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2nd Session, 43rd Parliament
Volume 152, Issue 30

Monday, March 15, 2021
The Honourable George J. Furey, Speaker


THE SENATE

Monday, March 15, 2021

(Pursuant to rule 3-6(2), the adjournment of the Senate was extended from February 23, 2021 to March 15, 2021.)

The Senate met at 4 p.m., the Speaker in the chair.

Prayers.


SENATORS’ STATEMENTS

The Late Daryl Guignion

Hon. Diane F. Griffin: Honourable senators, with the passing of Professor Daryl Guignion last month, Prince Edward Island lost a great advocate for environmental conservation.

Daryl understood that conservation meant wise use of our natural resources. He was a founder and the second president of the Island Nature Trust, which protects habitat through land acquisition. He was also a founder of the Morell River Management Cooperative.

While serving as president of the Prince Edward Island Wildlife Federation and board member of the Canadian Wildlife Federation, his influence was felt beyond the university and immediate community. He operated at the policy level as well as the practical, “hands-on” level to get things done. For his efforts, he received many awards, including the National Recreational Fisheries Award.

Professor Guignion retired in 2008 from his faculty position at the Biology Department at the University of Prince Edward Island, but he still taught courses. During over 40 years of service, he served on many university administrative committees and was chair of the Biology Department.

His students went on to positions of influence in university faculties, government environmental departments, non-governmental organizations throughout Canada and the Senate of Canada. I was a student in the first wildlife biology class that Daryl taught at the University of Prince Edward Island. He was an inspirational teacher, and UPEI students recently awarded him Faculty Member of the Year.

Daryl was an example to all by what he did in a positive way to maintain our natural world, perhaps more so than any other individual in the province. With his tremendous knowledge, easygoing manner and sense of humour, we are going to miss him greatly. I extend my condolences to his family and all his friends. Thank you.

Canada’s International Role

Hon. Leo Housakos: Honourable senators, I rise today to speak about this great nation’s place on the world stage. For generations, Canada was known the world over as being a mighty defender of freedom, democracy, rule of law and human rights.

Despite being outmanned and outgunned, Canada has never taken a knee in the face of atrocities and injustices committed outside of our borders. We have never allowed individual legacy building or personal interests to trump who we are and what we stand for as a nation, and we shouldn’t start now. We must stand with our allies in naming genocidal behaviour for what it is, but we must also call out our allies who are not respecting the values we hold dear. We must not allow bad actors to take advantage of their relationships with us or members of our government, and those close to it, to excuse or justify their egregious behaviour.

We certainly shouldn’t be party to these acts like we were last year in the Nagorno-Karabakh, when Canadian military equipment was used to kill innocent Armenian civilians. We have blood on our hands as a result. We should have known better.

We know that Turkey is not an honest broker; we have placed a ban on military exports to Turkey for a reason. We now know that all it took was a few phone calls before we bowed to their pressure, and hundreds of innocent lives were lost as a result.

Colleagues, one should never turn a blind eye to the egregious behaviour of regimes like Erdoğan and Xi. When one does, it’s almost like they are condoning their actions. We Canadians must never abrogate our responsibilities in standing up for basic human rights.

Turkey draws on the fact that it is a member of NATO, but they do not honour that membership; on the contrary, they take advantage of it, using their NATO standing to legitimize their rogue behaviour and insulate themselves from consequences. Colleagues, this must stop. It’s time to put personal interests and the relationships aside, and return to representing Canada on the world stage and the values that we as Canadians hold dear.

Thank you.

[Translation]

The Late Rhéal Cormier

Hon. Judith Keating: Honourable senators, I rise today in memory of a great New Brunswicker and Acadian, Rhéal Cormier, who died from cancer last week at the age of 53. Despite having an extraordinary career, he left us far too soon.

Rhéal Cormier was a man of extraordinary talent and determination who played major league baseball for 16 years on five different teams as a left-handed pitcher. He actually made his major league debut on August 15, which happens to be National Acadian Day, and went on to become the only French Canadian to pitch in an opening game for the Montreal Expos.

Rhéal Cormier was defined not only by his tremendous success as a professional athlete, but also by his great understanding of the fact that success comes with a responsibility to one’s home community. Rhéal Cormier never forgot where he came from. From his very modest beginnings to his hugely successful career as a professional baseball player, Rhéal always made the people of his home province his top priority. Regardless of where he was playing, he always took the time to talk to people from back home. He inspired a whole generation of young New Brunswickers.

