaviour and actions of our fellow politicians on the days leading to January 8, 2020. However, as human beings capable of empathy, compassion and love, we must honour, pay respect and, most importantly, we can never forget the Canadians and others who lost their lives on flight PS752.
Hon. Bev Busson: Honourable senators, I rise today to pay tribute to all those who were killed during the tragic attack on an airplane in Iran.
On January 8, 2020, all 176 passengers and crew were killed in a senseless missile attack on a civilian aircraft, Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752. Many were Canadians. All were on their way to Canada.
At least 15 of the deceased had ties to British Columbia. We need to remember each of them: who they were, their dreams and their reality. Their dreams have now been extinguished in this senseless tragedy. I want to honour them by speaking about them briefly in this place.
Soheila Moghaddam worked at the Lion’s Gate Travelodge in North Vancouver.
Mehran Abtahi had gone to Iran to meet his wife. After earning his PhD, he joined the University of British Columbia as a post-doctoral research fellow in the department of civil engineering. He had found a good job in Vancouver and was looking forward to starting a new chapter in his life.
Ardalan Hamidi, Niloofar Hamidi and Kamyar Hamidi — all three of these people were from the same family. Mr. Hamidi was an engineer and his wife, Niloofar, graduated in 2018 from UBC with a bachelor in education. Their young 15-year-old son Kamyar was a Grade 10 student at Riverside Secondary School in Port Coquitlam. He loved music and wanted to be a producer when he was older.
Naser Oshibi and his wife Firouzeh Madani — the North Vancouver couple were both award-winning physicians in Iran who worked very hard to have their medical licences recognized here. They leave behind a daughter who is a student in the Lower Mainland.
Delaram Dadashnejad, an Iranian student who was enrolled at Langara College in Vancouver to become a dietician, leaves a sister living in Burnaby.
Roja Omidbakhsh was a student at Gustavson School of Business at the University of Victoria.
Fatemah Pasavand and Ayeshe Pourghaderi — Fatemah was 17 years old and travelling with her mother, Ayeshe. Fatemah was a student at Carson Graham Secondary School in North Vancouver. The family owns a bakery in North Vancouver. They were permanent residents and excited about becoming Canadian citizens.
Hossein (Daniel) Saket and Fatemeh (Faye) Kazerani — Daniel, as he was known, was an engineer with a North Vancouver real estate developer. His wife Faye, as she was known, was an assistant to a cardiologist at St. Paul’s Hospital. They were both described as having a zest for life that lit up the room when they entered.
Mohammadhossein Asadi Lari and Zeynab Asadi Lari were siblings in their twenties. Zeynab was enrolled at UBC in biology. Her dream was to become a doctor. Her brother had graduated in 2018 in cellular and anatomical and physiological sciences with honours.
Erica Frank, a professor and chair of research at UBC, was quoted as describing Mohammadhossein’s death as “an astonishing and excruciating loss.” She went on to state that his death was also “an enormous loss for public health globally.”
It is with great sadness that I reflect on these needless and tragic deaths and want to assure them and their families that we shall never forget.
Thank you, meegwetch.
Visitor in the Gallery
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I wish to draw your attention to the presence in the gallery of Betty Plett, the spouse of the Honourable Senator Plett.
On behalf of all honourable senators, I welcome you to the Senate of Canada.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
The Late Honourable John Carnell Crosbie, P.C., O.C., O.N.L.
Hon. Elizabeth Marshall: Honourable senators, I rise today to remember The Honourable John Crosbie, a political giant, an icon, a legend of national politics and a tireless advocate for my province.
John Crosbie was born in pre-Confederation St. John’s on January 30, 1931, to Ches Arthur Crosbie, a prominent St. John’s businessman and politician, and Jessie (Carnell) Crosbie. After graduating from political science at Queen’s University, he graduated from Dalhousie University in 1956. He became a practising lawyer and entered politics in 1965 as a city councillor in St. John’s. He served briefly as Deputy Mayor of St. John’s in 1966. In that same year, he was appointed Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing, creating Newfoundland and Labrador Housing Corporation. In 1967, he became Minister of Health, creating the Newfoundland and Labrador Medicare Commission and the framework of the Newfoundland and Labrador Medicare Plan.
After a dispute over the Liberal leadership in 1969 with another political icon, Joseph R. Smallwood, John Crosbie crossed the floor and joined the opposition Progressive Conservatives in 1971, who were subsequently elected to govern in 1972 and led Crosbie to hold a number of provincial cabinet posts. In Moores Progressive Conservative government, he held the positions of Minister of Finance, President of the Treasury Board, Minister of Economic Development, Minister of Fisheries, Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs, Minister of Mines and Energy and Government House Leader. He left provincial politics in 1976 and entered federal politics in 1979.
In 1979, when the Progressive Conservatives won a minority government under Prime Minister Joe Clark, he became Minister of Finance and tabled a tough budget that was not supported by the House of Commons. Clark’s government fell on a motion of non-confidence in 1980. For this reason, Mr. Crosbie remembered the eight-month Joe Clark government as “long enough to conceive, just not long enough to deliver.”
In 1983, he ran for leadership of the Progressive Conservative Party and placed third behind Mr. Clark and Mr. Mulroney. When Brian Mulroney became Prime Minister, Crosbie was appointed to cabinet.
His political achievements include promotion of the Canada-U.S. free trade agreement under Prime Minister Brian Mulroney, the investment in the successful Hibernia offshore platform and the fight to advance Newfoundland and Labrador’s economic future.
One of the toughest political decisions he had to make was closing the cod fishery in 1992, as Newfoundland and Labrador struggled with the collapse of the northern cod stocks that supported Newfoundland’s economy for centuries.
Crosbie left federal politics in 1993 and published his memoirs No Holds Barred: My Life in Politics in 1997.
He received the Order of Canada in 1998 and the Order of Newfoundland and Labrador in 2008. In 2008, he was appointed Lieutenant-Governor of Newfoundland and Labrador. He served in this position until 2013.
He was an approachable and genuine man with courage, compassion and commitment and a great sense of humour. He was also well known for his high standards. This past January, he passed away at the age of 88. He is survived by his wife Jane, who was his staunchest supporter, and children Michael, Beth and Ches, who is now the provincial leader of the Progressive Conservative Party in my province.
Honourable senators, join me in remembering a prominent politician, an icon of municipal, provincial and federal politics but, above all, a proud Newfoundlander and Labradorian.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Visitors in the Gallery
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I wish to draw your attention to the presence in the gallery of Paralympians Josh Vander Vies and Karolina Wisniewska, Olympian Waneek Horn-Miller, as well as members of the Canadian Olympic Committee and the Canadian Paralympic Committee. They are the guests of the Honourable Senator Deacon (Ontario).
On behalf of all honourable senators, I welcome you to the Senate of Canada.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Canadian Sport Achievements
Hon. Marty Deacon: Honourable senators, thank you for your heartfelt tributes this afternoon. Today, I wish to celebrate and acknowledge the past year in Canadian sport achievement. Much has happened in the last year, and I will do my best to recap what I can in the short time I have, and at a time when each Canadian needs much to be inspired, valued and hopeful about.
I’d like to begin by acknowledging the 625 total Canadian athletes who competed at the 2019 Pan American and Parapan American Games this past summer in Lima, Peru. At the Pan Am Games our athletes broke four Pan Am records and took home a total of 152 medals, the third-highest tally at the games.
Our Parapan athletes brought their best as well, bringing home 60 medals. Sixteen-year-old Anna Huckster deserves an honourable mention here for earning five bronze medals in swimming, the most medals of any athlete at those games. Another Canadian, Stephanie Chan — there’s still hope — earned a bronze in tennis at the age of 62 and also had the honour of carrying our flag at the athletes’ parade.
Off the field, our athletes left their mark in Lima as well. As the games closed, our athletes wanted to give back to the country that hosted them. It was wonderful to see this. Working with our embassy, our representatives at the games found a community centre in the Callao area of Lima in need of all manner of equipment. At the close of these games, a group of our athletes took hundreds of boxes of food, furniture, electronics, you name it, to this centre. After unpacking, in a sea of red and white, a spontaneous game of volleyball broke out between the Canadians and Peruvians.
We fast forward to January, only a short time ago, and 78 of our young athletes competed at the Youth Olympic Games in Lausanne, Switzerland. Some of you know their stories from your communities because I’ve been in touch with you. These games are an international sporting event that combines sports performance, culture and education in an authentic celebration of competition, peace and being active, but in a more festive atmosphere. The aim is to encourage young people to adopt and represent the positive values of sport and activity; that is, respect for others, for themselves and for our environment, friendship between people and cultures while becoming sport ambassadors throughout the world. We have much to learn from them.
In only a few weeks, Canada will celebrate the tenth anniversary of the Vancouver Olympic Games. And then, on March 15, go north, the Arctic Games will commence in Whitehorse. Beyond the competition, this event is the largest multi-sport and cultural event for young people in the Arctic, highlighting the values of cultural awareness and understanding.
The games planning has included the signing of an MOU between games organizers and those on whose land the games will take place. These games will represent a prime example — the best example — of the role such events can have in the reconciliation process.
Before I finish, honourable senators, I leave you again with the reminder not to lose sight of your own health and well-being as we dive headlong into what will no doubt be an unpredictable and engaging Forty-third Parliament.
Thank you, meegwetch.
Liberation of Auschwitz
Hon. Norman E. Doyle: Honourable senators, a few days ago, the international community held observances to remember the seventy-fifth anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz, the infamous World War II Nazi death camp, located in southern Poland near the city of Krakow. Canadian television carried live coverage of the recent commemoration at the actual Auschwitz site, with speeches from aging survivors of the camp and others like it in Nazi-occupied Europe.
