The Senate met at 2 p.m., the Speaker in the chair.
Question of Privilege
Speaker’s Ruling Reserved
Hon. Pamela Wallin: Honourable senators, I rise on a question of privilege because my rights and the rights of all honourable senators to fully participate in debate and proceedings are currently being breached according to rule 13-1. The Senate has convened only four times since the middle of March to approve legislation and we are here again without the appropriate measures to allow for full participation.
Senate leadership has agreed to resume so-called normal sittings, including going through the Order Paper, to discuss non-governmental, non-urgent business. It is impossible in these circumstances to meet our oath, provide proper judgment or sober second thought about legislation or other matters without proper study, due consideration or adequate access to Senate resources.
During the initial crisis, there was a troubling but somewhat understandable agreement to limit debate to emergency government legislation designed to help Canadians and to restrict the number of senators allowed to participate to protect their health. But technology could change that and should have by now.
As we gather here today, many senators are not able to participate. It is one thing when we are asked to deal with emergency legislation. It is quite another when we are returning to so-called normal sittings without the ability for all to participate.
Senators are being asked or told rather to either stay in their homes or rotate their time in the chamber with others in their group. Without the infrastructure allowing for remote or virtual participation in non-emergency legislation we are, in essence, obstructing all senators’ rights to represent their regions and constituents, and to participate in Senate proceedings.
While I understand that leadership has also agreed that there will be no formal votes, there is absolutely no way to predict or restrict the right of a senator to demand such a vote. But votes should not be held when so many are denied their fundamental right.
More questions arise on the legitimacy of the actions of this chamber in this current arrangement. If there are standing votes on matters arising from the Order Paper, how do we record the votes of senators not in the chamber? How do I ask someone to be my surrogate and vote my conscience in my absence? Is it not their obligation to vote their conscience reflecting the obligations of their region?
Provincial stay-at-home restrictions and personal health concerns currently make it impossible for some senators to enter the chamber or attend future sittings. If a senator from P.E.I. were to come to the Senate to do their job, they would need to self-isolate for 14 days here and then again when they return home, preventing them from coming back for any future sittings during that period.
Other provinces and territories have similar restrictions. That no action has been taken to accommodate our colleagues is embarrassing, but it’s more importantly a dangerous precedent.
In fact, the oath we swear when we take our place in this chamber is that we must appear despite all difficulties and with no excuses. But for many of our colleagues, that would mean breaking the law, so we must give them the option to be here even virtually.
MPs in the House of Commons began hybrid sessions of Parliament on May 27. The U.K. House of Lords has been sitting since April and will be voting and debating virtually as of this week. In fact, many parliaments across the world have worked out ways to sit for months. Why are we so far behind? Why is there now a sudden change of heart to sit without the appropriate measures?
Why are we not adopting the same infrastructure and technology available to the House? We are dealing with complex and costly issues. For example, the Parliamentary Budget Officer just recently reported that it’s likely the federal deficit for this year will hit $252 billion as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, a staggering level of dollars spent with little or no oversight.
Should we debate extending the CERB?, to whom it goes, at what cost and for how long? All these questions need a little sober second thought.
Rule 13-1 of the Rules of the Senate state that:
A violation of the privileges of any one Senator affects all Senators and the ability of the Senate to carry out its functions. The preservation of the privileges of the Senate is the duty of every Senator and has priority over every other matter before the Senate.
Privilege in the Rules of the Senate is defined as:
The rights, powers and immunities enjoyed by each house collectively, and by members of each house individually, without which they could not discharge their functions, and which exceed those possessed by other bodies or individuals.
Privileges include “freedom of speech” and “freedom from obstruction and intimidation,” which the current physical limitations constitute.
Honourable senators, only 33 senators excluding the speaker are allowed to be in the chamber and participate. Because of this, my right as a senator to debate with other senators is being obstructed. This is a fundamental obstruction of our parliamentary privilege and is setting an exceptionally dangerous precedent for the Senate as an institution. We are limiting senators’ freedoms to debate and their obligation to represent their regions.
It is imperative that we adopt changes that allow us to conduct hybrid sittings. All senators have the right to debate and vote, especially on non-government business or motions that intend to significantly alter how this chamber will function respecting our constitutional obligations.
In our current form, we are unrepresentative, we are disrespecting our obligations to our colleagues and we are functioning in an unparliamentary manner.
I recommend, Your Honour, that you consider that we sit only to debate urgent government business or not sit at all, and certainly not deal with any other item on the Order Paper until the appropriate considerations have been met that allow for hybrid sittings or sittings that include all senators. Thank you.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
The Hon. the Speaker: Do any other senators wish to comment? If not, I will take the matter under advisement.
Business of the Senate
Motion to Authorize Senators to Speak or Vote from a Seat Other Than Their Assigned Places until the End of June 2020 Adopted
Hon. Raymonde Gagné (Legislative Deputy to the Government Representative in the Senate): Honourable senators, with leave of the Senate and notwithstanding rule 5-5(a), I move:
That, for each sitting until the end of June 2020, notwithstanding rules 6-1 and 9-8(1)(b), senators may speak or vote from a seat other than their assigned places.
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.)
Congratulations on One Hundredth Birthday
Hon. Donald Neil Plett (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, it is an honour to rise today to offer my warm congratulations to Mr. Edwin Kroeker on the celebration of his 100th birthday almost two weeks ago.
Edwin Kroeker was born on June 7, 1920, in the small village of Linden, Manitoba, which is three miles west of where I grew up in Landmark.
At the time, Sir Robert Borden was the prime minister of Canada and Tobias Norris was the premier of Manitoba. World War I had just ended, along with the devastating Spanish flu pandemic.
Over the next 100 years, Mr. Edwin Kroeker would see the world change in unimaginable ways. In the 1920s, Canadians would begin to own cars, radios and telephones.
In 1929, the stock market crash would give way to the dirty thirties, followed by the horrors of World War II, the rise of the Soviet Union and the Cold War. The space race between the United States and the Soviet Union would heat up, with the U.S. putting the first man on the moon in 1969.
Then came the whirlwind of cultural and technological change during the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s. The advent of the personal computer launched the world into the digital age of the internet. By 2010, Canadians would be carrying more computing power in their hand than was used to send Apollo 11 to the moon.
There is no question about it — over the last 100 years, change took place at a dizzying pace. Yet through it all, one thing remained constant for Mr. Edwin Kroeker: his faith.
Mr. Kroeker is a family friend of ours, and I have known him all of my life. And all of my life I have seen that as the world changed around him, his faith in the saving grace of Jesus Christ did not.
And while his faith is intensely personal, Ed has lived it out publicly as a rock-solid member of our evangelical Mennonite church.
Before the pandemic started and we were still able to attend our places of worship, Ed would drive himself 20 miles to church every week. It would have been easy for him to find a ride with someone else, but he insisted on driving himself just in case he wanted to go somewhere and visit after church services.
About a year ago, I ran into Mr. Edwin Kroeker outside the grocery store in Steinbach. He was in the process of putting his walker into the trunk of his car, and I offered to give him a hand. At 99 years of age, most people are happy for a little help, but Ed refused, telling me that if he started accepting help like that, he would become dependent on people, and he was still quite capable of doing things himself.
Ed has been a consistent, shining example of a man who has strong values and integrity. His example is one which I have cherished deeply and endeavour to follow.
Colleagues, I invite you to join me today, along with Ed’s children, Tim, Wayne, Lynn, and Terry, their spouses, Ed’s grandchildren and great-grandchildren in offering Mr. Edwin Kroeker our warmest congratulations on the occasion of his 100th birthday and wishing him many happy returns.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
Tragedy in Nova Scotia
Hon. Mary Coyle: Honourable colleagues, two months have passed since Nova Scotians woke up on a Sunday morning to news of a violent rampage which left 22 people dead and others injured, including RCMP Constable Chad Morrison and the murderer’s spouse, a victim of domestic assault.
The now late Silver Donald Cameron described those tragically killed as people defined by service: a teacher, a social worker, two correctional officers, a long-term care worker, four nurses, an RCMP officer, a retired firefighter and others — all known not just by what they did for a living but by how they lived — musicians, hockey mums, gardeners, parents, grandparents, people who liked fishing, salsa dancing, leather work. They are RCMP constable Heidi Stevenson, Lisa McCully, Heather O’Brien, Jolene Oliver, Aaron Tuck, Emily Tuck, Kristen Beaton, Sean McLeod, Alanna Jenkins, Tom Bagley, Joey Webber, Greg Blair, Jamie Blair, John Zahl, Elizabeth Joanne Thomas, Lillian Hyslop, Dawn Madsen, Frank Gulenchyn, Gina Goulet, Corrie Ellison, Joy Bond and Peter Bond.
They were known and they were loved.
Rachel Creaser wrote a piece on Nova Scotia which resonated with me which I cite:
She is a beautiful place. She has a rich history of culture from her first people, the proud Mi’kmaw nation, to those who came thousands of years later, the British, the French, les acadiens, the black loyalists, the Dutch, the Lebanese and more. People from all over have come here and helped to make her what she is today — a proud place with humble people. She is surrounded by ocean, full of natural beauty, full of music and art. She is beautiful. She is home. I tell you this because I want you to understand what this tragedy means to a place like this. Everyone in Nova Scotia knows someone who knows someone who died. Everyone is grieving. Everyone needs to be together but can’t. Will she ever be the same? I can’t answer that. But I do know she will rise, her people will lift each other up, their kindness and love and humour and generosity will lift her to her feet again, even if the tears never stop falling. You may never have been here, but when you come, you will not leave. And she will whisper welcome home as the waves crash on the shore; trust me, it will happen to you as it has happened to me.
Colleagues, as summer wraps her sweet warm salty arms around our beloved province of Nova Scotia, may the families and friends of the victims of this tragedy find peace and feel the loving embrace of all Canadians. Thank you, wela’loq
Hon. Robert Black: Honourable colleagues, I rise today to highlight some ongoing labour issues in the agricultural industry.
The COVID-19 pandemic has shone a light on many important issues over these past few months, and this is absolutely one of them.
In my opinion, that’s a good thing, as it gives us the opportunity to reflect on problems and challenges that have come to light and work to improve them.
Labour has long been a source of difficulty for many farmers and for the agricultural industry as a whole, across all skill levels. We simply don’t have enough people interested in working in agriculture.
It’s unfortunate because, as I can tell you after 35 years in the sector myself, there are many wonderful opportunities that are not limited to farming. You can work in agriculture through science, technology, business, communications, human resources and many other areas — even politics.
One of the major solutions that Canadian agriculture has turned to in order to combat the labour shortage is temporary foreign workers.
For years, thousands of workers have been coming to Canada each year from Mexico, Jamaica and many other Caribbean countries to fill these gaps. These migrant workers help farmers with planting, pruning and harvesting, mainly in the fruit and vegetable sectors.
Farmers who employ these temporary workers generally have nothing but great things to say about their experiences. Many farmers have the same workers come back year after year, and build close, almost family relationships with them.
That said, I am sure that many of you have heard about a recent report that outlines certain instances of abuse and challenges, particularly within the context of COVID-19. Though these instances are very rare, they shouldn’t happen at all, and we need to think about ways we can address these issues and move forward.
What we truly need is a national labour strategy for agriculture. Such a strategy would allow us to determine short-, medium- and long-term solutions to transition the industry into the future.
A cohesive, nationwide strategy would ensure that expectations, regulations, safety requirements, training and other workplace programs would be fair and consistent across the board.
It should also provide mechanisms for complaints and interventions in cases where regulations are not adhered to.
As well, the agricultural industry needs to do a better job at promotion and career awareness.
People don’t always recognize the benefits of working in agriculture and don’t realize the wide array of possibilities that exist.
I certainly don’t have all the answers today, but this is an issue that I hope to continue working on with members of the agricultural industry and government, in order to make positive changes going forward. Thanks very much for listening.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
Hon. Jim Munson: Honourable senators, what is going on in this country? Why do an Indigenous woman and man have to die to get our attention? Why does a chief have to be beaten up by the police to get our attention? Why does an Inuit man have to be slammed to the ground by the door of a moving RCMP vehicle to get our attention? Why on the streets of Winnipeg do we see yet another case of police brutality to get our attention? What is going on in this country?