The little guy from Saint-André-LeBlanc never missed an opportunity to promote the Acadian language and culture, especially when he was playing for the Montreal Expos. He always pointed out that the French language exists outside Quebec, too, and invited people to come visit his part of the country.

Above all, Rhéal Cormier was a kind, generous man who was proud of his Acadian roots. I want to express my sincere condolences to his wife Lucienne, his daughter Morgan and his son Justin. I know that the memories of the kind of man Rhéal was will keep them going.

As for us, Rhéal, we aspire to live by your motto, the one you exemplified, and that is “Toujours plus haut,” or always aim higher. Thank you.

(1610)

[English]

The Late Tony Cote, S.O.M.

Hon. Marty Klyne: Honourable senators, I rise today to honour Elder Tony Cote, another trailblazer for Indigenous sports and youth participation in Saskatchewan.

Tony Cote was born on the Cote Reserve in Kamsack, Saskatchewan, in 1935. Like many Indigenous children of his generation, Tony was taken from his family and sent through the residential school system. Elder Cote was one of the residential school survivors who found the resiliency within to bounce back, enough to reach deeper and find the fortitude and perseverance to move forward and follow an inner drive to serve.

At the age of 17, Tony Cote enlisted in the military, and from 1952 to 1958 he served as a bombardier with the 81st Field Regiment of the Royal Canadian Artillery. In 1953, he married Sadie Friday and together they raised seven children. During his service, Tony spent 14 months in the Korean War, for which he received the UN Korea Special Services Medal.

For most treaty status First Nations like Tony returning home from active duty, the reality was summarized by Tony during a CBC interview when he stated, “We fought dictatorship only to return to dictatorship on the home reserves, the Indian agent had total control.”

This did not deter Tony from becoming a force for positive change. Tony was elected in 1970 as the first chief of the newly recognized Cote First Nations. He served as chief for eight years. His community was inspired and thrived upon Tony’s dedication, philanthropy and support for Indigenous athletes and sports. Tony presided over building the community’s first outdoor ice arena, the first indoor artificial ice arena, a sporting complex and the Cote Recreational Centre — the first of its kind on First Nations land in Saskatchewan.

Recognizing Tony’s efforts, he was awarded the 1974 Tom Longboat Award, which recognizes Indigenous individuals for their contributions to sport in Canada. In 2008, he was awarded the Saskatchewan Order of Merit in recognition of excellence, achievement and contributions to the social, cultural and economic well-being of the province and its residents. He was inducted into the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame on June 18, 2011.

I know Elder Tony Cote as a leader with a steady hand on the rudder. He was visible, approachable, accessible and always a calming effect to be around. I have the privilege of saying that while I knew and respected Tony as an elder, he was also a friend.

Although we lost Tony on July 13, 2019 at the age of 84, his legacy lives on in many ways, including the recently announced donation by the Cote family of $20,000 to the First Nations University of Canada to continue the Tony Cote Scholarship. My belated condolences to his family, friends and community. Our province, nation and the free world are a better place because Tony stepped up and made it his life’s work.

Thank you, Tony. Rest in peace.

The Late Colonel Howe Yet Lee

Hon. Yonah Martin (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, it is with a heavy heart that I pay tribute to a true Canadian hero, my friend and mentor, the late Colonel Howe Yet Lee, who passed away on March 9, 2021. He was a third generation Chinese Canadian born in 1932 in the rural community of Armstrong, B.C. He later graduated from UBC and became a long-time resident and teacher of science and mathematics in Burnaby, B.C., and eventually the science department head at Edmonds Secondary School.

Over many years of service with Vancouver’s Chinatown community, he became the founding director of the Chinese Canadian Historical Society of B.C. He also volunteered for the Chinese Cultural Centre of Greater Vancouver and in the greater Chinese community promoting veterans’ causes, including the creation of the Chinatown Memorial Square and Chinatown revitalization.

He had a distinguished 35-year career in the Canadian military, which included a post as commanding officer of 156 company, Royal Canadian Army Service Corps; the second in command of the Royal Westminster Regiment; commanding officer of the 12 Service Battalion; and numerous staff positions with the brigade. He concluded his military service as Honourary Colonel of the 39 Service Battalion reserve unit.