I remember being part of a Canadian parliamentary delegation to Poland a few years ago. In addition to meeting with local dignitaries, we were given a tour of the remains of the Auschwitz site. It was a truly sobering experience to stand in the place where more than a million people, most of them of the Jewish faith, met a terrible and untimely end. For those who doubt the cruel reality of the Holocaust, all I can say is this: Let them go visit Auschwitz and let them feel the truth.
These days the very word “Auschwitz” is synonymous with death. Indeed, it was the largest death camp in the Nazis’ final solution to the so-called Jewish problem. That final solution involved rounding up all the Jews of Nazi-occupied Europe and sending them to camps like Auschwitz. Some of them were used as slave labour and some were subjected to bizarre medical experiments. However, the Nazis’ ultimate intended fate for all of these Jewish prisoners was death, either by starvation, by disease, through physical abuse and overwork, or in the infamous gas chambers and associated crematoria. Simply put, Auschwitz was a smoothly operating killing machine until the Red Army liberated the camp on January 27, 1945.
After Nazi Germany invaded Poland in 1939, Auschwitz was set up as an internment camp for Polish prisoners of war, for politicians and intelligentsia. However, it wasn’t long before it became a death camp for nearly a million Jews and 74,000 non-Jewish Poles, 21,000 Roma and 15,000 Russian POWs.
Honourable senators, that’s why the aged Auschwitz survivors were so determined a few days ago to tell their stories while they are still alive, to remind the rest of us to be vigilant about protecting human rights and freedoms.
We always make it a point to remember and honour our war dead as we should and must. Because of places like Auschwitz, we would do well to remember war’s victims as well.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
East Preston Day Care Centre
Congratulations on Forty-fifth Anniversary
Hon. Wanda Elaine Thomas Bernard: Honourable senators, I rise today to recognize the forty-fifth anniversary of the East Preston Day Care Centre.
This intergenerational non-profit organization nurtures, empowers, educates and supports families in my home community of East Preston. The East Preston Day Care’s diverse programming promotes healthy child development.
In 1974, Reverend Dr. Joyce Ross founded the daycare after identifying a need for community-based child care to support the families of East Preston. The establishment of the East Preston Day Care provided many families the opportunity to work or attend school while their children were well cared for.
Congratulations to Trina Fraser, who has stepped into the challenging role of executive director, building upon Dr. Ross’s foundation in this ever-growing organization with deep roots.
Last fall, my Senate team and I had the opportunity to visit the East Preston Day Care Centre, where we met children of all ages and learned about their creative, educational and healthy activities. We met the daycare providers, some of whom attended the daycare as children themselves and are now pursuing early childhood education certification.
We also visited the East Preston Family Resource Centre, a branch of the daycare centre, where a volunteer was preparing for the parenting group that evening. The family resource centre serves as a community hub, hosting a wide range of programs and services.
I would like to recognize some of the East Preston Day Care team members for their many years of service: Birley Downie has been with the daycare for 25 years; Kim McMullin and Sandra Colley for 27 years; and Juanita Smith for 32 years. It is the dedication of these team members that allows the East Preston Day Care Centre to continue their important work.
Honourable senators, please join me in thanking Reverend Dr. Ross, Trina Fraser and all of the East Preston Day Care team members for their significant contributions to our community over the last 45 years. Thank you.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
Visitors in the Gallery
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I wish to draw your attention to the presence in the gallery of my wife, Karen, my daughter Rebecca, her husband, Michael Rudofsky, and my grandsons Luke and Matthew Rudofsky.
On behalf of all honourable senators, I welcome you to the Senate of Canada.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Parliamentary Budget Officer
Economic and Fiscal Update 2019: Issues for Parliamentarians—Report Tabled
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the report of the Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer entitled Economic and Fiscal Update 2019: Issues for Parliamentarians, pursuant to the Parliament of Canada Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. P-1, sbs. 79.2(2).
Cost Estimate of Increasing the Basic Personal Amount Tax Credit—Report Tabled
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the Legislative Costing Note of the Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer entitled Cost Estimate of Increasing the Basic Personal Amount Tax Credit, pursuant to the Parliament of Canada Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. P-1, sbs. 79.2(2).
Evaluation of Election Proposal Costing 2019—Report Tabled
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the report of the Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer entitled Evaluation of Election Proposal Costing 2019, pursuant to the Parliament of Canada Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. P-1, sbs. 79.2(2).
Reviewing the Fiscal and Distributional Analysis of the Federal Carbon Pricing System—Report Tabled
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the report of the Office of the Parliamentary Budget Officer entitled Reviewing the Fiscal and Distributional Analysis of the Federal Carbon Pricing System, pursuant to the Parliament of Canada Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. P-1, sbs. 79.2(2).
Ethics and Conflict of Interest for Senators
First Report of Committee Deposited with Clerk during Adjournment of the Senate
Hon. Murray Sinclair: Honourable senators, I have the honour to inform the Senate that pursuant to the order adopted by the Senate on December 10, 2019, and rule 12-31, the Standing Committee on Ethics and Conflict of Interest for Senators deposited with the Clerk of the Senate on January 31, 2020, its first report (interim) entitled Developments and actions in relation to the committee’s fifth report regarding Senator Beyak.
(Pursuant to rule 12-31, the report was deemed to have been presented in the Senate today.)
(For text of report, see today’s Journals of the Senate, Appendix, p. 80.)
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this report be taken into consideration?
Hon. Murray Sinclair: Honourable senators, with leave of the Senate and notwithstanding rule 5-5(f), I move that the report be placed on the Orders of the Day for consideration later this day.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is leave granted, honourable senators?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
(On motion of Senator Sinclair, report placed on the Orders of the Day for consideration later this day.)
Motion Pertaining to the Ukraine International Airlines Flight PS752 Tragedy Adopted
Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Honourable senators, with leave of the Senate and notwithstanding rule 5-5(j), I move:
That the Senate:
(a)stand alongside the families and relatives of the victims who lost their lives during the tragedy of flight PS752 on January 8, 2020;
(b)request that a full and transparent international investigation be carried out so that families obtain the answers to their questions and justice;
(c)demand cooperation from Iran which must remain fully transparent about the investigation;
(d)demand that Iran offer fair compensation to the families of the victims;
(e)demand that Iran fully respect the will of families of victims;
(f)demand that Iran hold those responsible for this tragedy to account by conducting an independent criminal investigation followed by transparent and impartial judicial proceedings which meet international standards; and
(g)request that Canada continue to support the families of the victims, hold Iran accountable for its actions and work with the international community to that end.
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.)
Notice of Motion to Affect Wednesday and Thursday Sittings for the Remainder of the Current Session
Hon. Raymonde Gagné (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, for the remainder of the current session,
(a)when the Senate sits on a Thursday, it shall sit at 1:30 p.m. notwithstanding rule 3-1(1);
(b)when the Senate sits on a Wednesday, it adjourn at 4 p.m., as if that were the ordinary time of adjournment provided for in the Rules, unless it has been suspended for the purpose of taking a deferred vote or has earlier adjourned; and
(c)if a vote is deferred to a Wednesday, or to later that same day on a Wednesday, it take place at 4:15 p.m., notwithstanding any provision of the Rules, with the Speaker interrupting the proceedings immediately prior to any adjournment, but no later than 4 p.m., to suspend the sitting until 4:15 p.m. for the taking of the deferred vote, with the bells to start ringing at 4 p.m.
Bill to Amend—First Reading
Hon. Kim Pate introduced Bill S-208, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (independence of the judiciary).
(Bill read first time.)
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this bill be read the second time?
(On motion of Senator Pate, bill placed on the Orders of the Day for second reading two days hence.)
Department for Women and Gender Equality Act
Bill to Amend—First Reading
Hon. Mary Jane McCallum introduced Bill S-209, An Act to Amend the Department for Women and Gender Equality Act.
(Bill read first time.)
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this bill be read the second time?
(On motion of Senator McCallum, bill placed on the Orders of the Day for second reading two days hence.)
Parliament of Canada Act
Bill to Amend—First Reading
Hon. Patricia Bovey introduced Bill S-210, An Act to amend the Parliament of Canada Act (Parliamentary Visual Artist Laureate).
(Bill read first time.)
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this bill be read the second time?
(On motion of Senator Bovey, bill placed on the Orders of the Day for second reading two days hence.)
Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration
Notice of Motion in Relation to Committee Membership
Hon. Yuen Pau Woo: Honourable senators, I give notice that, at the next sitting of the Senate, I will move:
That, notwithstanding rule 12-5, the Honourable Senator Dean replace the Honourable Senator Gold as one of the members of the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration provided for in rule 12-3(2)(a).
National Security and Defence
Notice of Motion to Authorize Committee to Study the Correctional System and the Parole Board
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 National Security and Defence be authorized to examine and report on the manner in which the correctional system and the Parole Board of Canada managed the case of an inmate accused of the murder of a young woman while he was on day parole in January of this year, including a review of the training of commissioners, the report of the Auditor General (Report 6 — Community Supervision — Correctional Service Canada) and existing rehabilitation programs at Correctional Service Canada, with a view to recommending measures to be taken to ensure another tragedy such as this never happens again, when and if the committee is formed; and
That the committee submit its final report no later than April 30, 2020.
Notice of Inquiry
Hon. Mary Coyle: Honourable senators, I give notice that, two days hence:
I will call the attention of the Senate to the importance of finding the right pathways and actions for Canada and Canadians to meet our net-zero carbon emissions targets in order to slow, arrest and reverse human-caused climate change to ensure a healthy planet, society, economy and democracy.
Notice of Inquiry
Hon. Murray Sinclair: Honourable senators, I give notice that, two days hence:
I will call the attention of the Senate to the need for this House of Parliament to reevaluate its rules, practices and procedures as they relate to non-government business.