Just last week, the Prime Minister and thousands of others protested on Parliament Hill showing solidarity to the Black Lives Matter movement. In a country like Canada, where systemic racism is ingrained in every level of society, demonstrating was a good thing to do.
In Canada, alongside anti-black racism, we behave as if Indigenous lives don’t matter. No matter what we have done, we have not taken to the streets to march in solidarity with our Aboriginal brothers and sisters. What is wrong with us? Imagine a young Indigenous woman in Edmundston, New Brunswick, shot and killed by police. A wellness check? What is wrong with us?
Honourable senators, today you see beside me the empty seats of two Indigenous senators: Senator Sandra Lovelace Nicholas and Senator Lillian Dyck. They can’t be here today because of COVID-19 restrictions, but I want you to hear their voices. They are hurting and angry.
You know their stories. Senator Lovelace Nicholas fought for and won Aboriginal women’s rights and the rights of their children. At our last caucus conference call, Sandra was in tears. She wanted me to say this on the killings of Chantel Moore and Rodney Levi: If the head of the RCMP is confused as to whether systemic racism exists, be clear: We, the Indigenous people of this land are not confused. We have lived it since the beginning of our encounters with the system governing this country and its police. There will never be reconciliation with the government until systemic racism is stamped out. Time’s up.
Those are the words of Senator Sandra Lovelace Nicholas.
Senator Lillian Dyck, who has fought on the front lines for the thousands of murdered and missing Aboriginal women and children, has had it with the leadership of the RCMP and what she describes as the confused views on systemic racism of the commissioner. Senator Dyck says that Brenda Lucki “does not fully understand systemic racism or have the knowledge and skills to be the country’s top policewoman.”
In calling for her resignation, Senator Dyck states:
Canadians and Indigenous women, in particular, deserve to have the best possible commissioner who will be able to initiate and lead the necessary changes in the RCMP to keep us safer and protect us from violence.
Honourable senators, my time may be up, but we as an institution must stand up and work together to stamp out systemic or institutionalized racism in this country.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
The Late Jennifer Casey
Hon. Denise Batters: Honourable senators, I rise today to honour the memory of Captain Jennifer Casey, who tragically lost her life in a Canadian Forces Snowbirds crash in Kamloops, British Columbia, last month on May 17. The crash occurred while the Snowbirds were conducting Operation INSPIRATION, their cross-country tour to raise Canadians’ spirits during this time of pandemic and isolation, and to show support for our front-line health care workers. Captain Casey, the Snowbirds’ public affairs officer, was responsible for bringing the team’s message of hope and solidarity to Canadians.
Thirty-five years old, Jenn was from Halifax, and she had a career in broadcasting before joining the Canadian military in 2014. By all accounts, Captain Casey loved her job and her time with the military. Friends and former colleagues describe her as smart, driven and professional. Others describe her as friendly, engaging and a storyteller. Many state that it is Jennifer’s big smile and ready laugh that they will miss above all.
The home of the Canadian Forces Snowbirds is at 15 Wing Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. My late husband, Dave Batters, served as the member of Parliament for the constituency of Palliser. Both Moose Jaw and 15 Wing were within his riding, and the Snowbirds always held a special place in both our hearts. Dave even had occasion to fly with the Snowbirds, and it was truly one of his greatest thrills.
The Snowbirds are a beloved part of our Canadian fabric. They inspire us as they fly proudly every year over Parliament Hill in celebration on Canada Day and in commemoration of Canada’s war veterans on Remembrance Day. Their flyovers in formation remind us that Canadians are stronger together whether in times of happiness or in times of mourning and reflection. The Snowbirds need to have our commitment for decades to come.
With Operation INSPIRATION, millions of Canadians for the first time were able to see the Snowbirds’ fantastic flyovers in person. I know many of you will have had the same experience I did last month when the Snowbirds flew right over my house, and I yelled out just like a little kid, “Snowbirds!” As the Snowbird honorary colonel stated at Captain Casey’s celebration of life, it was indeed the Snowbirds’ finest hour.
The Snowbirds are a potent Canadian symbol, not only of our proud tradition of military excellence but also the hope and optimism that unites us as a country. Captain Jenn Casey was the embodiment of all that.
As a proud Saskatchewanian and a member of Canada’s Senate, I want to thank Jenn for her service and sharing the Snowbirds’ message of hope and inspiration with all Canadians. I wish to extend my deepest condolences to Captain Casey’s family and friends, her 15 Wing family and Snowbirds teammates. The whole of our nation mourns with you. Thank you.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
Pride Month and Black Lives Matter
Hon. René Cormier: Honourable senators, in the absence of Senator Wanda Bernard because of COVID restrictions, I am honoured to read her statement:
Honourable senators, I rise today to speak to Pride Month and Black Lives Matter. Pride is a time to celebrate LGBTQ joy and freedom of sexual orientation and gender expression. Black Lives Matter is about freedom from slavery and systemic violence. As we engage with this quest for freedom, I bring your attention to two groups of people whose right to freedom is often taken away from them: Black transgender people and Black prisoners.
This year, Pride Month looks a lot different than usual because of the COVID-19 pandemic. We can still use this time to develop our allyship. In the midst of pandemic of COVID, the reality of the pandemic of racism has finally become more visible to the mainstream. We are seeing activism, advocacy and the elevation of Black voices demanding actual change. Many people are waking up to the realities of anti-Black racism in Canada, and what better time than Pride Month to emphasize that Black, queer and trans lives matter.
Yesterday, I read a letter released by the Halifax Examiner called “Black Lives Matter in Prison, too”, written by a group of Black prisoners. These prisoners explain their experience of being forgotten, being left out of this movement:
We end up serving even longer sentences because we are judged by the colour of our skin. We are accused of being gang members. We are punished for talking together. Our visitors are accused of bringing in contraband, so we tell our mothers not to come and see us. Guards antagonize us and then discipline us when we respond. There are no programs made for us. And when we go in front of an all-white parole board, they will not let us out.
These prisoners state, ”We have heard people say until all Black lives matter, no one’s life can matter. Until Black prisoner lives matter, can anyone be free?”
I am reminded of these words from Audre Lorde, “I am not free while any woman is unfree, even when her shackles are very different from my own.”
When we think about the phrase ”Black Lives Matter,” we often only consider the lives of Black men and the current state of policing. These two unique experiences, that of Black prisoners and Black transgender people, are a priority as I consider how we are not free until all of us are free.
The Estimates, 2020-21
Supplementary Estimates (A) Tabled
Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the Supplementary Estimates (A), 2020-21.
Leaders’ Debates Commission
Democracy Matters, Debates Count—Report Tabled
Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, a report of the Leaders’ Debates Commission entitled Democracy Matters, Debates Count: A report on the 2019 Leaders’ Debates Commission and the future of debates in Canada.
The Estimates, 2020-21
National Finance Committee Authorized to Study Supplementary Estimates (A)
Hon. Raymonde Gagné (Legislative Deputy to the Government Representative in the Senate): Honourable senators, with leave of the Senate and notwithstanding rule 5-5(j), I move:
That, notwithstanding any provision of the Rules or usual practice, the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance:
1.be authorized to examine and report upon the expenditures set out in Supplementary Estimates (A), 2020-21, tabled in the Senate on June 16, 2020;
2.be authorized, in light of the exceptional circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, to meet by videoconference or teleconference, if technically feasible, for the purposes of its studies of estimates as authorized by paragraph 1 or as already authorized by the Senate, subject to the provisions of the order of April 11, 2020, respecting its study of certain issues relating to legislation and government actions in response to the pandemic;
3.have the power to meet for the purposes of its studies of estimates as authorized by paragraph 1 or as already authorized by the Senate, even though the Senate may then be sitting, and that rule 12-18(1) be suspended in relation thereto; and
4.be permitted to deposit electronically with the Clerk of the Senate any reports on studies of estimates as authorized by paragraph 1 or as already authorized by the Senate, if the Senate is not then sitting, with the reports then being deemed to have been tabled or presented in the Senate.
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.)
Business of the Senate
Hon. Donald Neil Plett (Leader of the Opposition): I would like to ask a question on the previous item. Is there a reporting date for this? I didn’t hear one.
Hon. Raymonde Gagné (Legislative Deputy to the Government Representative in the Senate): Thank you very much for your question. No, there is no reporting date.
Commissioner for Children and Youth in Canada Bill
Hon. Rosemary Moodie introduced Bill S-217, An Act to establish the Office of the Commissioner for Children and Youth in Canada.
(Bill read first time.)
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this bill be read the second time?
(On motion of Senator Moodie, bill placed on the Orders of the Day for second reading two days hence.)
Constitution Act, 1867
Bill to Amend—First Reading
Hon. Dennis Glen Patterson introduced Bill S-218, An Act to amend the Constitution Act, 1867 (property qualifications of Senators).
(Bill read first time.)
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this bill be read the second time?
(On motion of Senator Patterson, bill placed on the Orders of the Day for second reading two days hence.)
Notice of Motion to Place Fourth Report of Special Committee Tabled during the First Session of Forty-second Parliament on Orders of the Day
Hon. Dennis Glen Patterson: Honourable senators, I give notice that, at the next sitting of the Senate, I will move:
That the fourth report of the Special Committee on the Arctic entitled Northern Lights: A Wake-Up Call for the Future of Canada, tabled in the Senate on June 11, 2019, during the First session of the Forty-second Parliament, be placed on the Orders of the Day under Other Business, Reports of Committees – Other, for consideration two days hence.
Notice of Motion that No Senate Committee be Considered a Standing or Special Committee for the Remainder of the Current Session
Hon. Pierre J. Dalphond: Honourable senators, I give notice that, at the next sitting of the Senate, I will move:
That, notwithstanding any provision of the Rules, previous order or usual practice, upon the adoption of this order, and for the remainder of the current session, no Senate committee be considered a standing or special committee for the purposes of paragraphs 62.1(1)(g) and (h) of the Parliament of Canada Act.
Notice of Motion to Cease the Provisions of Motion No. 37 Adopted on March 11, 2020
Hon. Pierre J. Dalphond: Honourable senators, I give notice that, at the next sitting of the Senate, I will move:
That, notwithstanding any provision of the Rules, previous order or usual practice, upon the adoption of this motion, the provisions of the motion adopted by the Senate on March 11, 2020, relating to committees, as moved by the Honourable Senator Woo and seconded by the Honourable Senator Plett, cease to have effect.
Notice of Motion to Fill Any Vacancy in the Position of the Speaker Pro Tempore by Secret Ballot for the Remainder of the Current Session and to Discharge the First Report of the Committee of Selection from the Order Paper
Hon. Pierre J. Dalphond: Honourable senators, I give notice that, at the next sitting of the Senate, I will move:
That, notwithstanding any provision of the Rules or usual practice:
1.for the remainder of the session, any vacancy in the position of Speaker pro tempore be filled by means of a secret ballot, using a process to be established by the Speaker after consulting with the Leader of the Government, the Leader of the Opposition, and the leader or facilitator of any other recognized party or recognized parliamentary group; and
2.the first report of the Committee of Selection, if not disposed of before the adoption of this order, be discharged from the Order Paper.