With the motto “Loyal to Country,” Howe Lee was the driving force in the establishment of the Chinese Canadian Military Museum Society in 1998. Howe and his co-founders decided to honour the legacy of Chinese Canadian war heroes and pioneers who fought for the rights of citizenship and the right to vote for all Asian Canadians by archiving their stories of patriotism and heroism in the museum, which he described to me as the “soul of the community.” The museum ensures that their stories are archived as part of Canada’s military heritage.

On a personal note, meeting Howe Lee in 2009 at a Wounded Warriors event in Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside led to a great friendship. He guided me to understand the importance of archiving stories of Canadian valour and sacrifice during the Korean War, and helped me to find my wings as a new senator to be able to honour Canadian veterans to whom I owe my life. It was a sincere honour to be able to award him with the Senate 150 medal in 2017 as one of Canada’s truest unsung heroes.

My heart goes out to Howe Lee’s beloved wife Hilda, their family, friends and all those mourning his passing. The late Colonel Howe Yet Lee lived a tremendous life as a teacher, community leader, military leader and role model in the vast and diverse country we call Canada. May he forever rest in peace.

Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.

[Translation]

Francophonie Month

Hon. René Cormier: Esteemed colleagues, as we do every year during Francophonie Month, we recognize the 300 million French speakers spread out over all five continents.

We also acknowledge that French is the fifth most commonly spoken language on the planet and the fourth most-used language on the Internet.

We’re excited about the projection by the Organisation internationale de la Francophonie, the OIF, that over 700 million human beings will live in francophone countries in 2060 and that three quarters of them will be under 30 and will live in Africa.

That’s very encouraging for the future of this language, which some call the language of peace, democracy and human rights. In Canada, however, while we are proud to celebrate our two official languages, the statistics are alarming. For all its global promise, French is no less fragile, and we must act now to protect it and enable it to thrive.

That means making sure we have effective legislative tools, robust public policies and concrete means to ensure the substantive equality of our two official languages, but we must do much more than that.

Every year, the Canadian Foundation for Cross-Cultural Dialogue organizes the Rendez-vous de la Francophonie. This year, the Rendez-vous’s theme is “Acadia, at the heart of my country.”

As an Acadian senator, I would like to rename this theme to “Acadia, the land of my heart,” because no law, strategy or declaration will really work, honourable colleagues, if we do not instil a love of the language and culture in our fellow Canadians.

That is why we must do more to support sectors like education, to strengthen our francophone immigration strategies and, more importantly, ensure adequate support for our artists and cultural workers who have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic. All levels of government have a duty to provide this support.

We must appeal to all provinces and territories to act now to ensure that as many Canadians as possible have access to the French language if we are to celebrate the Francophonie, its culture, diversity and inclusiveness all across Canada.

This must not in any way overshadow our duty to protect, promote and revitalize Indigenous languages, on the contrary. We must take into account the legacy and invaluable contributions of Indigenous peoples through specific and essential actions to revitalize those languages.

Next year’s International Day of La Francophonie will take place on March 20 under the theme “Francophone women, Resilient women,” as announced by the OIF.

We applaud the courage, determination and daring shown by so many francophone and francophile women in this country to keep the French language alive and to showcase the richness of its culture.

I will conclude by thanking some such women who are working passionately for the benefit of all Canadians. Thank you to Carmen Gibbs, Marie-Thérèse Landry, Rosella Melanson, Marie-Claude Rioux, Isabelle Dasylva-Gill, Pascale Joëlle Fortin, Monique Brideau, Sophie Thibodeau, Véronique Mallet, Nicole Thibault and all the others for their invaluable contributions.

Thank you for your attention.


ROUTINE PROCEEDINGS

Auditor General

Procuring Complex Information Technology Solutions—Report Tabled

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the report of the Auditor General of Canada to the Parliament of Canada entitled Procuring Complex Information Technology Solutions, pursuant to the Auditor General Act, R.S. 1985, c. A-17, sbs. 7(5).

National Shipbuilding Strategy—Report Tabled

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the report of the Auditor General of Canada to the Parliament of Canada entitled National Shipbuilding Strategy, pursuant to the Auditor General Act, R.S. 1985, c. A-17, sbs. 7(5).

Access to Safe Drinking Water in First NationsCommunities—Indigenous Services Canada—Report Tabled

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the report of the Auditor General of Canada to the Parliament of Canada entitled Access to Safe Drinking Water in First Nations Communities—Indigenous Services Canada, pursuant to the Auditor General Act, R.S. 1985, c. A-17, sbs. 7(5).