Decimation of Atlantic Salmon Spawning Grounds
Notice of Inquiry
Hon. David Richards: Honourable senators, I give notice that, two days hence:
I will call the attention of the Senate to the decimation of Atlantic salmon spawning grounds on the Miramichi, Restigouche and their tributaries.
Notice of Inquiry
Hon. Patricia Bovey: Honourable senators, I give notice that, two days hence:
I will call the attention of the Senate to the need to renew and further its interest in Arctic issues.
Amendments to Legislation
Hon. Donald Neil Plett (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, let me begin by congratulating Senator Gold on his new role as the government leader in the Senate. I’ve got to say, Senator Gold, I’m intrigued about how you will balance out your previous claim to be independent and non-partisan with your responsibility going forward with the Liberal agenda in the Senate. We’re all going to see how that plays out.
I want to further congratulate and say how pleased I am that a fellow Manitoban is actually being put in charge. As you know, Senator Gold, deputy leaders are the ones in charge, not the leaders. Congratulations, Senator Gagné.
And, finally, congratulations to Senator LaBoucane-Benson on her role as the whip.
I want to assure all three senators that you can count on the continued support of members on this side. As we have been helping in the past, we will continue to do so in the future.
Senator Gold, my first question to you today concerns the interview that you did on January 24 with the Canadian Press, the day of your appointment, which indicates that senators may have to curb their enthusiasm for amending legislation coming from the other place.
Regardless of caucus or group affiliation, all honourable senators are here to scrutinize legislation and to propose and pass amendments where needed. It is an essential part of our job, and it’s more than a little concerning that any honourable senator would need to be reminded of that fact.
Senator Gold, important legislation will be heading our way this year, including legislation on gun control, for example. Beyond upholding the right of senators to propose amendments, how open are you actually, Senator Gold, to accepting amendments?
Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Thank you, Senator Plett, for your question and for your offer of support, which I hereby accept. And thank you for outing the best-kept secret that I’m relying upon Senator Gagné and Senator LaBoucane-Benson to prop me up in the days and weeks to come.
You asked an important question and I can answer with clarity and sincerity. I believe in the independence of the Senate as an institution. That’s why I became a senator, and that’s why I agreed and was honoured to accept the role as Government Representative. And I support the independence of individual senators, because we are all independent in fundamentally and important structural ways.
So I did not intend to communicate — and I don’t think those were my words but, rather, a headline that suggested people should curb enthusiasm. On the contrary, we have a duty to scrutinize legislation, do it properly and do it in full recognition of our constitutional role as a chamber of Parliament — but one that is complementary to the House of Commons.
What I did want to express, however, is that we are in an unprecedented time in our history. Many minority governments have preceded us, as we know. They are hardly abnormal in Canadian parliamentary history. But never before has there been a minority government and a Senate that is organized as we are, and that poses particular difficulties, challenges and responsibilities for all of us.
I have every confidence that every one of us in this chamber will be mindful of the unique challenges that this Parliament will pose, and we will rise to our duties as we did in the past Parliament and in previous Parliaments. That is with regard to your question on amendments.
There was another question buried in there, and you will forgive me if I can’t quite recall it, but I will perhaps invite you to ask it further and I will answer it as I can.
Senator Plett: Well, Senator Gold, I want to commend you. That is the longest answer we’ve received in this chamber in three years.
Senator Gold: Don’t get used to it.
Senator Plett: Senator Gold, for some time now, we have been told that the number of Senate amendments to legislation since 2016 is an indication of the so-called independence in this chamber. We read about it; we hear about it. In fact, your predecessor often made reference to the number of amendments as a sign of success for Prime Minister Trudeau’s Senate reforms.
Keeping in mind that the vast majority of amendments were government amendments brought forward by the ISG, of which you were a part, Senator Gold, should we gather from your comments that the government will be ending this practice and not amending its own legislation in the Senate as much as we’ve seen in the last four years?
Senator Gold: Thank you for your question. I think that we in this chamber did a marvellous job in the last Parliament. Eighty-eight bills were passed, many were amended and many of those amendments were accepted by the government in the other place.
Perhaps I can take the opportunity to pay tribute on behalf of all of us — and here I will be presumptuous — to my predecessor Senator Harder, a unique pioneer, who managed his responsibility, built a team and built confidence within this chamber and that is making my job a walk in the park.
I differ somewhat, at least from the perception, as you described it. I do not count our success numerically. I do not count it by the number of amendments, many of which originated in this chamber and were not government amendments, if I may, but, rather, by the quality of the amendments and the ways in which we in this chamber, whether members of political caucuses or other parliamentary groups or individual senators improved legislation, sometimes by doing our duty to make sure that our basic constitutional values were respected, and we did that with Bill S-3 most notably. Here the Senate should stand proud for what we did.
But there were many other examples, whether providing more fair access to rail transport in a particular bill or making sure our constitutional balance of power was respected. Here I am referring to Bill C-29, the consumer protection legislation and so on.
I’m going to sit down because this is Question Period, not answer period, as everyone tells me, but I am advised by the government that they remain eager and willing to work with the Senate. Indeed, they understand in ways that perhaps they didn’t understand four years ago how important the Senate can be to improve legislation. In that regard, I invite all honourable senators, if I can quote Bill Withers, to use me as a conduit for your concerns, whether general or specific concerns, on pieces of legislation, so that our views in the Senate can be properly represented to government. Part of my job is to represent the Senate to the government, and I’ll do my very best, but I need your help.
Parole Board of Canada
Hon. Pierre-Hugues Boisvenu: My question is for the Government Representative in the Senate. Marylène Levesque was 22 years old when she was murdered last Thursday by Eustachio Gallese, a violent repeat offender on parole who spent 15 years in prison for the savage murder of his wife in 2004. In its September 19, 2019, decision, the Parole Board of Canada endorsed a strategy that is totally incompatible with keeping vulnerable women safe. I quote:
. . . your parole officer emphasized that a strategy was developed so you could meet women, but only for the purpose of satiating your sexual needs.
The chief of the Quebec City police force and board chair of the Association des directeurs de police du Québec expressed concern about a strategy that enabled a man who killed women to repeatedly pay for sexual services while on day parole, which is utterly unthinkable.
Can the leader of the government in the Senate tell me if there are other such criminals in Canada whom the Correctional Service encourages to seek the sexual services of vulnerable women, which is a crime?
Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): I thank the senator for the question. First, this is a tragedy, and on behalf of the government, I offer my deepest condolences to the family and friends of Marylène Levesque. That strategy is unthinkable for all her loved ones. It is unimaginable.
As you know, the individual was arrested and faces other charges. I do not have any information, as you well know, and not just about the decisions made by the Parole Board of Canada . . . All relevant information remains confidential and I do not have access to it, as we cannot easily access the files of those in the correctional system. I will point out that CSC is at arm’s length from the government. However, we must also acknowledge that the Correctional Service of Canada and the Parole Board of Canada have already launched an investigation into the circumstances that led to this tragedy. I know that the other place has moved a motion along the same lines in an effort to understand how this could have happened.
Senator Boisvenu: I have a supplementary question. I note and appreciate your expression of condolences.
Indeed, the other place is going to look into what errors were committed. In the meantime, will you support the motion I plan to move this week calling for an evaluation of the programs and the training given to correctional officers and Parole Board members — which has never been done in the past 100 years in Canada — by an independent body?
Senator Gold: Thank you for the question. I will review your motion and when the time comes to debate it, I will make the appropriate decision. Thank you.
Role of Government Representative
Hon. Tony Dean: Honourable senators, my question is for the Government Representative in the Senate. Senator Gold, congratulations on your appointment. There is weighty and arduous and then there is weighty and arduous.
My question is this: How do you envisage your role as the Government Representative in the Senate? To what extent, if any, will it vary from that of your predecessor, and can you elaborate for us on your remarks on collaboration on your appointment that were made to the media?
Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Thank you for that question. I will do my best to answer it briefly.
I want to build on the work that was done in the previous Parliament, both of my predecessor, Senator Harder, and his team but also the work that was done with all senators and groups to make this Parliament work. It only works if we work together. It only works if we collaborate. So I look forward to working with all groups in the Senate and indeed with all individual senators in a spirit of openness so that we can work together for the well-being of all Canadians.
I’m delighted in this regard to have by my side Senator Gagné and Senator LaBoucane-Benson, and we are all eager to work with you in that same spirit.
We want to work closely with those of you who may agree to sponsor government legislation. We want to work hard with each and every one of you who has an interest in legislation so we can be a fair, objective source of information to you to help you do your work as senators.
We’re going to try to work with you at the earliest stages of legislation because in this particular Parliament, I think it’s all the more important that our views be made known to government. If I may quote, early and often, the way we used to say that voting sometimes took place in my home province back in the day.
We want to make sure and we will offer our support to you to make sure that your views are taken seriously in the process. I believe in working together. I offer that to you. I know that you will help us, because we’re all in this together for the same reason. Thank you for your question.
Indigenous and Northern Affairs
Indian Act—Elimination of Sex-Based Discrimination
Hon. Marilou McPhedran: Senator Gold, first allow me to congratulate you on your new role in the Senate.
The Senate helped strengthen the promise to extend registration to thousands more First Nations people through Bill S-3, a promise finally activated by the government on August 15, 2019. However, it is unclear if Indigenous Services Canada has or will allocate adequate financial and human resources to make the implementation of this promise real in time for those who are advanced in age or in ill health.