Notice of Motion to Strike a Special Committee on Systemic Racism
Hon. Frances Lankin: Honourable senators, I give notice that, two days hence, I will move:
That a Special Senate Committee on Systemic Racism be appointed to conduct a review of systemic racism in Canada;
That, without limiting its mandate, the committee be authorized:
1.to review the extent and scope of anti-Indigenous racism, anti-Black racism, and systemic racism in federal institutions and agencies;
2.to review the federal government’s role in eliminating anti-Indigenous racism, anti-Black racism, and systemic racism both within federal institutions and agencies and in Canadian society generally; and
3.to identify priorities and recommendations for government action to combat anti-Indigenous, anti-Black, and systemic racism;
That the committee be composed of 12 members, to be nominated by the Committee of Selection, and that 5 members constitute a quorum;
That the committee have the power to send for persons, papers and records; to hear witnesses; and to publish such papers and evidence from day to day as may be ordered by the committee;
That, notwithstanding any provision of the Rules or usual practices, and taking into account the exceptional circumstances of the current pandemic of COVID-19, the committee have the power to meet by videoconference or teleconference, if technically feasible for any purposes of:
1.the study authorized by this order;
2.an organization meeting pursuant to rule 12-13; or
3.electing a chair or deputy chair if there is a vacancy in either of those positions;
That both senators and witnesses be allowed to participate in meetings of this committee by videoconference or teleconference, with such meetings being considered for all purposes to be meetings of the committee in question, and senators taking part in such meetings being considered for all purposes to be present at the meeting;
That, for greater certainty, and without limiting the general authority granted by this order, when the committee meets by videoconference or teleconference:
1.members of the committee participating count towards quorum;
2.priority be given to ensuring that members of the committee are able to participate;
3.such meetings be considered to be occurring in the parliamentary precinct, irrespective of where participants may be; and
4.the committee be directed to approach in camera meetings with all necessary precaution, taking account of the risks to confidentiality inherent in such technologies;
That, when the committee meets by videoconference or teleconference, the provisions of rule 14-7(2) be applied so as to allow recording or broadcasting through any facilities arranged by the Clerk of the Senate, and, if a meeting being broadcast or recorded cannot be broadcast live, the committee be considered to have fulfilled the requirement that a meeting be public by making any available recording publicly available as soon as possible thereafter;
That there be a minimum of 72 hours’ notice for a meeting of the committee by videoconference or teleconference, subject to technical feasibility;
That, the committee be authorized to report from time to time, submit a comprehensive interim report no later than six months after its organization meeting, and submit its final report no later than six months after the tabling or presenting of the comprehensive interim report;
That the committee be permitted to deposit its reports with the Clerk of the Senate if the Senate is not then sitting, with the reports then being deemed to have been tabled or presented in the Senate; and
That the committee retain the powers necessary to publicize its findings for 60 days after submitting its final report.
Motion Concerning the Membership of Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration; National Finance; and Social Affairs, Science and Technology Committees 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, notwithstanding any provision of the Rules or previous order, the Honourable Senators Harder, P.C., and Munson are members of the committees as provided for in the order of April 11, 2020, subject to the provisions of that order respecting the duration of their memberships of these committees.
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 Resolve into Committee of the Whole to Receive a Minister or Ministers to Discuss the Role of the Government in Combatting Racism
Hon. Marie-Françoise Mégie: Honourable senators, I give notice that, at the next sitting of the Senate, I will move:
That, notwithstanding any provision of the Rules or usual practice, at the start of the Orders of the Day on the sitting day following the adoption of this order, the Senate resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole in order to receive a minister or ministers of the Crown to discuss the role of the Government of Canada in combatting anti-Black racism and anti-Indigenous racism, and ending systemic racism;
That the committee report to the Senate no later than 120 minutes after it begins;
That the provisions of rule 3-3(1) be suspended while the committee is meeting;
That the application of any provision of the Rules or previous order concerning the time of adjournment be suspended until the committee has completed its work; and
That the ringing of the bells for any deferred vote that would conflict with the committee be deferred until the committee has completed its work.
Notice of Motion to Amend the Rules of the Senate
Hon. Raymonde Saint-Germain: Honourable senators, I give notice that, two days hence, I will move:
That the Rules of the Senate be amended:
(a)deleting the word “and” at the end of rule 12-3(2)(e) in the English version; and
(b)replacing the period at the end of rule 12-3(2)(f) by the following:
(g) the Standing Committee on Audit and Oversight, three Senators and two external members.”;
2.by replacing rule 12-3(3) with the following:
“Ex officio members
12-3. (3) In addition to the membership provided for in subsections (1) and (2), the Leader of the Government, or the Deputy Leader if the Leader is absent, and the leader or facilitator of each recognized party and recognized parliamentary group, or a designate if a leader or facilitator is absent, are ex officio members of all committees except the Standing Committee on Ethics and Conflict of Interest for Senators, the Standing Committee on Audit and Oversight and the joint committees. The ex officio members of committees have all the rights and obligations of a member of a committee, but shall not vote.
Restriction on membership
12-3. (4) No Senator shall be a member of both the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration and the Standing Committee on Audit and Oversight.”;
3.by replacing the portion of rule 12-5 before paragraph (a) by the following:
“12-5. Changes in the membership of a committee, except for the ex officio members and members of the Standing Committee on Ethics and Conflict of Interest for Senators and the Standing Committee on Audit and Oversight, may be made by notice filed with the Clerk, who shall have the notice recorded in the Journals of the Senate. The notice shall be signed by:”;
4.by replacing rule 12-6 with the following:
“Quorum of standing committees
12-6. (1) Except as provided in subsection (2) and elsewhere in these Rules, the quorum of a standing committee shall be four of its members.
Rule 12-27(2): Quorum of committee
Audit and Oversight
12-6. (2) The quorum of the Standing Committee on Audit and Oversight shall be two Senators and one external member, except in the case of the organization meeting, for which the quorum shall be three Senators.”;
(a)deleting the word “and” at the end of rule 12-7(15) in the English version; and
(b)replacing the period at the end of rule 12-7(16) by the following:
Audit and Oversight
12-7. (17) the Standing Committee on Audit and Oversight, which, for the purposes of integrity, independence, transparency and accountability, shall be authorized, on its own initiative, to:
(a) retain the services of and oversee the external auditors and internal auditors;
(b) supervise the Senate’s internal and external audits;
(c) report to the Senate regarding the internal and external audits, including audit reports and other matters;
(d) review the Senate Administration’s action plans to ensure:
(i) that they adequately address the recommendations and findings arising from internal and external audits, and
(ii) that they are effectively implemented;
(e) review the Senate’s Quarterly Financial Reports and the audited Financial Statements, and report them to the Senate; and
(f) report at least annually with observations and recommendations to the Senate.”;
6.by adding the following new rule 12-9(3):
“Audit and Oversight — access to information
12-9. (3) The Standing Committee on Audit and Oversight may review the in camera proceedings of other Senate committees, including any transcripts of meetings, as they relate to the mandate of the Audit and Oversight Committee.”;
7.by replacing rule 12-13 with the following:
12-13. (1) Except as provided in subsection (2), once the Senate has agreed to the membership of a committee, the Clerk of the Senate shall, as soon as practicable, call an organization meeting of the committee at which it shall elect a chair.
Audit and Oversight — Organization meeting
12-13. (2) In the case of the Standing Committee on Audit and Oversight, the Clerk of the Senate shall, as soon as practicable after the Senate has agreed to the Senators to serve on the committee, call an organization meeting of the committee at which it shall elect a chair, without the external members having been nominated.
Chair of Audit and Oversight
12-13. (3) The chair of the Standing Committee on Audit and Oversight shall be a Senator who is not a member of the recognized party or recognized parliamentary group to which the chair of the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration belongs.
Audit and Oversight — nomination of external members
12-13. (4) After electing its chair and deputy chair, the Standing Committee on Audit and Oversight shall adopt a report to the Senate nominating two external members for the committee. A former Senator or former member of the House of Commons is not eligible for nomination as an external member. This report must be agreed to by all three Senators who are members of the committee. The report shall include recommendations on remuneration and permissible expenses for the external members, which shall be paid from Senate funds once the report is adopted by the Senate. A similar process shall be followed if a vacancy arises in the position of external member over the course of the session.”;
8.by replacing rule 12-14 with the following:
“Participation of non-members
12-14. (1) Except as provided in subsection (2) and elsewhere in these Rules, a Senator who is not a member of a committee may attend and participate in its deliberations, but shall not vote.
Rule 12-28(2): Participation of non-members
Rule 15-7(2): Restrictions if declaration of interest
Rule 16-3(6): Speaking at conferences
Audit and Oversight
12-14. (2) Senators who are not members of the Standing Committee on Audit and Oversight shall not attend or participate in its meetings, unless they are appearing as witnesses.”;
9.by replacing the portion of rule 12-16(1) before paragraph (a) by the following:
“12-16. (1) Except as provided in subsections (2) and (3) and elsewhere in these Rules, a committee may meet in camera only for the purpose of discussing:”;
10.by renumbering current rule 12-16(2) as 12-16(3), and by adding the following new rule 12-16(2):
“Audit and Oversight — in camera
12-16. (2) The Standing Committee on Audit and Oversight shall meet in camera whenever it deals with the in-camera proceedings of another committee.”;
11.by replacing the portion of rule 12-18(2) before paragraph (a) by the following:
“12-18. (2) Except as provided in subsection (3) and elsewhere in these Rules, a Senate committee may meet when the Senate is adjourned:”;
12.by adding the following new rule 12-18(3):
“Audit and Oversight
12-18. (3) The Standing Committee on Audit and Oversight may meet during any adjournment of the Senate.”;
13.by renumbering current rule 12-20(2) to (4) as 12-20(3) to (5), and by adding the following new rule 12-20(2):
“Vote in Audit and Oversight Committee
12-20. (2) The external members of the Standing Committee on Audit and Oversight may participate in all proceedings of the committee, but shall not vote on any motion put to the committee.”;
14.by replacing rule 12-22(1) by the following:
12-22. (1) Except as provided in subsection (7), a report of a Senate committee shall contain the conclusions agreed to by majority.”;
15.by replacing rule 12-22(2) by the following:
“Presentation or tabling
12-22. (2) Except as provided in subsection (8) and elsewhere in these Rules, a committee report shall be presented or tabled in the Senate by the chair or by a Senator designated by the chair.
Rule 12-31: Report deposited with the Clerk”;
16.by adding the following new rules 12-22(7) and (8):
“Reports of Audit and Oversight Committee — Content
12-22. (7) Any member of the Standing Committee on Audit and Oversight, including an external member, shall have the right to include individual observations and dissenting opinions in any report of the committee if the member so wishes.
Audit and Oversight — report deposited with the Clerk
12-22. (8) A report of the Standing Committee on Audit and Oversight may be deposited with the Clerk at any time the Senate stands adjourned, and the report shall be deemed to have been presented or tabled in the Senate.”;
17.by replacing the opening paragraph of the definition of “Committee” in Appendix I, starting with the words “A body of Senators, Members of the House of Commons or both,”, by the following:
“A body of Senators, Members of the House of Commons, members of both houses, or others, appointed by one or both of the two houses to consider such matters as may be referred to it or that it may be empowered to examine, including bills. A Senate committee is, except in the case of the Standing Committee on Audit and Oversight, one composed solely of Senators (as opposed to a joint committee — see below). (Comité)”; and
18.by updating all cross references in the Rules, including the lists of exceptions, accordingly.
Presence of Racism and Discrimination within Canadian Institutions
Notice of Inquiry
Hon. Donald Neil Plett (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, I give notice that, two days hence:
I will call the attention of the Senate to the presence of racism and discrimination within Canadian institutions.
Sittings of the Senate
Hon. Donald Neil Plett (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate and deals with accountability and the shutting down of Parliament. It concerns the ability of parliamentarians to ask questions and hold the government to account, especially at this critical time.
Senator Gold, our country has faced severe challenges in the past, yet Parliament not only remained functional, but it dealt with serious matters. For example, a special committee report, the often-cited Ross report, dealing with money bills received from the other place, was adopted on May 22, 1918, while the country was still at war. Two days later, An Act to confer the Electoral Franchise upon Women was passed. Today, we have a government actively avoiding the House of Commons, and the Senate chamber has not sat for a month.
Leader, does an open, accountable Parliament have any meaning to your government? Do you believe our role is to provide sober second thought right here? And if you believe this, leader, how could you agree with the decision to suspend the Senate?
Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Thank you, senator, for the question. The position of this government is, and always has been, of the fundamental importance of both houses of Parliament to the well-being of Canada. This government has attempted during this most extraordinary time to find and strike the right balance between concerns for public health, for parliamentarians, staff and their families, and the importance of maintaining appropriate oversight and accountability, which Canadians deserve.
The government’s position is that it has found that appropriate balance through the measures that have been introduced over the course of the last number of months. Ministers are regularly made available to committees. Question Period takes place here, as it does in the other place. Indeed, to cite one small example, the Minister of Finance appeared before the Senate Finance Committee yesterday, and it was hardly his first time before the Senate since this crisis emerged.