Canada Child Benefit—Canada Revenue Agency—Report Tabled

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the report of the Auditor General of Canada to the Parliament of Canada entitled Canada Child Benefit—Canada Revenue Agency, pursuant to the Auditor General Act, R.S. 1985, c. A-17, sbs. 7(5).

Follow-up Audit on Rail Safety—Transport Canada—Report Tabled

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the report of the Auditor General of Canada to the Parliament of Canada entitled Follow-up Audit on Rail Safety—Transport Canada, pursuant to the Auditor General Act, R.S. 1985, c. A-17, sbs. 7(5).

Canadian Race Relations Foundation (special examination report)—Report Tabled

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the report of the Auditor General of Canada to the Parliament of Canada entitled Canadian Race Relations Foundation (special examination report), pursuant to the Auditor General Act, R.S. 1985, c. A-17, sbs. 7(5).

(1620)

[English]

Scrutiny of Regulations

First Report of Joint Committee Adopted

Hon. Yuen Pau Woo, Joint Chair of the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations, presented the following report:

Monday, March 15, 2021

The Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations has the honour to present its

FIRST REPORT

Your committee reports that in relation to its permanent reference, section 19 of the Statutory Instruments Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. S-22, the committee was previously empowered “to study the means by which Parliament can better oversee the government regulatory process and in particular to enquire into and report upon:

1.the appropriate principles and practices to be observed

(a)in the drafting of powers enabling delegates of Parliament to make subordinate laws;

(b)in the enactment of statutory instruments;

(c)in the use of executive regulation — including delegated powers and subordinate laws;

and the manner in which Parliamentary control should be effected in respect of the same;

2.the role, functions and powers of the Standing Joint Committee for the Scrutiny of Regulations.”

Your committee recommends that the same order of reference, together with the evidence adduced thereon during previous sessions, be again referred to it.

Your committee informs both Houses of Parliament that the criteria it will use for the review and scrutiny of statutory instruments are the following:

Whether any regulation or other statutory instrument within its terms of reference, in the judgment of the committee:

1.is not authorized by the terms of the enabling legislation or has not complied with any condition set forth in the legislation;

2.is not in conformity with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms or the Canadian Bill of Rights;

3.purports to have retroactive effect without express authority having been provided for in the enabling legislation;

4.imposes a charge on the public revenues or requires payment to be made to the Crown or to any other authority, or prescribes the amount of any such charge or payment, without express authority having been provided for in the enabling legislation;

5.imposes a fine, imprisonment or other penalty without express authority having been provided for in the enabling legislation;

6.tends directly or indirectly to exclude the jurisdiction of the courts without express authority having been provided for in the enabling legislation;

7.has not complied with the Statutory Instruments Act;

8.appears for any reason to infringe the rule of law;

9.trespasses unduly on rights and liberties;

10.makes the rights and liberties of the person unduly dependent on administrative discretion or is not consistent with the rules of natural justice;

11.makes some unusual or unexpected use of the powers conferred by the enabling legislation;

12.amounts to the exercise of a substantive legislative power properly the subject of direct parliamentary enactment; or

13.is defective in its drafting or for any other reason requires elucidation as to its form or purport.

Your committee recommends that its quorum be fixed at four members, provided that both Houses are represented whenever a vote, resolution or other decision is taken, and that the joint chairs be authorized to hold meetings to receive evidence and authorize the publishing thereof so long as three members are present, provided that both Houses are represented; and, that your committee have power to engage the services of such expert staff, and such stenographic and clerical staff as may be required.

Your committee further recommends to the Senate that it be empowered to sit during sittings and adjournments of the Senate.

Your committee, which was also authorized by the Senate to incur expenses in connection with its permanent reference relating to the review and scrutiny of statutory instruments, reports, pursuant to rule 12-26(2) of the Rules of the Senate, that the expenses of your committee (Senate portion) during the First Session of the Forty-Second Parliament are as follows:

General Expenses $ 269
Witness Expenses 0
TOTAL $ 269

During the First Session of the Forty-third Parliament the committee was not created and therefore did not incur any expenses.

A copy of the relevant Minutes of Proceedings (Meeting No. 1) is tabled in the House of Commons.

Respectfully submitted,

YUEN PAU WOO

Joint Chair

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this report be taken into consideration?

Senator Woo: Honourable senators, with leave of the Senate and notwithstanding rule 5-5(f), I move that the report be adopted now.

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 and report adopted.)