Some applicants have been told to expect a two-year wait. Making Bill S-3 into law was crucial but only a step towards ending sex-based discrimination in the Indian Act. With troubling reports from Manitoba, my question is as follows: Has the government added more resources to ensure outreach and then rapid registrations as promised in Bill S-3? In particular, how is Indigenous Services Canada getting information out to communities and descendants in urban centres with large numbers of Indigenous residents like Winnipeg, Manitoba?
Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Senator, thank you for your question. The Government of Canada views the passage of Bill S-3 as a step forward in eliminating sex-based discrimination that has existed all the way back to 1869.
I’m advised there have been consultations over the past year with Indigenous partners in terms of how to bring the provisions into force. I’m advised as well that the government has an implementation plan and is moving forward with that plan, which monitors registration and mobility rates and which will support communities and individuals throughout the process.
Let me add two things. First, I sincerely hope that the Minister of Indigenous Services will have an opportunity to appear before Senate Question Period to be able to answer questions from senators.
With respect to your specific questions, I simply do not have the information, and they’re important questions, so as Government Representative in the Senate I will make the inquiries of the ministers responsible. I will seek a detailed response because my understanding is that the implementation plan is not yet public. I’m not privy to it. I will make inquiries and I will ensure that the inquiries are tabled in written form in the chamber in a timely fashion.
Alberta—Invitation to Cabinet
Hon. Douglas Black: Leader, congratulations to you and your team on your appointment. Welcome to our new colleagues, in particular Senator Cotter, who, as Senator Tannas indicated, was a classmate of mine three or four years or so ago.
Leader, the social and economic pain and anxiety continue to build in Alberta related directly to your government’s policies. In my extensive outreach throughout my province, I have never heard or seen what I have in the last few months. I believe the Prime Minister and his cabinet need to see and hear first-hand, as I have, the human effects of his policies — the effects on people, on community agencies and on businesses.
Therefore, in that regard, on January 8, I sent a letter to the Prime Minister inviting him and his cabinet to Alberta in the first quarter of this year to a community of middle-class Canadians especially punished by your policies. I have suggested Grande Prairie, Fort McMurray, Red Deer or Medicine Hat.
Leader, would you kindly advise me when I may expect a positive reply to my invitation?
Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Thank you for your question, senator. I will make inquiries and be happy to respond as quickly as I get an answer.
Parole Board of Canada—Role of Government Representative
Hon. Claude Carignan: Leader of the government, congratulations on your appointment.
When someone is appointed, I like to learn about their background and their qualifications. Senator Gold, I compared your biographical notes for your Senate appointment to those on the Senate website. They are different. The biographical notes published at the time of your appointment mention that you were a part-time member of the Parole Board of Canada. However, this information does not appear on the Senate website.
Can you confirm that you were a member of the Parole Board of Canada and tell us when you held that position? Could you also tell us about the Parole Board appointment process? What changes were made between 2015 and now?
Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): I thank Senator Carignan for his question. Indeed, when I was appointed to the Parole Board by the Harper government, I was a part-time member of the Parole Board of Canada. It was a great honour, and I applied under the process in place. After I was interviewed by the senior officials, I was pleased to be one of two Quebeckers appointed to the board. I was very proud to sit on the Parole Board until I was appointed to the Senate. I obviously resigned from the Parole Board of Canada when I was appointed to the Senate. This position was part of my career and I am proud of it.
I was not involved in changing the process because I was appointed under the so-called old system, and I have no personal experience with the changes that were made in 2017, if I am not mistaken.
Review of Government Spending and Tax Expenditures
Hon. Elizabeth Marshall: Honourable senators, my question is for Senator Gold. Congratulations on your new position.
I have a question on the fall fiscal update that the Minister of Finance released just after we adjourned for Christmas — not while we were sitting; he waited until we closed.
Included in the document is a paragraph that he just seemed to parachute in. I’m just quoting part of it. It’s referring to a comprehensive review. It says:
The Government will . . . launch . . . a comprehensive review of government spending and tax expenditures . . . . This review will result in $1.5 billion in annual savings, starting in 2020-21.
So 2020-21 is only about eight weeks away. The Senate will soon receive Supplementary Estimates (B) and the corresponding supply bill, but also by March 1 — just four weeks away — we’re going to see the Main Estimates. These savings, I would think, will be integrated into the Main Estimates document.
I was looking for some additional information. Precisely what I want to know is what programs are being targeted by the review.
Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Thank you for your question, senator. These are important fundamental questions, but I do not know the answer. So as important a concern as it is, as Government Representative in the Senate I will make the appropriate inquiries and I will seek a detailed response if those decisions have yet been made and are yet to be made public, and I’ll table the response as soon as I can.
Senator Marshall: Thank you very much. Could you also find out who has been retained to conduct the review or who is going to be retained? When a government embarks on an expenditure reduction review, they usually hire consultants or there is somebody within the public service who would be the lead person, such as the Clerk of the Privy Council or the Deputy Minister of Finance.
Could you find out who is going to lead the review and, if it is someone from outside, advise how they were selected and how much it’s going to cost?
Senator Gold: I will make the appropriate inquiries. Thank you very much.
Vice-Admiral Mark Norman
Hon. Jean-Guy Dagenais: My question is for the new Government Representative in the Senate. I’d like to begin by congratulating him on his appointment. I’d also like to take this opportunity to tell him quite candidly that his new role suits him much better than his previous one.
In the matter of former Vice-Admiral Mark Norman, I already asked your predecessor this question, but I never got an answer. We just learned that your government spent $1.4 million on legal fees to get out of this political and judicial mess. Knowing how much the lawyers pocketed is one thing, but Canadians also deserve to know how many millions in taxpayers’ money the Trudeau government paid to Vice-Admiral Mark Norman in reparations.
Basically, I’d like to know whether you plan to be more transparent than your predecessor or whether your government will continue to hide the truth from Canadians.
Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): I thank the senator for the question and his congratulations. Let me begin by saying that I reject the premise of his question because I think that my predecessor aptly answered the questions as best he could under the circumstances and given the legal issues surrounding Vice-Admiral Norman’s case.
As you know, the decision to suspend him was made independently by the Chief of the Defence Staff. Likewise, it was Vice-Admiral Norman’s own decision to retire. As you also know — and this is the point I really want to make — every aspect of the legal process is confidential and must remain so. It is not a matter of lack of transparency. It is a matter of respecting confidentiality. There is something I would like to add, so I will quote —
— the Director of Public Prosecutions. There was no contact or influence from outside the Public Prosecution Service. There was — I’m paraphrasing — no political influence on either the initial decision to prosecute Mr. Norman or in the decision to stay the charge.
Everything was done according to our rules and in accordance with the law.
Senator Dagenais: I can understand that there is confidentiality process in a court of law that must be respected. However, we must never forget that this agreement was made with taxpayers’ money. How can we speak of confidentiality when taxpayers are paying the lawyers’ fees? Canadians have the right to a straight and clear answer.
Senator Gold: I will repeat that all decisions were made in accordance with the law and the rules, including the instructions to lawyers, the time they spent on this file, and so on. This information remains confidential.
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, the time for question period has expired.
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Ethics and Conflict of Interest for Senators
First Report of Committee—Debate Adjourned
The Senate proceeded to consideration of the first report (interim) of the Standing Committee on Ethics and Conflict of Interest for Senators, entitled Developments and actions in relation to the committee’s fifth report regarding Senator Beyak, deposited with the Clerk of the Senate on January 31, 2020.
Hon. Murray Sinclair moved the adoption of the report.
He said: Honourable senators, with leave of the Senate, I ask that my speech be immediately followed by Senator Patterson’s speech and that the balance of any of our combined time be reserved to answer questions addressed to either or both of us.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is leave granted, honourable senators?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
The Hon. the Speaker: Just for clarity, Senator Sinclair: Honourable senators, what you’ve just agreed to is that both Senator Sinclair and Senator Patterson — who each have 15 minutes to speak and debate — can use as much of that 15 minutes as they wish, following which they will both receive questions from any senators who wish to ask questions.
Senator Sinclair: Thank you, senators.
Honourable senators, I rise on behalf of the Standing Committee on Ethics and Conflict of Interest for Senators to speak to the committee’s First Report.
In December last year, this committee received a mandate from the Senate to examine and report on developments and actions in relation to the committee’s fifth report of the last Parliament, regarding Senator Beyak. As senators are aware, following its adoption by the Senate, that report resulted in Senator Beyak’s suspension. That report also made recommendations regarding Senator Beyak, as part of the terms of suspension.
Today’s report gives an update on Senator Beyak’s compliance with those terms. As a result of the committee’s analysis, this report finds that she has not complied with the Senate’s order and recommends three additional measures. I will describe the first two measures, and our colleague Senator Patterson will describe the third measure.
Some background information may be helpful to members of the public following these proceedings, as well as to our new colleagues.
Multiple complaints were made in January 2018 stating that Senator Beyak had published racist content on her Senate website in the form of racist letters from members of the public. The Senate Ethics Officer conducted an inquiry, and in April 2019 the committee considered the inquiry report of the Senate Ethics Officer concerning Senator Beyak. That report concluded that Senator Beyak breached sections 7.1 and 7.2 of the code by posting on her Senate website five letters that contained content racist to Indigenous peoples.
On April 30, 2019, the committee presented its fifth report on the matter, the Inquiry Report under the Ethics and Conflict of Interest Code for Senators concerning Senator Lynn Beyak. In its report, the committee indicated that it was troubled by Senator Beyak’s failure to recognize that the content of the letters in question was racist; her unwillingness to recognize the harm caused by her actions; and her lack of respect for the enforcement process established by the code.
The committee recommended that Senator Beyak be suspended from the Senate and recommended that certain terms be imposed on her.
The Senate adopted the fifth report on May 9, 2019, and on the same day Senator Beyak was suspended as a senator.