In addition, senator, and respectfully, the decision to suspend on March 13 because of the pandemic was taken with all parties understanding the gravity of the situation and the necessity to take such action. When it proved possible to return, and in anticipation of government legislation — only some of which, it turns out, we are likely to receive this week — I was pleased to agree with His Honour’s decision to recall us to meet again here today.
Senator Plett: Of course, we all agreed with His Honour’s decision to recall the Senate; it was the suspension that some didn’t agree with.
Hon. Donald Neil Plett (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, the Trudeau government shut down the House, shut down the Senate and dismissed the notion of financial transparency. One morning last week it was reported that we could get an economic update this summer, but then the Prime Minister came out of his cottage, down the cottage steps, and shut that update down as well. He actually told Canadians an economic update would be “an exercise in invention and imagination,” similar to the budget balancing itself.
Saskatchewan brought forward its provincial budget yesterday; Ontario released an economic and fiscal update on March 25; and New Brunswick did so last month. Leader, if provinces can get a handle on their government spending during this crisis, why can’t your federal finance department do the same?
Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Again, thank you for the question. There are aspects, though, of the assumptions with which I respectfully disagree.
The government did not shut down the Senate. The Senate voted to suspend on March 13. His Honour, within his jurisdiction and taking into account the public health imperatives I described earlier, extended that for a period of time. The Senate was recalled, as we all know, and I’m sure those of us who can be here are pleased to be here and wish that circumstances had allowed us all to be together. The government did not shut down accountability, as I described in my earlier response.
To your question, it is true that some provinces have made attempts and offered some projections, but the situation of this government is fundamentally different from that of each and every provincial or territorial government, important though their work is and significant though those expenditures during this crisis are. The fluidity of the situation, the uncertainty with which government has to grapple in ensuring that Canadians who are struggling to make ends meet continue to have the support they need, that businesses that are struggling continue to have the support they need so they can survive this period and return and rebound healthy, and that the economy generally can be stabilized and returned to health once this period is over — and when that period will be over, we do not yet know — explains why the government has not yet provided us with an update, because it is still working on trying to get a handle on those numbers.
At the same time, the government has been completely transparent from day one in terms of what it is spending, what it is spending on, and why it is spending. It has come to this chamber and to Committees of the Whole; ministers have been here; ministers have appeared before committees here and in the other place to explain and to be grilled on the decisions they have made.
My understanding is that the government, as soon as it feels that the numbers can serve a useful purpose other than political purpose, will be providing that update to Canadians.
Hon. Yonah Martin (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, perhaps I will build on the last comment, that an economic update will serve a useful purpose. This is taxpayer money, so at every turn it’s incumbent upon government to be absolutely transparent and clear. On that note, I have a question for you, leader.
When the Parliamentary Budget Officer appeared before our National Finance Committee three weeks ago, he repeatedly emphasized that the government’s current level of spending is not sustainable for more than a few years. The PBO also said:
. . . these measures have to be temporary, and they will have to be allowed to sunset. Otherwise we would be looking at a level of taxation that has not been seen for generations in this country.
Last week the Prime Minister said, “. . . transparency during a time of crisis is extremely important.” Those were his words.
Leader, four hours of debate are scheduled tomorrow in the other place for approximately $87 billion in spending. This hardly seems sufficient to provide real transparency and accountability for taxpayers. Do you support this chamber conducting a much more thorough review of your government spending to do our work as the chamber of sober second thought?
Senator Gold: Thank you for your question, senator. And thank you for the bridge to your question, because it allows me to repeat that the government — despite the difficulty they have in providing the update that is being requested at this juncture, as things are moving so quickly — is firmly committed to transparency and has demonstrated that by the appearance of ministers in this place and in the other place.
To your question: We passed a motion a few moments ago to authorize our Finance Committee to conduct a study and report to this chamber on the current estimates and supplementary estimates. As is the practice, we did not put them on a short leash. They will have the time — in fact, they have many days — to dig deeply into those.
In addition to the normal practice when we deal with the estimates, we are prepared to make available, for the benefit of senators here and those who are watching, the President of the Treasury Board, Minister Duclos, for a Committee of the Whole. The fact is that the process that is being contemplated in the Senate is a fulsome and rigorous opportunity for senators to scrutinize the estimates and supplementary estimates, as is our responsibility to do.
Senator Martin: History has shown that this government prefers tax increases to spending cuts. In 2017, a review to target wasteful spending and inefficiencies in three departments actually resulted in new expenditures.
Since this Liberal government came to office, it has imposed higher taxes on small business owners, clawed back tax credits for type 1 diabetics, increased the CPP payroll and EI premiums, and brought in a carbon tax that has been a nightmare for our agriculture sector.
Leader, has the Department of Finance begun looking at new ways to increase taxes for individuals and businesses, given the incredible spending and debt we are incurring during these extraordinary times? Has the Canada Revenue Agency, Treasury Board or any other department begun this work? Will your government be transparent with Canadians with respect to its plans for any new taxes?
Senator Gold: It is the position of the government that it has been, and will continue to be, transparent with Canadians vis-à-vis its plans. The government, I am advised, is acting responsibly in terms of trying to manage this crisis in a way that protects the well-being of Canadians, workers and their families, as well as businesses, through the engine of our economy. Regrettably, it is simply still too early, because we all wish we could say, “We’ve turned the corner and the end is in sight,” but it is not.
Alas, it remains the case that the government remains focused on doing what it can to ensure that the virus does not spread further or accelerate in its spread, even as the constraints on aspects of our economy and social life are relaxed. The time is simply not yet opportune for the government to consider tax cuts or increases. The focus of this government remains on ensuring that Canadians, the economy and the social life that makes up our lives together can get through this crisis in an appropriate and responsible way.
Temporary Foreign Workers
Hon. Ratna Omidvar: Honourable senators, my question is for the Government Representative in the Senate, Senator Gold.
Senator Gold, I would like to raise a matter of great urgency and importance to Canadians, Canadian farms, Canadian farmers and their migrant workers.
Two weeks ago, at Senate Social Affairs Committee hearings we heard that on an annual basis roughly 50,000 seasonal agricultural workers are required to work on Canadian farms. At that point, 15,000 had been admitted. Of those, we now know that 300 have contracted the virus and 2 have died. The Mexican government, which is our largest partner in this bilateral agreement, has temporarily stopped migrants from leaving for Canada until they can get some answers.
This is a complete tragedy, Senator Gold. Can you tell us what the government is doing to deal with this serious matter? What are they doing to address the ongoing problems with the program?
Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Thank you, senator, for the question. It is, indeed, a tragedy. The government is saddened about the workers from Mexico who passed away due to COVID-19 and offers its condolences to the families affected.
The government takes the Mexican ambassador’s concerns very seriously. We’re a country that is committed to ensuring the safety and well-being of all workers, including those upon whom we rely for seasonal work, as we do across this country, no less so in my home province of Quebec.
I am advised that the government has and will continue to engage regularly with officials at all levels in the Mexican government to ensure that their citizens are safe when they come here and receive the appropriate level of support when they work with us and for us in Canada. Furthermore, the government recognizes that there is more to do to protect temporary foreign workers in Canada and is committed to looking at additional steps that may be required.
Senator Omidvar: Thank you, Senator Gold, for that answer.
We also heard in that same committee that roughly 1,000 complaints have already been logged, including stolen wages during quarantine, being forced to work while awaiting test results, decrepit housing and inhumane treatment. A program that should have been a win for everyone has instead become a lose for everyone.
I want to point our attention to the role of ESDC in this matter. It is responsible for conducting inspections of farms. In their wisdom, they have decided to conduct these inspections over the phone and not in person because of the crisis.
First, how many inspections over the phone, or not, have been done? What has been the result of these inspections? Will the government bring back in-person inspections?
Senator Gold: Thank you for your question, senator. Again, it’s an important one.
The government, in fact, as is implied in your question, did change its inspection practices, as a result of public health concerns, to avoid extensive travel and exposure of Service Canada inspectors to risk.
I noted that the committee heard that there were inspections by phone, but, in fact — and I’m happy to correct this to this extent — these were live video inspections. They were not telephone inspections. I’m advised that under this arrangement the employer provides live video of the premises showing different locations as directed by the inspector, and it enables the inspector to view all living and working environments and to interview temporary workers on the spot for their input.
Live virtual inspections also allow Service Canada to conduct a far greater number of inspections than they would have been able to had they physically travelled. I don’t have the number of such inspections and can undertake to try to provide them to you.
Anyway, that’s how the government is managing inspections. It maintains its tip line for foreign workers, available in six different languages, and they help guide Service Canada when it decides how to prioritize which areas to inspect. Thank you for your question.
Changes to the Divorce Act
Hon. Donna Dasko: Honourable senators, my question is for the Government Representative in the Senate, Senator Gold. The Minister of Justice announced on June 5 that changes to the Divorce Act, which received Royal Assent last year on June 21 and were supposed to come into effect this year on July 1, will now be delayed for yet another year to March 1, 2021.
That bill made the first substantive changes to family law at the federal level in more than 20 years, and those changes were already long overdue. More Canadians use the Divorce Act than any other federal statute. The changes to the act last year focused on the best interests of the child in divorce proceedings and for the first time addressed the issue of family violence with an expansive definition, including definitions of economic and psychological abuse.
Here is the problem: We know that family violence is deeply gendered, and we are learning that the effects of the pandemic are also gendered. Family law experts are bracing for a surge of women and mothers seeking divorces after months of social isolation with abusive partners. How can we reconcile this reality with your government’s decision to push back the coming into force of this bill to next year?
If I might add, given all we have heard about the increases in abuse and family violence during the pandemic, did the Department of Justice conduct a gender-based analysis of their decision to delay the legislation? Did they do any research into the impact of the delay on women and children across Canada?
Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Senator, thank you for the question. It touches upon fundamentally important issues — issues with which too many of us are familiar. It touches everybody here in one way or another. It doesn’t take too many degrees of separation. My wife is deeply engaged with a women’s shelter in Montreal. We know, sadly, that forced isolation and other aspects of this crisis have aggravated what is already a horrible problem of domestic and family violence.
The government recognizes that, and has invested significant monies to help bolster the infrastructure that supports women and their families who are the victims of violence and sexual assault. The government remains committed to doing so to protect families, and particularly children.
I should add that, as a member of the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee, I am very familiar with the important measures that the changes to the Divorce Act introduced.
However, the challenges associated with COVID-19 resulted in the provincial and territorial governments asking the federal government for more time to implement the changes passed by Parliament last year to the Divorce Act. As such, the government agreed to delay the coming-into-force of those changes until March 2021.
So it was not a decision that was taken happily or unilaterally; it was in response to a request by the provincial and territorial governments, which are responsible for the administration of justice, to give them time to properly implement it.
Hon. Jean-Guy Dagenais: Honourable senators, my question is for the Government Representative in the Senate.
Leader, in 2017, your government announced investments totalling $533 billion to renew the equipment used by our armed forces. That equipment has been obsolete for many years, as a report from the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence noted. The Liberal government made a big ruckus over its big announcement. Three years on, however, the Auditor General is seeing troubling delays and a blatant lack of government follow-up, considering how much money is being spent.
There is an urgent need to equip our armed forces, but I feel like we’re seeing to the needs of others before seeing to our own, like when we sent masks to China when the COVID-19 crisis hit.
Leader, as a senator and member of this chamber, do you think it’s acceptable to not follow up more rigorously on your fellow senators’ work and clear recommendations? In my opinion, this demonstrates a lack of respect towards the senators.
Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): I thank the honourable senator for his question. This is not about a lack of respect. On the contrary, the Senate has always played a key role in promoting the importance of the armed forces and of providing adequate funding. We can be proud of the Senate committee’s work, not only in this Parliament but also in previous Parliaments. It will come as no surprise to honourable senators that the challenge of providing funding for the armed forces has been around for a long time and that this has been dragging on for years. It is a complex process and there are difficult issues to deal with. In that regard, the government is working hard to ensure that our armed forces have the equipment they need to properly defend our national interests.