The Senate

Motion to Extend Sittings on March 15 and 17, 2021, 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 points 7(a)(ii) and 7(c)(ii) of the order of October 27, 2020, concerning hybrid sittings and related matters, as continued by the order of December 17, 2020, today’s sitting and that of Wednesday, March 17, 2021, adjourn at the earlier of the end of business for the day or 9 p.m., unless earlier adjourned by motion; and

That, notwithstanding subparagraph 7(a) of the same order, the provisions of rule 3-3(1) apply today, subject to the provisions of paragraph 12 of that order.

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

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

The Hon. the Speaker: Senator Plett, you have a question?

Hon. Donald Neil Plett (Leader of the Opposition): I would like Senator Gold to explain rule 3-3(1).

Senator Gold: I’ve surrendered the text. The intention of this is that we would continue to sit till nine o’clock and to go through the entire Order Paper, not just government business, but that we would have a one-hour dinner break at 6 p.m.

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

Hon. Senators: Question.

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

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

(Motion agreed to.)

[Translation]

The Estimates, 2021-22

National Finance Committee Authorized to Study Main Estimates and Meet During Sitting and Adjournment of the Senate

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 the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance be authorized to examine and report upon the expenditures set out in the Main Estimates for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2022; and

That, for the purpose of this study, the committee have the power to meet, even though the Senate may then be sitting or adjourned, with rules 12-18(1) and 12-18(2) being suspended in relation thereto.

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

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

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

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

(Motion agreed to.)

Canada—United Kingdom Trade Continuity Agreement Implementation Bill

First Reading

The Hon. the Speaker informed the Senate that a message had been received from the House of Commons with Bill C-18, An Act to implement the Agreement on Trade Continuity between Canada and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

(Bill read first time.)

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this bill be read the second time?

[English]

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Honourable senators, with leave of the Senate and notwithstanding rule 5-6(1)(f), I move that the bill be placed on the Orders of the Day for second reading later this day.

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

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

(On motion of Senator Gold, bill placed on the Orders of the Day for second reading later this day.)

[Translation]

Employment Insurance Act
Canada Recovery Benefits Act

Bill to Amend—First Reading

The Hon. the Speaker informed the Senate that a message had been received from the House of Commons with Bill C-24, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (additional regular benefits), the Canada Recovery Benefits Act (restriction on eligibility) and another Act in response to COVID-19.

(Bill read first time.)

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this bill be read the second time?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Honourable senators, with leave of the Senate and notwithstanding rule 5-6(1)(f), I move that the bill be placed on the Orders of the Day for second reading later this day.

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

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

(On motion of Senator Gold, bill placed on the Orders of the Day for second reading later this day.)

[English]

Frozen Assets Repurposing Bill

First Reading

Hon. Ratna Omidvar introduced Bill S-226, An Act respecting the repurposing of certain seized, frozen or sequestrated assets.

(Bill read first time.)

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, when shall this bill be read the second time?

(On motion of Senator Omidvar, bill placed on the Orders of the Day for second reading two days hence.)

Legal and Constitutional Affairs

Committee Authorized to Meet During Sitting of the Senate

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, with leave of the Senate and notwithstanding rule 5-5(a), I move:

That the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs be authorized to meet on Wednesday, March 17, 2021, at 4:30 p.m., for the purpose of hearing from the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada and officials from the Department of Justice, even though the Senate may then be sitting, and that the application of rule 12-18(1) be suspended in relation thereto.

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

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

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

Hon. Senators: Question.

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

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

(Motion agreed to.)

[Translation]

Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration

Notice of Motion to Repeal the 2009 Senate Policy on the Prevention and Resolution of Harassment in the Workplace

Hon. Raymonde Saint-Germain: Honourable senators, I give notice that, at the next sitting of the Senate, I will move:

That the Senate Policy on the Prevention and Resolution of Harassment in the Workplace adopted by the Senate in June 2009, and the 2019 interim process for the handling of harassment complaints currently in effect, be repealed upon the appointment of the designated recipient provided for in the new Senate Harassment and Violence Prevention Policy, provided that if that person is appointed before the adoption of this order, the 2009 policy be repealed upon the adoption of this order.