Senator Beyak’s suspension ended on September 11, 2019, with the dissolution of the Forty-second Parliament. Notwithstanding this dissolution, the committee underscored in its fifth report that Senator Beyak’s failure to comply with the remedial measures identified in the recommendations and the failure to comply with the intent of the Senate’s decision would constitute a continuing breach of the code.
When Senator Beyak’s suspension ended, it was not clear to the committee if she had complied with all the conditions for her reinstatement to the Senate. Thus, on December 10, the committee sought and was authorized by the Senate to examine and report on developments and actions in relation to the committee’s fifth report. The next day, the committee met to plan its study.
On January 27, 2020, the committee held a full-day meeting to hear from Senator Beyak, the Senate Ethics Officer and the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres. This interim report is informed by the testimony heard on January 27 and by various written submissions and correspondence from Senator Beyak, Senator Beyak’s legal counsel, the Senate Ethics Officer and the Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres.
The Ethics and Conflict of Interest Code for Senators, adopted in 2005 and amended since, establishes standards and a transparent process by which complaints related to the conduct of senators can be addressed.
Furthermore, the Senate, in the motion it adopted on December 10 last year, authorized the attendance of Senator Beyak in its work on this study. In the context of its fifth report, and during this study, the committee agreed that Senator Beyak was afforded a fair process by being provided with opportunities to be heard by the committee and by the attendance of her counsel.
During its study, the committee considered Senator Beyak’s progress in relation to each of the recommendations in the fifth report. The committee remains concerned with Senator Beyak’s compliance with the remedial measures identified in those recommendations.
In this interim report, the committee determined that Senator Beyak did not comply with the intent and spirit of certain recommendations in the fifth report and remains in breach of the code. Specifically, the committee found that Senator Beyak failed to successfully complete educational programs and adequately apologize for her conduct, as required in recommendations 3 and 5 respectively.
When the committee recommended, in its fifth report, that Senator Beyak attend “. . . educational programs related to racism toward Indigenous peoples in Canada and the history of Crown-Indigenous relations. . . ,” it believed that Senator Beyak would benefit from awareness, recognition and understanding of the reality of racism toward Indigenous peoples in Canada. The committee was hopeful that a new understanding of Canada’s history might change Senator Beyak’s contextual comprehension of her conduct and why it was unbecoming of a senator and the Senate.
Based on the totality of the evidence provided to the committee, this did not happen. While the committee does not seek to ascribe blame for why the training did not occur as anticipated, it concluded that the intent and spirit of Recommendation 3 of the fifth report was not fulfilled as expected.
With respect to the fifth report’s recommendation requiring an apology, the committee felt strongly that an apology from Senator Beyak was essential to demonstrating her understanding that her conduct caused harm to Indigenous peoples, to her colleagues, to Canadians generally, and to the reputation of the Senate.
However, the committee found that the apology provided by Senator Beyak was not in the spirit and intent of the committee’s recommendation. Specifically, the apology does not acknowledge the letters at the core of the Senate Ethics Officer’s inquiry report, nor does it acknowledge the adverse effects that her conduct had on Indigenous peoples, on Canadians who hold equality as a public Charter value that they cherish, as well as on her colleagues and the institution of the Senate.
In light of these findings, the committee determined that further actions are required to address the situation and uphold the dignity of the institution of the Senate.
To that end, the committee makes three recommendations. As I indicated, I will address the first two, and our colleague Senator Patterson will address the third one.
Recommendation 1, concerning a renewal of the suspension, proposes that Senator Beyak be suspended again to afford her the opportunity to gain further perspective on the privilege of serving in the Senate and her obligations as a senator.
The suspension would be for the duration of the current session or until the Senate adopts either a motion to rescind the suspension or a report from the Standing Committee on Ethics and Conflict of Interest for Senators recommends that her suspension be rescinded.
While suspended, Senator Beyak would not receive any remuneration or reimbursement of expenses from the Senate, including any sessional or living allowance and any other benefit from the Senate. Additionally, she would not be authorized to use or access Senate resources.
Notwithstanding these conditions, Senator Beyak would still have normal access to the Senate resources necessary to continue life, health and dental insurance coverage during the period of her suspension.
Recommendation 1 also proposes that the Senate be authorized to use Senator Beyak’s existing office budget for the purpose of her complying with Recommendation 2 subject to certain conditions outlined in the report.
Recommendation 2 proposes that Senator Beyak complete an educational program that would guide her conduct in relation to Indigenous issues and that her successful completion of such a program would be necessary for her continued presence in the Senate.
The committee believes that further education and training is warranted in the hope that Senator Beyak develop an awareness, recognition and understanding of the reality of racism toward Indigenous peoples. The committee also hopes that through this training emerges an understanding of the negative impacts of her action on Indigenous peoples, her colleagues and the reputation of the Senate.
While echoing Recommendation 3 of the fifth report, this recommendation provides further direction on what would constitute successful completion of the educational program.
For example, this recommendation would require that the Senate Ethics Officer identify and approve an educational program provider. It would also require that the educational program provider develop and deliver an educational program that is approved by the Senate Ethics Officer and that is designed specifically for Senator Beyak on the subject of racism, with a focus on racism toward Indigenous peoples in Canada.
Recommendation 2 would further impose specific performance evaluation requirements based on Senator Beyak’s learning outcomes and willingness to learn. Accordingly, the Senate Ethics Officer would be expected to receive, from the educational program provider, an assessment of whether Senator Beyak has successfully completed the course, whether she has learned and was willing to learn, and whether she understands her responsibility as a senator in relation to racism and the need to refrain from acting in a way that would reflect adversely on the position of a senator or on the institution of the Senate.
Our colleague, Senator Patterson, will now discuss the third recommendation of the committee regarding a letter of apology.
Following his remarks, Senator Patterson and I would be pleased to jointly answer any questions that senators may have. Thank you.
Hon. Dennis Glen Patterson: Honourable senators, I also rise today to speak to the first report of the Standing Committee on Ethics and Conflict of Interest for Senators. The interim chair has explained the committee’s reasoning behind the first two recommendations, and I would like to do the same for our third recommendation.
This recommendation required Senator Beyak to provide a letter of apology to the Senate 15 calendar days after completing the educational program described in Recommendation 2, as outlined by Senator Sinclair.
In her first apology, received by the committee in November 2019, Senator Beyak wrote:
TO ALL SENATORS
The Senate Ethics Officer, in his report of March 19, 2019, found me in breach of section [sic] 7.1 and 7.2 of the Code of Ethics and Conflict of Interest for Senators and for that I sincerely apologize to all Senators.
Your committee found this, if I may, bare-bones apology not to be in the spirit and intent of what was ordered by the Senate. It was not clear to your committee if the senator was apologizing for her actions that led to the breach of the code, or if she was apologizing for having been found in breach. To me, and to your committee, that is a very important distinction to make.
It is true that the committee did not give any directives to the senator as to the contents of the apology, just that it must be addressed to all senators, tabled and published on her website as ordered by the Senate. Due to it being received in November, while Parliament was prorogued and her website disabled, it was only received by the committee under the powers granted to it by intersessional authority.
But some things should not have to be spelled out. How many times have we heard the phrase, “I’m sorry if you were offended,” or, “I’m sorry you’re upset” when in disagreement with others? Does that placate your anger, or does it incense you even more because you feel the apology shows no acknowledgment of wrongdoing on their part?
Senator Beyak’s sentence-long apology, with all due respect, does not demonstrate awareness of any wrongdoing. Nor does it acknowledge that her actions caused pain to others.
I represent a region where 85 per cent of the population are Indigenous. Rarely have I met a person in Nunavut whose life has not been touched in one way or another by the multi-generational trauma caused by residential schools. Nunavummiut were deeply offended by Senator Beyak’s statements and actions and many called for nothing less than her expulsion. I’ve seen the anger and the renewed hurt that her speech and the subsequent so-called letters of support have stirred up in Nunavummiut and in Indigenous colleagues in this chamber.
That is why your committee has determined that this time a proper apology would have to include an acknowledgment of the impact of her actions on Indigenous Canadians as well as on the institution and reputation of the Senate.
Further, it is recommended that Senator Beyak should be required to incorporate in her apology her reflections on her learning experience. Senator Beyak would also have to explain her understanding of her role and responsibilities as a senator with respect to the representation of minority rights.
The committee report summarized our concerns as follows:
While your committee is appreciative of Senator Beyak’s acknowledgement of the Senate Ethics Officer’s findings, it cannot accept an apology that fails to show awareness of the wrong, fails to accept responsibility for the wrong, fails to sincerely apologize, fails to atone for past actions and fails to commit to take action in order to rectify the situation. The apology leaves doubt as to whether Senator Beyak recognizes that the conduct at issue was not wrong, merely because the Senate Ethics Officer determined there was a violation of the Code, but because it constituted conduct unbecoming of a senator.
It will be for all senators to judge the sufficiency of any apology. However, the committee does believe that a serious apology in this regard must, at a minimum, be offered to Indigenous peoples as well as to her colleagues for the impact of her conduct on the institution and reputation of the Senate.
Colleagues, know that we did not take this task lightly. We listened to witnesses, we examined written evidence, we listened to Senator Beyak and we carefully weighed all the evidence. We were given legal and procedural advice by capable staff. After careful deliberation, we arrived at these three recommendations.
I should mention our committee was then chaired by the very experienced and esteemed Senator Joyal, who just retired.
The Ethics and Conflict of Interest Code for Senators arises from the Senate’s parliamentary privilege to govern its internal affairs and to discipline its members. Compliance with the code must be a priority for all senators. It is important that each and every senator understands that with the privilege and power of their position comes a duty to represent minorities and regional interests, and a responsibility to hold ourselves and each other to a higher standard.