Senator Dagenais: Can you guarantee that your government is not going to cut or delay its military spending in order to cover the cost of the COVID-19-related programs?
Senator Gold: Thank you for that important question. Based on the information I have, notwithstanding the fact that an enormous amount of money is being spent because of this crisis, the government has no intention of cutting the budget of the armed forces despite the spending that has, unfortunately, been necessary to deal with the COVID-19 crisis.
Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness
Royal Canadian Mounted Police—Mental Health Workers
Hon. Pierre J. Dalphond: Honourable senators, my question is for the Government Representative in the Senate.
I would like to ask a question on behalf of my colleague Senator Dyck.
On June 4, Chantel Moore, a 26-year-old First Nations woman who had just moved to New Brunswick from B.C., and was eager to start a new life, was shot and killed by a police officer who was sent to check on her mental wellness. Minister Marc Miller stated:
. . . I’m outraged. There needs to be a full accounting of what has gone on.
This is a pattern that keeps repeating itself.
Unfortunately, he was right. Over the weekend, there was the death of Rodney Levi, a 48-year-old Mi’kmaq from New Brunswick, who was shot by the RCMP while he was asking for help for his mental problems.
There seems to be a problem. Will the government commit itself now to prevent future incidents of this nature — more killings of people who are suffering from mental problems? For example, will there be a commitment to funding mobile intervention units, consisting of a team of mental health workers and social workers, with police as backup, who, as a team, can respond to situations in a more holistic, de-escalating manner, as proposed by Senator Sinclair in a recent interview?
Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Thank you for your question. These are sad times. We’re facing tragedies, violence and pain that is so deeply distressing. I know we all share in this grief. The government is deeply troubled by the state of affairs, and the Prime Minister has been quite clear in his pronouncements of his analysis that this problem we’re facing, which finds its expression in these tragic cases of death and violence, are rooted — and we know this, colleagues — in our society and in our history. They go back a long, long time.
Were it the case that our words or, even less, a government could fix this. But that is not the world we live in. The government is and remains committed to doing its part along with civil society; provincial, territorial and municipal governments; and along with institutions like the RCMP and provincial police forces, that we all must do our part to find a way to make progress toward addressing the systemic problems that give rise to these horrible events.
The events of which you spoke — those tragic events in New Brunswick — are under investigation, as you know, by Quebec institutions, which are one step removed. To say that we look forward to the results is probably not the right form of words; but when we get the reports, I can assure this chamber that the government will take very seriously whatever recommendations flow from them. More generally, this government is committed to working with the institutions within its jurisdiction to push forward and to improve the way in which we relate and interact in our country, so as to reduce — ideally eliminate — the risks and incidence of these tragedies happening. Thank you for your question.
Hon. Pierre J. Dalphond: In that perspective, the Aboriginal Affairs Minister in New Brunswick said that the problem with the justice system is that it suffers from systemic discrimination and racism.
Does the government still believe that the current commissioner is in a position to fight against this systemic discrimination?
Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Senator, I’m not in a position to answer on behalf of the government with regard to this very specific question you’ve asked.
Government leaders, including the Prime Minister, the mayor of my city and many other elected officials, have recognized that there is a systemic problem of discrimination in this country. It is up to us as parliamentarians and up to our elected leaders to do what we can within our jurisdictions to educate and push those within our purview to confront the realities which we face, peu importe les mots employés, and to take action. Words are important and words are acts, but it’s the actions that count.
In that regard, this government remains committed to doing what it can to address the problem of systemic discrimination in our country.
Delayed Answers to Oral Questions
(For text of Delayed Answers, see Appendix..)
ORDERS OF THE DAY
Question of Privilege
Speaker’s Ruling Reserved
The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I am now prepared to hear further new arguments in relation to the question of privilege raised by Senator Plett on May 1st. As I indicated previously, I wish to hear new information only, and I would again ask senators to please be brief in their interventions.
Hon. Pierre J. Dalphond: Your Honour, thank you for allowing me the opportunity to comment on this important question of privilege.
From the transcript of the May 1 sitting, Senator Plett relied on three distinct arguments: first, the calling of the meeting, despite the refusal of the deputy chair of the Selection Committee and her inability to attend due to travel restrictions from New Brunswick; two, a lack of proper notice sent to Senator Seidman; and three, an improper notice of meeting, because it did not correctly refer to what would be debated.
I propose to deal only with the third argument, as it raises, in my opinion, an issue of great importance. It relates to the proper functioning of every committee of the Senate and to the rights and privileges of all the members of this chamber.
What is at stake is the proper interpretation of rule 12-15 of the Rules of the Senate, which reads as follows:
(1) A public notice shall be posted of every committee meeting.
(2) Except as otherwise provided, all meetings shall be held in public. Unless otherwise ordered, the public may attend a public meeting of a committee or a subcommittee.
The rule deals with two aspects: the need for a public notice and a public sitting; not a meeting held in camera. The origin of rule 12-15 goes back over 50 years. In the Companion to the Rules of the Senate, at page 306, it says that the Senate rules were amended in 1968 to make sure that members of the public could attend any sitting. This was an important milestone, considering that since 1867, following old British parliamentary practices, meetings of committees of each house were considered private unless ordered otherwise. From then onward, they were to be public unless otherwise; the exact reverse. On June 18, 1991, the clause of the current rule was adopted, and the current version of the rule was adopted in June 2012.
In connection with the notice of meeting of any committee, the rule is short and clear: A notice must be posted before any committee meeting and this motion must be made public. Thus, a notice sent only to members of the committee, or some of them, will not suffice. A public notice must be posted.
In the present case, on Wednesday, April 29 at 9:08 p.m., the clerk of the Selection Committee, at the request of the chair, posted on the Senate website, under the heading “Calendar”, a notice providing for the name of the committee, the date and place of the meeting and the following description of the purpose of the meeting:
Agenda: Consideration of a draft agenda (future business)
The question is then, was it sufficient notice? To answer that question, I would humbly submit that we must take into consideration the purpose of the public notice mandated by rule 12-15. This purpose was described in a ruling rendered by former Speaker Hays on October 20, 2005, found in the Journals of the Senate of that date at page 1217:
A fundamental purpose of the rules and practices followed in the Senate is to provide for openness and accessibility. For this reason, the rules require that public notice be given, interpretation services provided, and proper records of decisions kept. It is also why rule 91 allows Senators who are not members of the committee to attend and participate.
It follows that the purpose of mandated public notice prior to any committee meeting is two-fold. First, to provide the public an opportunity to follow meetings by attending or, nowadays, by watching or listening remotely; second, to allow all senators, including those who are not members of the committee, to attend and participate, and to prepare for meetings.
As we all know, each of us in this chamber has the absolute right to attend any committee meeting and to fully participate in the committee’s deliberations. The only limitation is that we cannot propose a motion or vote unless we are a member of the committee; apart from that, we can participate fully.
It is worth noting that Speaker Hays’ referenced ruling uses an approach both accepted and followed in previous Speaker’s rulings with regard to the purpose of a prior notice in the Senate Chamber, mandated in rule 5-1. This makes perfect sense since, pursuant to rule 12-20, no Senate committee may adopt procedures inconsistent with the rules and practices of the Senate.
In the Companion to the Rules of the Senate, we can find a lot of interesting comments about the proper functioning of this place under rule 5-1, especially the following:
The purpose of notice is to give senators time to prepare for debate.
This commentary is supported by quotes from previous rulings and extracts from books, including the following ones that are short but to the point. In a ruling made on June 21, 1995, at page 1092 of the Journals of the Senate, Speaker Hays said:
The purpose of giving notice is to enable Honourable Senators to know what is coming so that they can have an opportunity to prepare. Why else would there be notice? They must have an opportunity to get themselves ready for the discussion. It is not meant to delay the work of the Senate. It is simply meant to bring order.
In another ruling made on October 26, 2006, found in the Journals of the Senate of that day at page 557, Speaker Kinsella said:
It is not adequate, as a notice, to state simply an intention to move a motion or to propose an inquiry. To suggest otherwise would seriously distort the meaning and intent of the notice. As an example, who would accept as adequate notice a Senator’s declaration to move a motion without any indication of its content or to have a committee undertake a study without knowing what it was about? Notice must include some content indicating the subject being proposed for debate and decision.
The merit of this proposition is evident from any review of the authorities that are often used to guide the understanding of Senate procedures. Marleau-Montpetit’s House of Commons Procedure and Practice at page 464, explains that the purpose of notice “is to provide Members and the House with some prior warning so that they are not called upon to consider a matter unexpectedly.’’ Motions for which notice is routinely required usually seek to solicit a decision of the Senate, either to order something be done or to express a judgment on a particular matter. Such motions are always subject to debate and the notice is required in order to allow parliamentarians to inform themselves of this upcoming debate and to prepare themselves should they wish to participate in the debate.
The question in the current case is whether the description of the meeting’s agenda as “Consideration of a draft agenda (future business)” was sufficient to enable all honourable senators to know what was coming up, and whether it gave them the opportunity to prepare for the adoption of the two reports critical to the functioning of this chamber. The first report is on the nomination of the Speaker pro tempore, a very important position in this chamber. The second was aimed at nominating senators to serve on the standing committees of the Senate, pursuant to rule 12-2(2); another important point, especially for non-affiliated senators at the time. Maybe that was clear to those involved in the confidential discussions going on between those who are speaking on behalf of the recognized groups in the Senate and those privy to those discussions, but it was certainly not the case for all other senators, and even less for the public or the media.
To sum up, Your Honour, I agree with the third argument raised by Senator Plett. I therefore invite you to consider this important aspect of this question of privilege from the perspective of protecting equally the rights and privileges of all senators, of providing for openness and accessibility for those senators who may not be part of the closed discussions and, of course, for the public we serve and the journalists who bring transparency and accountability to our work.
What occurred was bad practice. It affected the ability of all senators to carry out their responsibilities, even more so at a time when this ability was already restricted by circumstances. The inadequate notice was contrary to the spirit of collegiality that we are trying to create in the new Senate, and I hope this question of privilege will give us the opportunity to take pause for a forward-looking course correction. Thank you for your attention. Meegwetch.
Hon. Yuen Pau Woo: Thank you for giving us the opportunity to consider additional arguments concerning the question of privilege.
Senator Dalphond has questioned the suitability and appropriateness of listing future business as the agenda item and has suggested that it is not appropriate, and therefore would sustain the question of privilege.
In making his case, Your Honour, he has cited rule 12-1, and he has also cited previous rulings from Speakers such as Senator Hays, and I would ask you to reflect on precisely what Senator Dalphond said, which is that rule 12-15 talks about how notice must be posted and must be made public. But there is no mention of what the specificity of the agenda item should be, and therefore there should be no restriction on what that description would include.
I would also add that in his citation of Senator Hays, the former Speaker, in a previous ruling, Senator Dalphond mentioned three criteria that the previous Speaker listed, including public notice, interpretation, and reporting for the legitimacy of a meeting to take place and, of course, all three of these items were met in the Selection Committee meeting of May 1.
The fact of the matter, Your Honour, is that there is no rule which requires any specific description of an agenda item, and therefore there cannot be a constraint on what is put in the agenda item.
But there is more to that as well. It is not simply that the rules do not constrain us. It is also that the committees are the masters of their own destiny and if a committee decided to change an agenda item from one that was listed in the notice, it has the power to do so and, in fact, has done so on previous occasions. Therefore, any listing or any description of an agenda in the public notice of a meeting can be changed by the committee, which by definition means that we cannot be bound by the agenda item that is put in a Notice of Motion. That has been the practice of committees in the past and I can cite at least one example where on December 11, 2015, the agenda for the National Finance Committee stated that the agenda would be consideration of future business, the draft agenda, election of the chair, when in actuality not only did the election of the chair take place, but also the election of the deputy chair and nine other motions that were considered, moved and adopted. These motions had to do with travel and what might be constituted as official business, witness expenses, coverage by electronic media of the committee’s public proceedings, et cetera.
The point, colleagues, quite simply is that what is stated as the agenda item can and often is expanded, contracted and changed by the committee, because the committee has the power to do so.