(1630)

The Senate

Notice of Motion Concerning Genocide of Uyghurs and Other Turkic Muslims by the People’s Republic of China

Hon. Leo Housakos: Honourable senators, I give notice that, at the next sitting of the Senate, I will move:

That,

(a)in the opinion of the Senate, the People’s Republic of China has engaged in actions consistent with the United Nations General Assembly Resolution 260, commonly known as the “Genocide Convention”, including detention camps and measures intended to prevent births as it pertains to Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims; and

(b)given that (i) where possible, it has been the policy of the Government of Canada to act in concert with its allies when it comes to the recognition of a genocide, (ii) there is a bipartisan consensus in the United States where it has been the position of two consecutive administrations that Uyghur and other Turkic Muslims are being subjected to a genocide by the Government of the People’s Republic of China, the Senate, therefore, recognize that a genocide is currently being carried out by the People’s Republic of China against Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims, call upon the International Olympic Committee to move the 2022 Olympic Games if the Chinese government continues this genocide and call on the government to officially adopt this position; and

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

Notice of Motion to Call Upon the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship to Grant Citizenship to Raif Badawi

Hon. Julie Miville-Dechêne: Honourable senators, I give notice that, at the next sitting of the Senate, I will move:

That the Senate call upon the Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship to grant citizenship to Raif Badawi by exercising his discretion under section 5 of the Citizenship Act, which authorizes him to grant citizenship to any person to alleviate cases of special and unusual hardship.

[English]

Royal Canadian Mounted Police

Role and Mandate—Notice of Inquiry

Hon. Peter Harder: Honourable senators, I give notice that, two days hence:

I will call the attention of the Senate to the role and mandate of the RCMP, the skills and capabilities required for it to fulfil its role and mandate, and how it should be organized and resourced in the 21st century.


QUESTION PERIOD


Health

COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout

Hon. Donald Neil Plett (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, my question is for the government leader in the Senate. Senator Gold, Canada is the only country in the world that recommends delaying the second dose of COVID-19 vaccines from three or four weeks to four months. Last week, the Prime Minister said this recommendation was “grounded in science.” In fact, it was based on Canada’s poor vaccine supply. The chair of the National Advisory Committee on Immunization made it clear in her remarks before a House committee that the decision to delay was based on the vaccine delivery schedule.

Leader, if we had a better vaccine supply, the advisory committee would not have considered a four-month delay between doses.

Why did the Prime Minister say the four-month delay was based on science when it was, in fact, based on his government’s vaccine procurement failure?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Thank you for your question, senator. This government has succeeded in achieving what many in this chamber did not think possible: that is delivering a large and increasing supply of vaccines, with increasing numbers and frequency, to Canada. The government’s position remains that as the science develops and as data is accumulating — with regard to the efficacy of the first injection of different vaccines that are available to Canadians — the prudent thing to do is to vaccinate as many people as possible with the first injection, as the provinces are doing.

Senator Plett: I’m not sure how that came close to answering the question I asked.

One of the reasons we have as many doses available to us is because four European countries have rejected one of the vaccines that the Trudeau government is now saying we have an extra supply of.

The Trudeau government’s slow vaccine rollout is having terrible consequences on lives and businesses in our country. As a group of senior Canadian scientists said in a joint letter last week, the four-month delay between doses could make Canadians vulnerable to vaccine resistant variants. Dr. Mona Nemer, Canada’s Chief Science Advisor, said a four-month delay between doses amounts to “a population-level experiment.”

Is the doctor right or wrong?

Senator Gold: I have enormous respect for the doctor’s opinion. She was referring to a decision by the B.C. government to take that step. As I said before, the government has successfully negotiated and is implementing a series of arrangements.

With regard to AstraZeneca, to name the vaccine you alluded to, we have been advised that none of the doses expected in Canada come from the lot around which some questions have been raised recently.

COVID-19 Vaccine Contracts

Hon. Yonah Martin (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Delays are being experienced across the country, leader. My question also concerns the recommendation to delay the second dose of the two-dose COVID-19 vaccines by four months. Pfizer has said they were not consulted on this change and they don’t have evidence to support it.

In January, Minister Anand told CTV that some vaccine providers had raised concerns with her at the negotiating table about Canada not following their recommendations and delaying the second shot. So, leader, what do the vaccine contracts, which Canadians aren’t allowed to see, say about the spacing between doses for the two-shot COVID-19 vaccines? Is Canada in violation of its contracts by delaying the second dose to four months?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): I’m not in a position to answer the question regarding what the contracts say, but I am — and I believe this chamber and all Canadians should be — assured that the Minister of Procurement and the Government of Canada are doing everything they can based on sound decision making and policy to protect as many Canadians as quickly as possible.

Senator Martin: The problem is that there have been different messages and changes in the messaging, so Canadians are confused. We need clarity.