Our actions must not cast doubt on the integrity of the institution. All Canadians need to have confidence in their democratic institutions and those who serve in them. With this interim report, the committee also wishes to underscore that racism has no place within the institution of the Senate.
I believe in second chances, and your committee feels that Senator Beyak should be given another opportunity to understand the full impacts of her actions. Clearer guidelines on what steps Senator Beyak must take, as well as closer monitoring, should assist your committee in making our final report in this matter, which is to be provided to the Senate no later than June 30, 2020.
I ask all senators to vote to adopt the report.
Hon. Patricia Bovey (The Hon. the Acting Speaker): Honourable senators, pursuant to rule 12-30(2), a decision cannot be taken on this report, as yet. Debate on the report, unless some other senator wishes to adjourn the matter, will be deemed adjourned until the next sitting of the Senate.
Is it agreed, honourable senators?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
(Pursuant to rule 12-30(2), further debate on the motion was adjourned until the next sitting.)
Speech from the Throne
Motion for Address in Reply—Debate Adjourned
Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate) moved:
That the following Address be presented to Her Excellency the Governor General of Canada:
To Her Excellency the Right Honourable Julie Payette, Chancellor and Principal Companion of the Order of Canada, Chancellor and Commander of the Order of Military Merit, Chancellor and Commander of the Order of Merit of the Police Forces, Governor General and Commander-in-Chief of Canada.
MAY IT PLEASE YOUR EXCELLENCY:
We, Her Majesty’s most loyal and dutiful subjects, the Senate of Canada in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Excellency for the gracious Speech which Your Excellency has addressed to both Houses of Parliament.
(On motion of Senator Gagné, debate adjourned.)
Link between Prosperity and Immigration
Hon. Ratna Omidvar rose pursuant to notice of December 10, 2019:
That she will call the attention of the Senate to the link between Canada’s past, present and future prosperity and its deep connection to immigration.
She said: Honourable senators, I am pleased to launch an inquiry into the link between Canada’s past, present and future prosperity and its deep connection to immigration. I am particularly pleased that my colleagues from all the various groups in the Senate will be joining me in this. I know that they will include senators who have lived experience either as first- or second-generation immigrants but also others as I make the case that links Canada, nation building and immigrants together.
Let me start with a journey through yesterday and today to tomorrow.
Imagine this is 1896. Canada is a young nation and its population is a mere 3.6 million people. On July 11, Sir Wilfrid Laurier becomes Canada’s Prime Minister, and one of his big promises is to settle the western Prairies with immigrants who will farm, harvest and secure the west. This comes not only from a desire to grow and thrive but also from a lingering fear that without people in the west, Canada is vulnerable to the growing might and spread of the U.S.
Sir Clifford Sifton, Minister of the Interior, is charged with turning that promise into reality. He does so with remarkable foresight and success, multiplying manyfold the number of immigrants. Under his watch, more than 3 million people arrive in Canada, largely from continental Europe, almost doubling the size of the population at that time. He brings in cold-weather farmers because the west is cold. He brings in Ukrainians, Scandinavians, Romanians, Doukhobors, Mennonites and many others.
But there is an outcry that these immigrants — not from Great Britain and not from the U.S. — do not share the values and culture of Canada of the day. Sir Clifford Sifton defends his position by extolling the virtues of a “stalwart peasant” in sheepskin, “with a stout wife and a half-dozen children,” who could not only withstand the extremes of weather but turn these vast tracts of land into prosperous farming communities.
History, of course, tells us he was right. They turned into successful farmers and Canadians but also into nation builders.
But, as always, there is nuance. Canadian history, as we know, is complicated. Sir Clifford Sifton’s vision to settle the west came at the expense of the original inhabitants, the Indigenous peoples, who continue to experience the impact of that decision today.
Let’s fast-forward to present times. Today, Canada has one of the most robust immigration systems in the world. This is not just grounded in the support by Canadians for immigration but is also reflected in the machinery of government. We in Canada have a department of immigration. We have a minister of immigration as opposed to a department within another ministry, as does the U.S. — and in the U.S. it is the Department of Homeland Security — the U.K., which has a department of the interior, and even progressive Germany.
We have clear criteria that continue to evolve, change and improve. We invest in integration at all three levels of government. It is a system that I describe as “high touch” and generally delivers against the policy objectives of the day.
While the system is not perfect, it has earned the admiration of the globe. The OECD has signalled to the world that Canada’s system is indeed the gold standard and worthy of emulation. As the rest of the world descends into a particular kind of populism and nativism, we stand out as an exception.
As for the immigrants themselves, it’s not easy. From my own experience, I can share that my biggest challenges were, first, struggling to cope with the weather. I admit, I continue to struggle with that. And second, learning and navigating the rules and norms of the Canadian personality. There are many rules. The written ones are easy to understand and obey. It is those unwritten rules that are really difficult to navigate. If I had the time, I could tell you some funny stories.
Regardless, we are encouraged to keep our eyes on the prize. We must work hard. We know that even if our lives may be difficult, our children will largely succeed. I do not want to sanctify immigrants. We are like most other people. Some are good, some are bad, some work hard and some are downright lazy. But in the aggregate and over time, immigration has been incredibly good, both for Canada and for immigrants.
That story is best seen in the campuses of our universities, in the small businesses owned and operated by families of immigrants across the country, in their representation in the ranks of professionals in our country and in their keen, deep interest and participation in the politics of our country.
Most immigrants will choose to become citizens as soon as they are able, but one of the most striking indicators of success is home ownership. Today, one in every five homes in Canada is bought by an immigrant. Even refugees, who typically lag behind in success indicators for obvious reasons, buy homes at a faster pace than Canadians, with a full 65 per cent putting down their money after 10 years in Canada. Mind you, these are refugees.
Another incredibly positive indicator is that the wage gap between immigrants and their Canadian counterparts has never been smaller.
Then there is entrepreneurship. Immigrant-owned firms create more jobs and have higher growth than businesses with owners born in Canada. From 2003 to 2013, companies owned by immigrant entrepreneurs accounted for a quarter of all net new jobs created in the private sector, while representing a mere 17 per cent of the context.
In Toronto, a city of immigrants, I have watched this narrative play out in real time. Whole industries have been saved or created by immigrant entrepreneurs, with cluster economies developing along family and ethnic lines. The Korean-dominated corner stores, the Iranian pizza chains, the Somali-run Dollaramas and, of course, the overwhelming presence of Punjabis in airport security and the limo industry. Even if they stand behind counters serving their customers, we know from evidence that their children will overwhelmingly go to university and become scientists, doctors and lawyers.
I would be failing in my objective if I did not share with you not just the good — and I can do that for a very long time — but to be completely fair to our deliberations, the bad and the ugly. Our system is good, but it can always improve. Successive governments have improved it in different ways. The Conservatives, under Minister Kenney, reformed the way the immigration queue is managed. The Liberals have come up with a proposal to invest in municipalities, mayors, local chambers of commerce and local community groups to nominate an immigrant so they can have the immigrants they need in their communities as opposed to senior levels of government deciding that.
I think we have also benefited from some happy accidents. The accident of our geography is one of those happy accidents, but we have experienced a so-called “Trump bump.” These are the foreign students who are now streaming into Canada, contributing more than $12 billion to our economy, and the highly skilled workers in STEM who are leaving Silicon Valley and choosing to live and work in Canada.
There is, however, one problem that is particularly difficult to resolve, and that is the inability of many educated and experienced immigrants from gaining entry into their professions. The Conference Board of Canada has estimated that this costs our economy $6 billion a year. I have worked for more than 25 years in trying to find a resolution, and all I can say is that if we could find a way — perhaps here in the Senate — to propose solutions to this sticky wicket, imagine what this country could do with that extra money.
Another challenge is Canada’s failure to spread immigrants across our country so that we are truly a vast multicultural country as opposed to three or four diverse cities. We need people and their work to grow and stabilize the population of mid-sized and rural communities, not just MTV.
But there are signals of hope. I am encouraged by the results of a pilot that has taken place in the Atlantic provinces, which has been successful in not only attracting but retaining immigrants. And just like Minister Sifton did in settling the West, we have come full circle. Everything old is new. Perhaps not cold-weather farmers this time but cold-weather technicians and technologists.
From the good and the bad, let me turn to the truly ugly, both individual and systemic. Keeping immigrants who are Black at the lowest levels of income and denying people interviews and jobs merely because they have a foreign-sounding name is truly a difficult thing for me to grasp in today’s Canada. Research confirms that bias is deeply rooted in our collective psyches. There is a cost to racism, in particular the cost borne by victims. But the greatest cost, I believe, is the cost to our collective national soul.
From yesterday and today, let me peek with you into tomorrow. By 2035, 15 years from now, if immigration is kept at current levels, our absolute population will begin to decline. Also by 2035, the dependency ratio, which is the ratio of working people versus retired people, will require more and more people to work and pay for the upkeep of senior citizens.
Let me make this a little real for you. In 1971, there were roughly 13 Canadians who were working to support 100 senior citizens. By 2046, we will need 40 Canadians to provide support for 100 senior citizens. In addition, our labour market will continue to experience shortages. Even if you factor in the upcoming disruption through AI and the gig economy, we will need workers at all ends of the scale, from scientists and professors to tradespeople, and yes, we will need those caregivers.
Immigration and immigrants will continue to be a part of the solution — not the only solution. They will be part of the solution to thrive, grow and prosper.
So yes, we have a successful system, but I am not sure that we are able to look far enough into the future to help us prepare effectively and in time.
I want to close with an acknowledgment of the relationship between the only two demographic groups in our country whose share of the population is growing. That is Canada’s immigrants and Canada’s Indigenous peoples. There is a huge emotional, cultural, economic and spatial distance between us. I have always embraced Canada’s history as a complex, convoluted one. It is made up of many parts, and some of them are moving at the same time. And it seems to me that this history is told back to us differently.