Senator Plett and Senator Dalphond, colleagues, are essentially raising, to my mind, not a question of privilege but a question of rules. Now this may be a legitimate question as to whether our rules need to change, to insist that the agenda items have certain parameters around them, but that is not in our current rules, and is worthy of a separate debate. But insofar as the question of privilege is concerned, no rule has been violated. The meeting was properly called for, constituted and executed. Therefore, Your Honour, this question of privilege cannot be sustained.
The Hon. the Speaker: Again, I would like to thank all honourable senators for their input into this very important question, and I’ll take it all under advisement.
Speech from the Throne
Motion for Address in Reply—Debate Continued
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Gold, P.C., seconded by the Honourable Senator LaBoucane-Benson:
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.
Hon. Dennis Glen Patterson: Honourable senators, I rise today to reply to the Speech from the Throne. The theme of the 2019 Speech from the Throne is “Moving Forward Together.” It is a sentiment that is meant to evoke feelings of camaraderie and unity, and I can only guess that it was written with the desire to show that together, Canadians can rise up and face the challenges our country encounters. Indeed, one subheading for the speech reads, “Positioning Canada for Success in an Uncertain World.”
However, we have come face-to-face with the situation of true uncertainty. The COVID-19 pandemic has left the vulnerable locked away and isolated, has demanded the separation of families and friends, and has continued to leave unanswered questions of what the path to economic recovery will look like. Despite the Speech from the Throne’s theme, I question whether the response and any recovery plans have taken into account the regional realities and the unique challenges experienced by the North.
Colleagues, the North is unique indeed.
Nunavut is the only jurisdiction in Canada, and one of the few in the world which has had no cases of COVID-19 — not one. We are very happy and proud about that.
Nunavummiut and Inuit, in particular, remember well how a flu pretty well wiped out the original Inuvialummiut from the Mackenzie Delta, as I’m sure Senator Anderson knows well. Inuit have suffered the ravages of measles, smallpox, tuberculosis and, yes, to this day are suffering from TB and, just recently, an outbreak of whooping cough.
A sad legacy of inter-generational trauma over forced relocation, dog slaughter and residential schools — to name a few crushing experiences — have led to record-breaking negative social indicators, including overcrowded housing, respiratory ailments and high smoking rates, as well as family violence and drug and alcohol abuse. All of this combined has had everybody terrified at the thought of the disease coming into any one of our 25 isolated communities. It was feared that a single case would lead to COVID-19 spreading like wildfire.
We have been able to keep COVID-19 at bay by slavishly following the advice of our chief medical officer and by closing our borders to all but essential travel very early on. Those returning to the territory are required to isolate for 14 days in Government of Nunavut-appointed hotels, under the watchful eye of security guards, to ensure compliance.
Many sacrifices and difficult decisions were made in our resolve to not allow COVID-19 into the territories. Senator Anderson and Senator Duncan would be well familiar with the decision to cancel the 2020 Arctic Winter Games. Two thousand young athletes from all over the circumpolar Arctic, who had competed and practised for two years for the right to represent their territory at this biannual event, days away from their chartered jet flights across the Arctic to Whitehorse, were told they weren’t going. The decision not to proceed was heartbreaking and the first time the games were cancelled in their 50-year history.
I’d like to single out our chief medical officer, Dr. Michael Patterson, no relation, who steered the territory firmly but compassionately through the pandemic, successfully so far, to the great relief of our residents. I also commend the Minister of Health, Honourable George Hickes, and Premier Joe Savikataaq for respecting Dr. Patterson’s advice and lending their full support to him. Their daily afternoon press briefings held in Inuktitut and English were must-see events, and the premier was often interviewed in English and Inuktitut on CBC North’s morning radio show. What I admired about our premier was that if he did not have an answer to a question, he said so. I admire that in any politician, since I would rather listen to a politician who admits he doesn’t have an answer rather than one who answers every question but sometimes skates around giving a direct answer. Even our Prime Minister does that sometimes.
Over the past few months, while happily isolating in Iqaluit, I have written numerous letters in an attempt to draw the attention of the government to northern-related issues, and I have met regularly — virtually — with senators representing the North.
While some ministers have been easier to contact and work with than others, I would point out that many of the concerns that I or fellow northern senators have raised continue to go unaddressed. There is still no support for non-revenue generating industries. Mining, construction and exploration companies have sounded the alarm since the beginning. In their June 3, 2020, letter to Minister Morneau, as part of the consultation on the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy criteria, the Prospectors & Developers Association of Canada made this intervention:
The COVID-19 pandemic has created unprecedented financial pressures on small businesses and many mineral exploration companies face even greater challenges operating in northern and remote regions of Canada. Furthermore, activities by these junior companies provide employment opportunities and tangible economic benefits for northern and remote communities so taking steps to protect this vital segment of the mineral industry will be a necessary part of restarting economic activity across significant regions of Canada.
As reflected in our April 22, 2020, letter, PDAC recommends that the CEWS be expanded to include pre-revenue companies, as this cohort of SMEs in Canada do not meet the current revenue decline requirements but are in a similarly or even more perilous position than many retail and other revenue-based businesses.
Notably, nearly half of the publicly listed exploration companies in Canada are currently operating with negative working capital. This echoes what the NWT & Nunavut Chamber of Mines told the minister in their April 6, 2020, letter on the same topic. Employee continuity is critical to the success of northern exploration and development companies. Not only do their employees have the technical memory and knowledge of the projects they are advancing, they hold important established relationships with local, Indigenous and community leadership, hunters and trappers organizations, regulators and local Indigenous employees and service providers. There is tremendous value in these relationships, a value higher than would be recognized in the proposed Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy.
In response to a question during Committee of the Whole here, Minister Morneau told the Senate on April 11, 2020, that:
If there are specific sectoral issues that we need to consider, we will be looking at those . . .
Yet here we are, two months later, still looking at the same issue.
Northern airlines have come forward as another industry that needs immediate support. Canadian North, for instance, a joint venture by Inuit of Nunavik in northern Quebec and the Inuvialuit in N.W.T., sustained itself for the first month and a half of seriously declining passenger volumes using money that ideally would have instead been used to support beneficiaries in those regions. Recognizing that airlines in the North are an essential service, provinces and territories, with some federal support, have stepped in to help provide the financial support required to keep northern airlines like Canadian North operational, but funding is set to end soon, while the pandemic is still having a massive effect. I would point to this reduced chamber today as Exhibit A.
Northern air transportation representatives have identified ongoing stressors to the industry, such as relief funding through the northern Essential Air Service program that is set to expire, and anti-competitive undertakings still in place for Canadian North despite an inability to meet requirements, such as maintaining a requisite number of flights per week, and a prolonged and significant drop in ridership and cargo freight.
Joe Sparling, a member of the board of directors for the Northern Air Transport Association and an executive with Air North, Yukon’s Airline, appeared before the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance on June 2, 2020, and gave three concrete steps that could be taken to protect the northern air transportation industry. The first is to extend the EAS until passenger and freight traffic returns to pre-COVID levels, the second is to temporarily suspend Canadian North undertakings resulting from the merger approved last year and, finally, he discussed the need to explore gateway route traffic as another effective tool to provide financial relief.
I wanted to share his closing remarks with you today:
While few would want to go back to a regulated environment, the numbers speak for themselves. Whether it requires temporary intervention or a relaxation of anti-competitive restrictions so that carriers can work things out themselves or a combination of the two, one way or another the Canadian airline industry needs to be able to operate sustainably on a smaller scale while still providing essential services to all the regions of the country.
Honourable senators, these are just two of many issues that I have been actively engaged in since the start of the pandemic. There is also the fact that, for a variety of reasons, Inuit development corporations are, so far, largely unable to access federal funding. The fact that reliable internet remains inaccessible for many, even in the face of a need to work and school from home, the complete list of issues is a long one.
I would like to thank Senator Bovey for organizing regular calls among senators who represent the Arctic regions, and I thank Senator Duncan and Senator Anderson for their collaborative efforts in attempting to draw the attention of the government to these important issues.
However, colleagues, I still don’t feel that the issues raised have been properly addressed. I don’t think there is enough awareness or understanding of what we are facing in the North. I attribute that part to the fact that senators from the North have not been able to have our voices heard in the same way as we have in the past. We’ve had to rely on our colleagues or committee proceedings over Zoom — with internet challenges associated with that — to have our issues raised.
That is why for me, it is in the public interest for us to sit. This is not, as one member of this chamber has suggested, about scoring political partisan points. This is about my parliamentary privilege, I believe, and my duty to speak on behalf of my region and Nunavummiut. It is about using every tool available to me to raise awareness and profile of issues facing Nunavut and the North. Debate, statements, speeches, questions, PMBs and so forth are the instruments that senators have to do our job, and that cannot happen if we are not sitting.
So, honourable senators, I thank you for the opportunity to address you today and to give voice to northerners and the issues that face them, especially in the time of COVID-19.
(On motion of Senator Gagné, debate adjourned.)
Social Affairs, Science and Technology
Motion to Authorize Committee to Study Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Needs Among Canadians—Debate Continued
On the Order:
Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Brazeau, seconded by the Honourable Senator Cormier:
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 overrepresentation 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.
Hon. Robert Black: Honourable senators, I rise today to speak to the motion introduced by my honourable colleague Senator Brazeau 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 overrepresentation of Indigenous peoples in suicide statistics.
Mental health is a very important topic that’s not been addressed openly until very recent years, and even now, there is a lingering stigma that makes it difficult for those suffering to share openly without shame.
I want to thank Senator Brazeau for bringing this issue to the forefront. I also want to thank him and commend him for his bravery in sharing his personal story in the chamber. It is an inspiration to so many who are hiding their pain who think no one would care or understand.
There are many areas of concern when it comes to how we handle mental health issues in our homes, workplaces, communities and in the country as a whole. However, my remarks today will focus mainly on mental health challenges faced by farmers.
In a survey of over 1,100 farmers done by the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety, they found that 45% of respondents were highly stressed, 58% met the criteria for anxiety and 35% met the criteria for depression. At the same time, 40% of the respondents answered that they were uncomfortable seeking professional help.
Farmers work largely independently in a world that is greatly dependent on external factors, weather, the market, government regulations and now the COVID-19 pandemic. Farmers can do everything right and still face struggles.
Farm Credit Canada, which has been supporting work done on farmers’ mental health and providing some resources to farmers, identifies some of the main stressors faced by farmers as volatile markets, long work hours, family disagreements, lack of sleep, unreasonable personal goals, unpredictable weather and therefore uncertain yields, administrative burden, machinery breakdowns and challenges with technology, handling dangerous goods and the well-being of their livestock.
4-H Canada also provides mental health resources to our rural youth. In general, the younger generations are more aware and open about mental health issues. I think it is extremely important to normalize discussions around it from a young age. When these 4-H youth are running their own farms and operations, I am hopeful that the stigma will be gone and discussing mental health will be standard procedure in the agricultural industry.
As noted earlier, farmers often work in isolation, which is an added strain on mental health. More than ever, farmers face stigmatization from a general public that often has a negative view of farming. Many farmers feel that people have a negative perception of the way they treat their animals and lands, despite the pride and care they take in their work. They often face ridicule online and in person by activist groups who question their morality and integrity and call them murderers and worse.
In May 2019, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Agriculture and Agri-Food released a report entitled: “Mental Health: A Priority for our Farmers.” The report outlines actions that the government can and should take to address the challenges and stressors farmers face, including re-examining the process of audits and labour reviews, working to implement high-speed internet in rural areas, developing public awareness campaigns around mental health issues for farmers and other initiatives that the government undertakes, including “. . . the national coordination of various research and prevention activities targeting the mental health of farmers.” The report also recommends telephone helplines and e-mental health services for rural farms.
Another recent report produced by Farm Management Canada indicates a positive correlation between good mental health in primary producers and the use of business management practices on the farm. Only 21% of producers who participated in the study use written business plans. Of those, 88% say it contributes to a peace of mind and helps to reduce stress. When things get busy or even overwhelming, finances and business planning are often the first things to go.