We’re already far behind other countries in vaccinating our citizens. This week, Canada will receive just under 450,000 doses for our entire country, while the United States vaccinated that many people yesterday morning alone.

Leader, the recommendation to delay four months between doses is based on your government’s inadequate vaccine procurement. Is this failure the main reason why the Trudeau government won’t let Canadians see the contracts with the vaccine manufacturers?

Senator Gold: The short answer is no. As the Prime Minister announced recently, and the Minister of Procurement as well, Canada is on track to receive some millions more doses than initially announced. As time unfolds, the wisdom of this government’s multipronged strategy to have a variety of sources of vaccines is proving with every passing week to have been the right decision.

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[Translation]

Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Royal Canadian Mounted Police—Investigation into Online Sexual Exploitation

Hon. Julie Miville-Dechêne: My question is for the Government Representative in the Senate.

Today, 70 senators and MPs joined their voices to those of more than 100 victims of sexual exploitation in calling for the RCMP to conduct a criminal investigation into Pornhub, amid a growing number of allegations against the porn giant. We’ve learned that, two years ago, Pornhub told the RCMP that it was not subject to Canadian laws, which, of course, is completely false.

However, the RCMP indicated before a parliamentary committee that it has not opened an investigation, which leads us to the key question: Is MindGeek above the law?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Thank you for your question and for your commitment to this important issue. I also want to congratulate you on your appearance on “Les Coulisses du pouvoir” yesterday.

Every company that does business in Canada is subject to Canadian law, so the answer is simple. No company that does business with Canadians is above the law. Responsibility for the matter rests with the RCMP because, in our democracy, politicians must not interfere in this type of affair.

Senator Miville-Dechêne: I certainly understand the separation of powers, but why is it that laws duly passed by Parliament are apparently not being enforced? Shouldn’t the government be concerned about the fact that MindGeek hasn’t reported a single potential case of sexual exploitation to the RCMP in 10 years?

The separation of powers is one thing, but I can’t wrap my head around the government’s failure to respond to so many first-hand accounts of women and girls being exploited by Pornhub.

Senator Gold: As I’ve said a number of times, it’s becoming increasingly clear that what Pornhub and the other sites like it are doing is deplorable and disgusting. We’re aware of the harm done to the victims as well as to young people who have access to these images and videos.

That said, all I can do is reiterate that it’s up to RCMP officers to open an investigation so that provincial authorities can consider the outcome of the investigation and prosecute these companies if they deem it necessary to do so.

[English]

Innovation, Science and Economic Development

Diversity and Gender Representation on Canadian Boards of Directors

Hon. Ratna Omidvar: My question is for Senator Gold, the Government Representative in the Senate.

Senator Gold, I’d like to draw your attention to a recently released StatCan survey on diversity in the governance of the charitable sector. This was a crowdsourced survey but the results showed what many suspected: there is a vast diversity deficit in the sector. Outside of women, who were well represented on the boards of charities, the other demographic groups fell far off their representation in the population of our country: immigrants, visible minorities, people with disabilities, LGBTQ+ individuals, and First Nations, Métis and Inuit.

I won’t repeat the figures, but let me assure you that there is a vast gap between who lives in this country and who serves as directors on the boards of the many charities and not-for-profits. This was a one-off survey, but we in the Senate have talked lots about the utility of annualized data collection.

My question to you is: Since this government has committed to increasing diversity and fighting racism in Canada, will it commit to collecting diversity data for charities on an annual basis? There is a very simple way it could do so. It could simply add a question on the annual return that these organizations must file every year to the CRA.

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Senator, thank you for your question and for giving me an opportunity to inquire with the government, thanks to the notice you gave me of this question; and, indeed, thank you and others in this chamber for your continued efforts and work to address the needs and issues relevant to the important charitable sector here in Canada.

I have made inquiries of the government, but I have not yet heard back. As soon as I do, I will certainly inform this chamber.

[Translation]

National Defence

Sexual Misconduct and Sexual Harassment in the Canadian Armed Forces

Hon. Jean-Guy Dagenais: My question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. I will refrain from commenting on the Prime Minister’s loose ethics. Instead I will talk about the future of the Minister of Defence, Harjit Sajjan.

On Friday, Lieutenant-Colonel Sajjan finally admitted that, like so many other senior officials, he refused to take action when he learned about allegations of sexual misconduct involving General Jonathan Vance. He has known about this since 2018, but didn’t think to do anything about it.