The first people’s history, the history of colonization, the history of bilingualism, the history of the coming together of Canada, the history of the immigrant peoples of Canada, nowhere do all of these narratives converge and especially, honourable senators, they do not converge in the classrooms of our country. On this point, I believe that amending the citizenship oath to include a reference to Indigenous history is an appropriate first step. I look forward to the retabling of the bill on that matter soon.
As an immigrant, and I will speak for myself , I knew very little of the history of the colonization of the Indigenous people in Canada. It only became clear and apparent to me many years later. I accept wholeheartedly, therefore, former Governor General Adrienne Clarkson’s observation about new citizens that when we become citizens of Canada all its glories and all its shame accrue to us. We share in its history and cannot pick and choose the parts that suit a particular narrative.
I look forward to the thoughts of my colleagues on this inquiry and hope that by the end of our deliberations on immigration and prosperity in Canada we come to a common understanding of not just the potential but also of the challenges and the creative solutions. Thank you very much.
The Hon. the Speaker: Senator Omidvar, would you take a question?
Senator Omidvar: Of course, Your Honour.
Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, I want to compliment Honourable Senator Omidvar on her vision of this inquiry. In a place like this it is very important that we have difficult discussions because we are supposed to be protecting minorities.
I was listening very carefully when you spoke so eloquently about the contribution that immigrants made and about racism. The constant question for your grandchildren and mine is will they ever belong because they are still asked, “Where do you come from?” They don’t know another home. They don’t know another place. To you as an expert on those issues. will they ever belong?
The Hon. the Speaker: Sorry, Senator Omidvar. Your time has expired. Are you asking for five more minutes to answer the question?
Senator Omidvar: Less than five, Your Honour.
The Hon. the Speaker: Is it agreed, honourable senators?
Hon. Senators: Agreed.
Senator Omidvar: I thank Honourable Senator Jaffer for that question. My children like yours are young Canadians. I am an optimist. My family name Omidvar in Persian means hope, so I will always see the cup half full. I believe that over time diversity will become normalized in Canada. It will become normal to look like you and me, or some version of you and me, because our children marry and intermarry. If there is another positive indicator I can talk about, it is the level of interracial relationships in big cities. It is rising steadily. I think there is a whole brave new world out there. If I may diverge a little bit I always say, “If nothing else works, love and sex will conquer all.”
(On motion of Senator Oh, debate adjourned.)
Social Affairs, Science and Technology
Motion to Authorize Committee to Study Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Needs Among Canadians—Debate Adjourned
Leave having been given to revert to Motions, Order No. 15:
Hon. Patrick Brazeau, pursuant to notice of December 12, 2019, moved:
That the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology be authorized to examine and report on suicide prevention and mental health needs among Canadians, including a particular emphasis on boys and men, and the over-representation of Indigenous peoples in suicide statistics, when and if the committee is formed; and
That the committee submit its final report no later than December 31, 2020.
He said: Honourable senators, I want to start by saying that about five or six years ago my beard was jet black. It’s a sign of stress. I am so grateful to be here today to address important issues such as suicide prevention and mental health. Just a few years ago, these social issues would not have received that much of our time and interest. I want to acknowledge the steps that have already been taken and to recognize the past and present work that has been achieved regarding suicide and mental health.
Above all, I want to bring your attention to how much more work needs to be done in these crucial times. In 2016, approximately 3,000 Canadians made the decision to end their lives. Three thousand men and women felt such an amount of pain and suffering that death was a better option for them than to live among us.
In 2016, 3,000 mothers who gave life, sacrificed, cuddled, loved, protected and raised their children with all their means were shattered by news that changes the heart of a mother forever. They were told: “I’m sorry to inform you that your child is no longer with us.” In 2016, 3,000 fathers and mothers died as well from a broken heart.
The many children who have lost a parent in this way will be haunted for the rest of their lives by one question: Did mom or dad really love me if he or she chose to leave? I know that because my children are haunted by the same question. As I watch my one-year old and four-year-old who are still protected by their innocence, I know the day will come, as it did with my oldest daughter, when they will ask, “Did you think about me?”
The sad truth is that in the midst of that darkness daddy mistakenly thought everyone would be better off without him. I personally tried to commit suicide on two occasions. I’m not proud to admit that, but I’m proud to be here today to share my story. On January 18, 2016, I took matters into my own hands and tried to end my life. I had had enough of myself and of life. I felt that I hit rock bottom after years of personal and professional struggles. I felt depressed. I had no self-esteem. I felt ridiculed and was ashamed to share this with anyone. I experienced serious financial issues. I can stand here today in front of you and express that I had issues to uphold my financial obligations at that point in time.
Still, I would smile at people as best I could while telling them everything was okay. I was lying to them and to myself. Behind closed doors, I was a mess. I started self-medicating because the pain I was enduring was too much for me to handle. I would cry and self-medicate until the pain would ease. The problem was the pain was accentuating, but I didn’t know how to cope any other way. It was the only solution I had and the only solution I knew.
On that night of January 18, the last thing I remember was telling my late mom I was coming to see her. Today I try to look at the positive side of all of this. I’m 45 years old, I’m a father of six children, and I’m still here.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Senator Brazeau: I made mistakes in my life and I made poor choices. I wasn’t always a good parent. I try to make better choices now and I try to be a better dad. I have hurt a lot of people with my suicide attempts. Just because I survived does not mean the battle is over. I have had to work on relationships with my children and my family members, including my brothers and my dear father. I was brought up well by my parents. I came from a close and loving family. Never in my life, never, did I think I would try to put an end to it.
But things happened. Circumstances in my life changed and I wasn’t able to deal with those problems. I have taken responsibility for my mistakes. I will continue to do so until the day I’m no longer here.
I just want to publicly thank my dad and brothers. You know, men, it’s okay to cry. It’s even healthy. But I want to thank my dad and brothers who were always there for me even though I did my best to shut them out so they wouldn’t be ashamed of me. I want to thank everyone who tried to help me. You know who you are. Please know that I appreciate and recognize your efforts, your loyalty and love.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
Senator Brazeau: The silver lining in all of this is that if I had not experienced those trials and tribulations, I would not be with my little son River and his beautiful mom.
I tried to commit suicide on what some call Blue Monday. Some say it is the most depressing day of the year, the third Monday of January. The third Monday in January 2016 was the worst day of my life. But let me tell you, the third Monday in January 2020 was an excellent day and I work every day to make it as such.
Today I am well, I am healthy, I am proud of myself. I love life. But most of all, I am grateful to be here and I am striving to be a better person and I know I am broken no more.
In 2016, the families and friends of the 3,000 people who committed suicide grieved the death of a loved one. Those grieving people are trying to understand why death seemed to be a better option than life. The mothers, fathers, brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends of the victims were all affected by one person’s suffering. Of those 3,000 Canadians who committed suicide, 75 per cent were men. Statistics show that, in Canada, boys are three times more likely to commit suicide than girls. Some experts believe that masculinity values are a risk factor. I can’t speak for anyone else, but that was the case for me. I was taught that I had to be strong, courageous and tough, that I had to deal with my problems myself. It took 40 years for me to ask for help.
I have learned about studies that investigate how the emotions of boys and girls are perceived differently in social situations. In 2020, it is still true that emotions like fear, sadness and shame are reinforced differently in boys and girls. As gender roles are evolving, boys and men are experiencing an identity crisis. Could the need to be strong and the belief that you should fix your own problems be a factor in suicide among men and boys? Are we failing our young people by raising them to feel too ashamed to ask for help when they are suffering, which then leads them to contemplate suicide? That was certainly the case for me.
In 2016, 1,888 of the 2,939 suicide deaths in Canada involved indigenous peoples. Canada has the highest suicide rate in the world. Allow me to clarify. Inuit communities in Canada have the highest suicide rate in the world. This statistic is completely unacceptable in a country like ours.
A few weeks ago I was in Alberta to meet with secondary school students to talk about suicide and mental health. At the end of my speech, kids started lining up to shake my hand and take selfies with me. I asked myself why would young Indigenous teenagers want a picture with a senator known for his personal and professional struggles and very public humiliation? And then it hit me: They were proud to be Indigenous.
Somehow with every mistake and bad choice I made, the public struggle I went through and two suicide attempts, here I was back at work, still alive, getting involved in mental health and suicide prevention research and trying my best to reach out. They looked up to me because I resembled them. My problems may have been familiar to them. Whether it was related to substance abuse, violence or suicide attempts, when they talked to me, they knew I knew.
Shortly after I left the venue, I received two messages from two people who helped organize the event. Here are the messages I received:
Ish Niish/Hiy Hiy for coming and speaking with our young regarding Mental Wellness. FYI a student disclosed they had attempted and wanted to again but because of your talk chose to reach out. She now has a supportive group who are working with her and her family!
The second message:
Thank you Patrick. You are an inspirational speaker and such a wonderful role model. I hope to see you again. We need to continue our journey of helping people. A girl came forward after your presentation and asked for help. So grateful for that day. Thanks Again.
One of the reasons I’m sharing this is to put an emphasis on the different realities and factors that push more than 3,000 Canadians to commit suicide every year. They are not all the same and should not have a one-size-fits all approach.
Suicide among boys and men can be related to socialization around masculinity such as the shame we are trained to feel around talking about our problems. Young Indigenous people can be struggling with different issues such as low self-esteem, isolation or lack of Indigenous role models. What I’m trying to say is that we recognize the importance of addressing issues such as suicide. Programs that will be built need to be adapted to each and every Canadian.