The government has business risk management programs available to farmers: AgriInsurance, AgriStability, AgriInvest, and AgriRecovery. However, the uptake on these programs by farmers has been relatively low, especially since their coverage was reduced in 2013. Many farmers don’t consider these programs to be worth it. Agricultural organizations, including the Canadian Federation of Agriculture, have called for changes. Making improvements to the suite of business risk-management programs in a way that makes them more accessible and helpful for farmers would be a step in the right direction in terms of addressing on-farm mental health challenges.
Farming is also a largely male-dominated industry and, as we know, men are more likely to die by suicide and less likely to seek support for mental illness. That is not to say that women on farms do not face the same struggle because they do. However, as Senator Brazeau outlined in his proposal, it would be useful to examine the gender differences when it comes to mental illness so that we can better target solutions.
Regional disparities exist as well. Even when farmers seek help, there are often fewer services and resources available in rural areas in which they live than as compared to urban centres.
When farmers struggle with their mental health, they don’t always have the option of taking time off, like many of the rest of us do. They need to continue to work, continue to deal with the same stressors and this therefore exacerbates the problem.
Farmers are only one set of Canadians who struggle with mental health issues. All need and deserve help. I wanted to bring farmers into this discussion because I don’t think that most Canadians associate farming with mental illness and suicide, but it is pervasive. And farmers, of course, are one of the many groups that need help.
As Senator Brazeau told us, Indigenous Canadians are severely overrepresented in suicide statistics. In fact, he told us that the Inuit communities have the highest suicide rates in the world. It is clear, my friends, that more needs to be done. I think that a Senate committee study is a good place to start.
Thank you, meegwetch.
Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!
(On motion of Senator Omidvar, for Senator Duncan, debate adjourned.)
Motion to Authorize the Clerk of the Senate to Prepare a Report Identifying the Procedural and Technological Options Best Suited to Ensure the Continuity of the Senate’s Operations During Emergency Situations—Debate Adjourned
Hon. Scott Tannas, pursuant to notice of April 11, 2020, moved:
That, in light of the impact that the COVID-19 pandemic has had on Senate proceedings, and that future emergencies may have similar effects, the Clerk of the Senate, under the direction of the Speaker of the Senate, be instructed to prepare a report identifying the procedural and technological options best suited to ensure the continuity of the Senate’s operations in such situations;
That without limiting the generality of the foregoing, this review include:
1.an evaluation of the efficacy of technologies, temporary rules and practices, and safety measures to protect the health and wellness of Senators and staff that have been adopted by the Senate to support its proceedings during the COVID-19 pandemic;
2.the technological best practices implemented in other jurisdictions, including provinces, territories and foreign countries, to support legislative proceedings during emergency situations, in particular those in Commonwealth countries operating under the Westminster parliamentary system; and
3.the development of recommendations for the implementation of a contingency plan that will allow the Senate to rapidly adapt its rules, usual practices and technologies during future emergencies;
That, the Speaker be authorized to distribute the report of the Clerk of the Senate to all senators upon receipt, and that he tables the report in the Senate no later than 45 calendar days after the adoption of this order, or at the next sitting thereafter if the Senate is not then sitting;
That, upon tabling, the report be deemed referred to the Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament, if and when it is formed, with that committee being authorized to examine and report on the findings of the Clerk of the Senate, and to recommend to the Senate the best practices it should adopt in a contingency plan to ensure the continuity of its legislative functions in the case of an emergency, including any necessary changes to the Rules and usual practices of the Senate;
That the committee submit its report no later than 60 calendar days following its receipt of the report from the Clerk of the Senate, provided that if the Senate is not sitting at the end of this period, the committee be authorized to deposit its report with the Clerk of the Senate, with the report being deemed for all purposes to have been tabled or presented in the Senate;
That after any report from the Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament arising from this order has been tabled or presented in the Senate, the subject matter of that report be referred to the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration to examine and report on any necessary administrative changes, including information technologies and capital purchases, required to implement the procedural changes recommended by the Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament to be part of a contingency plan; and
That the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration report thereon no later than 60 calendar days after having received the report of the Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament, provided that:
1.if the report of the Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament was deposited with the Clerk of the Senate, the period for the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration to conduct its study only begin on the next day thereafter that the Senate sits; and
2.if the Senate is not sitting at the end of the period for the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration to conduct its study, the committee be authorized to deposit its report with the Clerk of the Senate, with the report being deemed for all purposes to have been tabled or presented in the Senate.
He said: Honourable senators, this is my first attendance in this chamber since mid-March. I would like to thank my colleagues in the Canadian Senators Group who have been able to attend the number of special sittings that we have had and indeed all senators and also Senate administration employees throughout the organization who have supported us in our sittings and in our various committees and other meetings that have taken place.
It was truly sobering to travel here: getting to a deserted airport, getting on an almost deserted airplane, flying across the country with a glass of water as sustenance and then arriving at an empty airport here in Ottawa. I know most Canadians have not yet had the opportunity to travel. It has lost a lot of its glamour.
It was a funny situation: I got off the plane and walked through the Ottawa airport, which is normally very crowded. I got out to the taxi stand, and there were no taxis. There were no cars in the streets. There was me and a squirrel standing on the sidewalk at the taxi stand. Maybe he was going to the other place, I don’t know, but we waited together for a taxi.
I want to thank Senator Verner for giving the notice of motion on my behalf on April 11. This is a CSG motion, not simply my own motion. The CSG will not always agree on issues, but this motion comes from all of us.
When the notice was given, it was given in recognition that we were not going to be able to direct the technological solutions that we were going to be given in the midst of the crisis. It was too late for us to be properly involved in the planning and execution of the very best technological solution for us in the Senate, so it was aimed to achieve the following three things once the Senate was back and we were back in normal times.
First, it was to direct the Interim Clerk of the Senate to review and report on available technological options that would ensure that the Senate can continue to operate normally and fulfill its parliamentary and constitutional duties at all times.
The second was to have CIBA and the Senate Rules Committee review the report, once it has been completed, and to recommend to senators the best technological, procedural and administrative practices it should adopt in a plan to ensure the continuity of its legislative functions in the case of future emergencies after this particular wave of the pandemic.
Third, it was to propose to senators the implementation of a contingency plan to allow the Senate to rapidly adapt its rules and practices, as well as in the use of technologies and safety measures for a second wave and for other future emergencies.
We had hoped that the motion could have been adopted on April 11 and that the clerk could then get to work focusing on that long-term project in addition to the work that was going on to help the Parliament of Canada get back on its feet. The hope was that the notice of motion would also be a notice of motion to the clerk and to administration to begin to think about that as an issue separate from what is going on right now.
We were not able to agree to pass the motion. We didn’t have the Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament Committee ready. It didn’t work out, but what has happened since has helped to highlight what this motion is about and why we need to think about what happens after this.
Let’s go through what’s happened and where we are now. The normal proceedings in this chamber have been adjourned for three months, and more than two months have passed since this notice was presented. What has happened? How are we senators exercising our constitutional and parliamentary duties? Are we? We’ve had a question on that this very day.
So far, due to the efforts of the Senate administration employees and committees, we have Social Affairs and National Finance. They have been able to hold weekly virtual meetings on the government response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We know that the Senate Ethics Committee and the Internal Economy Committee have also been able to meet, and some of its subcommittees have had some virtual meetings as well.
We need to appreciate the work that’s been done and continues to be done by Senate administration employees, as well as the work of senators’ staff who have made these meetings possible.
Outside of these developments, I and other colleagues in the chamber have been made briefly aware of other initiatives that would allow for virtual or hybrid actual sittings of this chamber in both official languages sometime in the near future. We still don’t have a clear idea of what is actually going on behind the scenes and what the timelines for implementing these temporary measures are so that we can all get back to work and debate and vote either in the chamber or virtually.
There has been a lot of frustration by senators and it’s growing. The lack of information, transparency and progress after three months has become unacceptable, especially in the context where governments, public health authorities, hospitals, companies, small businesses and Canadians are preparing for a second wave of COVID-19 cases while maintaining normal activities. Our democratic system requires a robust Parliament, including the Senate which can serve its vital role of holding governments to account whether it’s in normal times or during a crisis.
There is no question there is a growing frustration and exasperation from many colleagues in my group as well as in other groups for not being able to fully participate in the debates on the four COVID-19 budget bills that have been adopted so far.
Some strict provincial and territorial travel restrictions, justified health concerns, limited flights and accommodation options, as well as health and safety measures in this chamber prevent several of our colleagues from being with us today.
I suspect these frustrations will likely grow over this current sitting as they sit at home, watch us on television or over the internet and feel the fact that they are still unable to exercise their privileges and responsibilities remotely and/or virtually on debate on government bills, votes and other business. We are, after all, a chamber that represents the interests of all regions and minority groups, and since mid-March, we have not achieved this and are still not achieving this.
In the meantime, our colleagues in the other place have been active and transparent since mid-April in committee through virtual meetings and consultations with experts across Canada and abroad to address the challenges that I’ve just discussed. A first detailed report of 74 pages was tabled last May, and a second one is expected in the coming days that will likely include recommendations on a remote voting system that would be employed during virtual and hybrid sittings.
In the public eye, I think it’s fair to say that we are lagging severely behind the other place, which has been holding hybrid special sittings since late May.
Canada is not unique. Other countries have conducted similar studies. I’ll limit my remarks to the House of Lords in the United Kingdom.
On April 16, the House of Lords in the United Kingdom issued a guidance document in preparation for its recall on April 21 to implement measures that balance their constitutional requirements for minimum physical presence in the chamber with technology that facilitates virtual proceedings and protects safety. On June 8, the House of Lords, having completed their guidance document, held its first-ever hybrid sitting. By June 10, they had held a total of 20 virtual or hybrid sittings. The House of Lords, on June 15, announced that an online voting system through a smartphone, tablet or computer was in effect.
Colleagues, the current pandemic has exposed a weakness in our institution. It has clearly not kept pace with the technological progress of other Westminster chambers, including the other place in our country, in this Parliament.
Why? I don’t know. We will, I think, very soon learn of a solution that we can use to meet. It will work for us. It will have been developed for us and for the other place. It will build on the experience of the other place. But we need to recognize, as we go to use that technology next time that, when we use it, we will likely be one of the very last institutions to have a plan and to be exercising it.
So in the coming weeks and months we also have to conduct a comprehensive lessons-learned exercise so that members of this chamber are not once again deprived of their rights and privileges to serve Canadians. We should not accept, over the next months and years, a temporary solution in our own chamber as a cut-and-paste of the other place’s response.
We need a long-term solution, a sober-second-thought solution, and one that is uniquely crafted for us. Unlike the other place, we represent regions, Indigenous people, linguistic minorities and cultural ethnic communities. We also have to take into account the unique demographics of our particular members of this chamber.
We can take inspiration from initiatives that are adopted in other jurisdictions, but we have to carry this exercise independently, in order for this solution to be the best tailored to the specific characteristics and needs of this chamber.
We also must consider making the appropriate investments so as to stop being so dependent on the other place for technology, training and operational support. We should not be an afterthought to be dealt with as a second priority, as we appear to have been in this crisis.
I submit to you that, with all of that considered, this motion, which seeks to establish a permanent solution for future situations, remains worthy of your consideration, and I ask you to do so. Thank you.
Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.
(On motion of Senator Omidvar, debate adjourned.)
(At 4:24 p.m., the Senate was continued until tomorrow at 2 p.m.)
DELAYED ANSWERS TO ORAL QUESTIONS
Environment and Climate Change
Weather Disasters and Protection of Property
(Response to question raised by the Honourable Joseph A. Day on December 10, 2019)
In December 2016, First Ministers adopted the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change, Canada’s plan for meeting our emissions reduction targets, grow the economy, and build resilience to a changing climate with Adaptation and Climate Resilience as one of its four main pillars.
In Budgets 2016 and 2017, the Government of Canada announced $429.5 million for programs to support the implementation of the Adaptation and Climate Resilience pillar.
The Government is also building resilience through investments in infrastructure such as through bilateral agreements with provinces and territories and the $2 billion Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund to support large-scale infrastructure projects to help communities better manage the risks of natural hazards and extreme weather events. For example, in Saint John, New Brunswick, the Government of Canada is contributing over $11.9 million towards flood mitigation projects through the Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund.
Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Meteorological Service of Canada is working to provide coastal flood – risk prediction services in support of early warnings and alerts to protect Canadians and their property.
These are just some of the measures that are helping make Canadians safer and help communities, infrastructure, and businesses adapt to climate change.
Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness
Designation of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a Foreign Terrorist Organization
(Response to question raised by the Honourable David Tkachuk on December 11, 2019)
Keeping Canadians safe is of paramount importance to this government. We are working with like-minded countries to ensure that Iran is held to account for its support of terrorism.
As we have said, Canada has already taken a number of actions against the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). We continue to list the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Qods Force as a terrorist entity, and we also continue to impose sanctions on Iran and the IRGC targeting its branches as well as senior-level members of its senior leadership.
The listing of entities is an ongoing process, and government officials continue to assess all groups and monitor new developments. Last year we added three additional Iran-backed groups to the Criminal Code list as terrorist entities.
Other existing measures against the IRGC include the sanctions imposed under the Special Economic Measures Act in response to Iran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
We remain unwavering in our commitment to keep Canadians safe, including by taking all appropriate action to counter terrorist threats in Canada and around the world.
Indigenous and Northern Affairs
Indian Act—Elimination of Sex-Based Discrimination
(Response to question raised by the Honourable Marilou McPhedran on February 4, 2020)
Indigenous Services Canada will continue to engage on and monitor the impacts of S-3 throughout the 2020-2021 fiscal year. Engagement efforts will focus on remedying outstanding inequities in registration provisions that are not based on sex, such as enfranchisement, deregistration, and scrip.
Following the full implementation of S-3 in August 2019, 21 information and outreach sessions have been held nationally to date on S-3. This includes the sessions that were held in Winnipeg, Manitoba on February 6-7, 2020.
Indigenous Services Canada is allocating financial and human resources in order to process applications in as timely and efficient manner as possible. Fifty-six employees have been added to the Winnipeg Processing Unit to address the influx of applications under this legislative change, with additional staff to be hired in the 2020-2021 fiscal year.
The Department is taking other measures to minimize registration delays, including, proactively assessing over 100,000 files to change category codes based on the new legislation. The standard practice is to process registration files in order of receipt; however, priority processing of files due to urgent medical needs are assessed on a case-by-case basis.
A Report to Parliament on the impacts of S-3 will be delivered by December 22, 2020.
Agriculture and Agri-Food
Mental Health Support for Farmers
(Response to question raised by the Honourable Donald Neil Plett on February 5, 2020)
While provincial and territorial governments are primarily responsible for delivering health services in Canada, the Government of Canada is actively supporting the mental health of farmers, including dairy farmers, across the country. As part of Budget 2017, the Government of Canada committed $5 billion over ten years to support mental health initiatives.
Farm Credit Canada (FCC) promotes mental health awareness in agriculture, including through the creation of a publication with mental health experts to raise awareness of mental health and available resources. The booklet, “Rooted in Strength”, was delivered to 176,000 farms. FCC has partnered with the Do More Ag Foundation and Au Cœur des familles agricoles to support mental health training in rural communities and partnered with 4-H Canada to support delivery of the Healthy Living initiative to their 25,000 members.
National resources for the general public are also available to Canadian farmers. For example, the Canadian Mental Health Association provides a range of supports to people who are experiencing mental illness, and national crisis hotlines such as Crisis Services Canada and the Centre for Suicide Prevention support people in distress who need immediate assistance.
Legal Legislation to Protect Farmers
(Response to question raised by the Honourable Donald Neil Plett on February 5, 2020)
The Government understand that the disruptions on farms by protesters is stressful for farmers and their families. The physical safety and mental health of Canada’s farmers and their families are essential to the continued success of the agriculture and agri-food sector. It is also important to ensure the protection and well-being of farmed animals.
Matters concerning the harassment of farmers and livestock transporters, including trespassing onto private property and removing animals, fall under the legal jurisdiction of provinces and territories.
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada will continue to work with provincial and territorial governments to help protect the physical and mental health of farmers.
Foreign Affairs and International Trade
International Civil Aviation Organization Conference—Taiwan
(Response to question raised by the Honourable Thanh Hai Ngo on February 6, 2020)
Global Affairs Canada (GAC)
Since 1970, Canada’s One China Policy has recognized the People’s Republic of China as the sole legitimate government of China, taking note – neither challenging nor endorsing – its position on Taiwan. This policy has enabled us to maintain unofficial, but valuable people-to-people, trade and investment ties with Taiwan.
Canada continues to support Taiwan’s meaningful participation in international multilateral fora where its presence provides important contributions to the public good.
Canada has consistently reiterated the importance of ICAO involving all active members of the international aviation community to ensure aviation’s global network is able to operate safely and reliably in every region of the world. To ensure global efforts prioritize the safety of people first and foremost, Canada expects international organizations, including ICAO, to be as effective and transparent as possible, and Canada works with other member states toward this goal.
Canada has worked with like-minded countries in voicing our support for Taiwan’s meaningful participation in international organizations, where such participation serves a practical imperative and where Taiwan’s absence is detrimental to the interests of the global community. The safety and security of the civil aviation industry and the promotion of global public health is in everyone’s interest. While UN membership is a prerequisite for full participation at ICAO and the WHO, Canada will continue to support other options for Taiwan’s meaningful participation. However, that decision ultimately rests with their respective organizations.
Non-Resident Vote Manipulation
(Response to question raised by the Honourable Donna Dasko on February 18, 2020)
Elections Canada’s response to DA-0017 is as follows:
Based on the analysis of the origin and distribution across electoral districts of the votes received from abroad, Elections Canada did not find any signal of a concerted effort to manipulate non resident voters.
Additionally, Elections Canada monitored social media during the 43rd federal general election to detect (a) events that could impede electors or election delivery, (b) feedback on Elections Canada’s services, (c) websites and social media accounts that falsely claimed to belong to Elections Canada; and (d) inaccurate information about the electoral process, whether intentional or unintentional. Elections Canada has not reported cybersecurity threats or other interference of significance during the 43rd federal general election.
Finally, Elections Canada does not have a mandate to monitor the activities of foreign governments.
Agriculture and Agri-Food
Compensation for Supply Managed Food Producers
(Response to question raised by the Honourable Robert Black on February 18, 2020)
The Government of Canada is committed to fully and fairly compensating supply-managed sectors in response to recent trade agreements. In Budget 2019, up to $3.9 billion to support eligible producers for CETA and CPTPP was announced. A total of $2 billion in compensation for dairy producers, including $345 million this fiscal year through the Dairy Direct Payment Program, was announced.
Through the Dairy Mitigation Working Group and the Poultry and Egg Working Group, the Government met producers and processors, and listened to their recommendations on mitigating the impacts of trade agreements. Tailoring supports to meet the needs of processors and producers requires time to develop and implement.
The Government will continue to work with producers and processors in supply-managed sectors to provide full and fair compensation to address the impacts of CUSMA.
(Response to question raised by the Honourable Larry W. Smith on February 19, 2020)
Since 2016, the Government of Canada has been working with provinces, territories, and Indigenous Peoples to implement the Pan-Canadian Framework on Clean Growth and Climate Change. This plan outlines over 50 concrete measures to reduce carbon pollution, help us adapt and become more resilient to the impacts of a changing climate, spur clean technology solutions, and create good jobs that contribute to a stronger economy. It provides a robust foundation, and positions Canada on a path to meet its 2030 targets and achieve net zero by 2050.
Pricing carbon pollution is the most effective way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and stimulate investments in clean innovation. It creates incentives for individuals, households, and businesses to choose cleaner options, and is an essential measure to combat climate change. The federal approach gave provinces and territories the flexibility to develop their own systems as long as they meet minimum federal stringency requirements including for direct pricing systems a minimum price of $30 per tonne of carbon pollution in 2020, rising by $10 per year until it reaches $50 per tonne in 2022. The price trajectory post-2022 is still to be determined.
Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness
Correctional Service of Canada—Prison System
(Response to question raised by the Honourable Kim Pate on February 19, 2020)
Correctional Service of Canada (CSC)
To address workplace wellness, CSC has implemented a number of initiatives including a national, comprehensive and integrated workplace wellness strategy to continue promoting a work environment where employees are treated with respect, dignity and fairness.
CSC’s efforts to confront workplace harassment, which includes a Respectful Workplace Campaign, are beginning to yield results. The 2019 Public Service Employee Survey found that 26 per cent of CSC respondents said they were a victim of harassment on the job, down from 32 per cent in 2018.
CSC’s new correctional model affords inmates placed in a structured intervention unit (SIU) the opportunity to spend a minimum of four hours a day outside their cell, including two hours a day of meaningful interaction with others. Oversight of SIU placements is ensured by a body of independent external decision-makers (IEDM) that are responsible for rendering fair, independent, and impartial decisions.
The decision of an IEDM could be the subject of a judicial review application at Federal Court by the inmate or the Attorney General of Canada. An inmate could bring a habeas corpus application in provincial superior court where the onus would lie with CSC to prove the lawfulness of the inmate’s placement in an SIU.
Foreign Affairs and International Trade
Use of Child Refugees by Syrian Military
(Response to question raised by the Honourable Salma Ataullahjan on February 19, 2020)
Global Affairs Canada is concerned by reports of Afghan child refugees in Iran being recruited by the Fatemiyoun Brigade to fight in Syria and strongly condemns these crimes. Recruiting children and using them as instruments of war is a grave violation of human rights. Canada, through its engagement with NATO’s Resolute Support Mission, supports the Government of Afghanistan to protect children from the effects of armed conflict in Afghanistan, including recruitment of child soldiers. Canada added the Fatemiyoun Brigade as a listed entity under the Canadian Criminal Code in 2019. Likewise, the Government of Afghanistan is aware of the Fatemiyoun Brigade recruiting child soldiers and has outlawed the Brigade within its borders.
Canada is proud to have introduced the Vancouver Principles on preventing the recruitment and use of child soldiers by armed forces and armed groups in 2017. Furthermore, Canada is contributing $1.175 million over five years to the Roméo Dallaire Child Soldiers Initiative to conduct research on the recruitment and use of child soldiers. Afghanistan has also recently ratified a Child Protection Act and the use of children in its armed forces has been outlawed since 2015.
Canada calls on Iran and Syria to ensure children are protected against recruitment and their human rights are respected.
Disclosure of Information
(Response to question raised by the Honourable Leo Housakos on February 26, 2020)
As the Minister of Natural Resources told the House of Commons on February 20, 2020, the government apologizes unreservedly for providing incorrect information in response to the Order Paper Question from the Member of Parliament for Red Deer—Mountain View. It was never Natural Resources Canada’s intent to mislead the House of Commons, nor the Member.
Accountability and transparency in providing information to Canadians is a priority for the government, and Natural Resources Canada takes this responsibility seriously.
In the case of Order Paper Question 50, the department took a very specific and narrow interpretation of the question. This unfortunately resulted in an incorrect response, which was further defended, before the inaccuracy was brought to light.
Information about these contracts, and others, is made available to Canadians proactively and in full transparency on the government’s proactive disclosure website.
In keeping with the government’s commitment to transparency, Natural Resources Canada tabled a revised response the next day, February 21st. The Deputy Speaker of the House of Commons responded “In light of the Minister of Natural Resources’ apology to the House yesterday and the tabling of a revised response to the written question, I consider the matter closed.”
Foreign Affairs and International Trade
Assistance for Refugee Children
(Response to question raised by the Honourable Leo Housakos on March 11, 2020)
Global Affairs Canada is actively monitoring the case of a child born to Canadian parents, currently in a Kurdish-run IDP camp in northeastern Syria.
Canadian officials continue to be actively engaged with local authorities and are providing consular assistance to the extent possible — given the security situation on the ground and the Government of Canada’s lack of a physical presence in Syria. Consular officials are in regular contact with the family of the child’s deceased parents and are working with them on this sensitive and complex situation – driven by the best interests of the child. Due to the situation in northeastern Syria and the need to respect the privacy of this child and to protect her safety and security, no further information will be disclosed on this case. Global Affairs Canada will continue to work to advocate for this child’s health and safety.