For example, our research shows that one of the factors with Indigenous suicide was isolation. Therefore, programs aimed at Indigenous youth should include the goal of reducing isolation. It’s difficult to do when Indigenous people have been victims of colonialism and continue to be to this day. Indigenous youth are forced to relocate on small communities. Indigenous kids are taken away and put into residential schools. Kids are taken away by governments and put in non-native families to be assimilated.
Sure there were efforts by governments to fight the wrongs of the past. There was an apology and a settlement claim for those who went to residential schools, but are Indigenous peoples expected to be mentally prepared and equipped today to deal with everyday life with all the injustices and trauma they went through and continue to do so? My answer to that is a resounding no. More than ever, we need to look out and invest in our Indigenous people because many are suffering and many are broken. Many are crying out for help. Instead, we offer breadcrumbs and expect them to heal by themselves.
Absolutely no family, no individual is above or immune to issues of mental health. Whether we are privileged or poor, woman or man, gay or straight or trans, or no matter our race or religion, everyone can be susceptible to mental health challenges. Vulnerability is not something anyone can buy their way out of.
As parliamentarians, we have the most important role to play and that is to look out for our most vulnerable citizens. Are we doing that?
That is why, colleagues, I’m doing what I couldn’t do years ago and that is to ask for your help. I’m reaching out to you asking for your help because I need it and I cannot do it alone.
Enough with the shame, the hurt, the low self-esteem. Enough with the fear of being ridiculed. So in the name of all who are suffering or who have suffered or have passed on, I’m asking for help to undertake this study to bring the hope that people need and deserve. Meegwetch.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
(On motion of Senator Carignan, debate adjourned.)
Medical Assistance in Dying
Hon. Pamela Wallin rose pursuant to notice of December 12, 2019:
That she will call the attention of the Senate to:
(a)a September 2019 Quebec Superior Court ruling, which declared parts of federal and provincial law relating to medical assistance in dying (MAiD) to be too restrictive;
(b)the recent Quebec Ministry of Health and Social Services report, which recommends provisions allowing for advance requests in MAiD, out of a “moral duty to respond to it”;
(c)the ongoing and tireless work of Dying with Dignity Canada, a non-for-profit organization that advocates for vulnerable Canadians regarding their right to die;
(d)the recommendations of the federally mandated, December 2018 Canadian Association of Academies report relating to advance requests in medical assistance in dying; and
(e)the urgent need for the Senate to study and propose new rules pertaining to advance requests for medical assistance in dying.
She said: Honourable senators, we deal with death in many forms every day of our lives: the death of a relationship, the death of a career or job, the death of innocence, or the death of a loved one. But if we are willing, these encounters can help ready us for a dignified conclusion to our own life and teach us to face that inevitability with grace.
Honourable senators, I have begun this inquiry because I believe it is our personal right and our responsibility to make end-of-life decisions for ourselves, and it is our responsibility as legislators to sort out the role of governments, doctors and families in providing for choices around such a fundamental and difficult decision.
During the debate on Bill C-14, the federal government’s legislative response to the Supreme Court of Canada ruling allowing for medical assistance in dying, we all debated late into the night just how complex and deeply emotional the issue is.
I had come to my own views watching my parents die in two very different but equally horrific ways: my father to painful cancers; my mother to Alzheimer’s. Their suffering was unnecessary and preventable. It was the only kindness they asked for when their minds were clear — to be spared that inevitable fate. But it was not to be. The laws denied them the right to be heard and the right to have their lifelong wishes respected.
These painful journeys are taken by families every day in this country. Every single day Canadians with incurable or irreversible medical conditions suffer needlessly in hospital beds and care homes; and far too many are home alone, even though they have lost physical or intellectual function, because their families are miles or countries away and funds may be limited.
This is just wrong.
Without the possibility of advance requests for medical assistance in dying, we have seen Canadians with terminal illnesses end their lives earlier than they would like or, worse, spend their last moments confused and fearful that they will lose consciousness before receiving assistance, living on without awareness, faculties or resources either financial or human.
If a MAID candidate loses the capacity to consent, if they do not have an illness that is deemed terminal or a death that is deemed reasonably foreseeable, they must accept an unknown fate.
The truly brutal Catch-22 is that Canadians diagnosed with dementia and Alzheimer’s are denied, from the moment of diagnosis, the right to request medical assistance in dying — MAID — even if their condition worsens. And even when they are symptom-free and able to make a sound decision to request medical assistance, they cannot.
Astonishingly, Alzheimer’s is not considered a serious enough condition to warrant medical assistance in dying. For any of us who have witnessed the slow descent into hell, this is uncivilized. Many will spend the rest of their lives, and certainly their final days, with strangers who were once their loved ones, or they will spend months or years anticipating the worst and go on to suffer alone in their now unfamiliar worlds, often with painful flashes of awareness where they know they are no longer who they once were. They lose their dignity, their character, their personality and their choices.
So here we are. No one can make a written declaration for MAID — known as an advance directive — before, and certainly not after, losing the capacity to consent. It is a Catch-22.
Fortunately, last fall a Québec Superior Court ruling struck down the “reasonably foreseeable” requirement and the section of Québec law that says people must be at the end of life. In her judgment, Justice Christine Baudouin wrote:
The reasonably foreseeable natural death requirement deprives both individuals and claimants of their autonomy and their choice to end their lives at a time and in the manner desired, which must, however, remain an entirely personal decision.
She goes on to say:
This requirement forces them to end their lives while they are still physically able to do so, or to take hasty actions that will cause them to suffer in order to qualify for help and avoid the agony to come.
In this sense, it denies them the right to have a dignified and serene death.
The Québec court agrees that no one can prevent our right, per the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, to make choices relating to our own right to life, liberty and security of person. Our laws must reflect this.
The court has given the government until March 11 to amend the current law and I am assured that the justice and health ministers are genuinely using this opportunity to improve the legislation. But it is still unclear if this will include advance requests; it must.
We can look to recent reports requested by the government itself to get a sense of what advance request legislation could look like. The Council of Canadian Academies, though prohibited from making actual recommendations, highlighted three levels of accessibility that the government could take into account.
The first is when somebody has already been approved for MAID but is unsure how long they have left. This was the devastating situation for 57-year-old Audrey Parker, who had to decide to receive MAID before her stage 4 breast cancer could spread to her brain, preventing her from being able to request it.
The second scenario is to allow MAID for someone who has been diagnosed with a life-threatening illness but is not yet eligible. People with early stages of Alzheimer’s and dementia could fall into this group. In my mind, that would be a start but the language regarding this illness must be explicit.
The third change would allow for all Canadians, whether or not they have been approved for MAID, to make an advance request in a living will. But again, that would have to have the weight of law.
I personally believe that anyone should have the right to a legal advance request in a living will. No one who loses capacity unexpectedly should be forced to live the rest of their life trapped in a hospital bed, or worse, until they die. That’s why we have do-not-resuscitate orders. I see an advance request as exercising that same right. Our well-stated, well-documented decisions on our own lives should be respected and upheld even after losing our conscious ability to reaffirm that decision in the moment.
Over 300,000 Canadians have responded to the Department of Justice survey and the public overwhelmingly supports advance requests. A Canadian Press survey shows 86 per cent of Canadians agree that people with a serious, degenerative or incurable disease should be able to request and obtain medical assistance in dying. And 74 per cent said MAID should be accessible to those with incurable diseases even if their death is not imminent.
Since Bill C-14 was passed in 2016, we have seen these changes. It is now clear that the courts, advocacy and patient groups and the general public agree; we should be able to make an advance request for ourselves and for the peace of mind of our families.
Canadians understand that MAID legislation is about choices. It’s not about forcing anyone to die or treating it as some affordable option to deal with too many aging seniors. We all agree there must be protections in the law for the vulnerable, people with disabilities or those suffering from mental illness. And we need to make sure that doctors and care practitioners are taught to never recommend MAID as a first choice when someone with a physical or mental disability seeks medical help or advice.
We must also continue to help the provinces increase palliative care services — Ottawa has promised $6 billion over 10 years — but the existing legislation has created serious gaps in accessibility. The laws are not administered fairly, consistently or in a timely manner. It is particularly difficult in rural communities often hours from a city hospital and with limited access to doctors and lawyers.
In my province of Saskatchewan, there is a disparity between those approved for MAID and those who actually receive it. In 2018, only 67 of the 172 approved requests in Saskatchewan were actually performed.
Some doctors, of course, feel uneasy about increasing the scope of medical assistance in dying. This is an important concern but too much focus on safeguards for doctors will likely create further gaps in accessibility for patients. No one will ever ask them to do something they feel is a breach of their oath, but they should be obliged to refer a patient to someone who will respect the wishes and needs of that patient.
Many of us have lived through this nightmare, or perhaps we are concerned now about our own futures. We all fear the unknown and it is the unknown about our end of life that is the greatest fear of all.
Alzheimer’s is a likely diagnosis in my life given family history. I have no children or husband to advocate for me, so although I have found a MAID doctor who feels comfortable administering my wishes, the decision for my end-of-life will likely fall to a lawyer. I hope they will be able to enforce my rights when I reach my designated point of departure.
As legislators, I believe we owe it to our families, our seniors, our most vulnerable, our medical practitioners and, most importantly, ourselves to secure that right to a quality of life — and a quality of death — when possible.
It is said that it is not the length of life but the depth of life that matters. When we have carved out a good life, worked hard to do and be our best, there is no reason why a dignified life needs to meet an undignified end.
We all know the phrase, “Do not go gentle into that good night.”
Senators, I ask you, please, do not let us go gentle into this good fight for dignity in our final days. Thank you.
(On motion of Senator Griffin, debate adjourned.)
(At 5:11 p.m., the Senate was continued until tomorrow at 2 p.m.)