He is a member of the cabinet of a Prime Minister who often boasts about being a champion of women’s rights in Canada and who continues to say that he still has confidence in his Minister of Defence.

Leader, can you tell us whether Minister Sajjan is really there to stay, or are the Liberals looking for a way to usher him out gracefully, as they have done with many others before him who made errors of judgment?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Thank you for the question. The Prime Minister has said that Minister Sajjan has his full confidence.

The minister’s testimony made it quite clear that he did not just sit back and do nothing. On the contrary, he acted responsibly, as it would have been inappropriate for him to play the role of investigator in this matter. The minister suggested that the ombudsman take the matter to the appropriate authorities.

Furthermore, as Minister Sajjan has said, he asked the Privy Council the very next day what he should do. At that point, since there was no official complaint, the minister did the right thing.

Senator Dagenais: Leader, I have been a member of the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence for nearly 10 years now. I remember when General Vance appeared before our committee, with all his medals on full display, as the champion of Operation Honour. The committee also heard testimony from Justice Marie Deschamps. Can you explain to me why the Prime Minister and his Minister of Defence are refusing to implement Justice Deschamps’ recommendations to strike an independent committee, when that committee is unfortunately only a shadow of its former self?

Senator Gold: Thank you for the question. The government is aware of what is at stake and of the recommendations made by Justice Deschamps, who introduced a number of initiatives. However, as Justice Deschamps herself pointed out, a culture change is needed, and it takes a generation to change the culture.

The steps that have been taken are a step in the right direction. However, the government recognizes that there is still a lot of work to be done. The government continues to explore how best to proceed, and if there are any changes, I will inform you here in the chamber.

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[English]

Foreign Affairs

Canada-China Relations

Hon. Jim Munson: Honourable senators, my question is to the Government Representative in the Senate. There is an impressive list of prominent Canadians who have described the Chinese government’s actions in Xinjiang as a genocide against the minority Uighur people — names such as Irwin Cotler, Lloyd Axworthy, Allan Rock, Yves Fortier and now former senator Roméo Dallaire, who knows a thing or two about genocide. The retired lieutenant-general said last week:

When there is massive abuses of human rights by a state . . . we all have the responsibility to go in and protect them . . .

You’re either a great nation that believes in its values and in what its flag stands for . . . or you’re not.

Those are the words of former senator Dallaire.

Why is the Canadian government reluctant to do the same and call it what it is; a genocide? Is it because it might jeopardize the negotiations, if there are any going on, to release the two Michaels, or is it because the Canadian government doesn’t believe it is a genocide?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Thank you for your question. As I’ve said on a number of occasions, senator, this government is very preoccupied with the maltreatment and abuses that government is visiting upon the Uighur minority and indeed others. Canada is working with its allies to ensure that Canada’s position is well supported and in concert with its allies.

Senator Munson: Thank you for that. Could you give us an update on the dire Hong Kong situation; the suppression of those who speak out for human rights, democracy, freedom of the press, freedom of speech? Does the government know how many pro-democracy activists have been accepted by Canada in this country?

Senator Gold: Thank you for your question. I don’t have the specific answer at all, but I will make inquiries. Canada, though, has said that it will do its best to facilitate those who wish to come to Canada and is pursuing appropriate ways to do so.

Export of Defence Technology to Turkey

Hon. Leo Housakos: Honourable senators, my question is for the government leader. Senator Gold, thanks to documents tabled at committee in the other place on Friday, we now know that last year’s exemption to Canada’s ban on military exports to Turkey was granted in order to assist Turkey in fighting in Syria. But the ban on military exports was put in place specifically in response to Turkey’s incursion into northern Syria just that previous year.

My question is simple: How does that make any sense, government leader? What was the point of the ban in the first place? And does the minister always do what Global Affairs Canada tells him to do, or was he working on orders from the Prime Minister’s office? Because it seems crystal clear that, right now, it looks like Canada is becoming nothing more than a puppet to President Erdoğan and the Turkish regime.

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Honourable senators, this government is not the puppet of any foreign leader. It makes decisions based on Canada’s best interests. In dealing with a complicated situation, such as we have with regard to Turkey, the government is making decisions in the best interests of Canadians.

Senator Housakos: If I understand your answer correctly, you’re basically telling me that Canada’s decision to contravene its own military ban on Turkey was done in the best interests, as viewed by Prime Minister Trudeau and his cabinet. That’s quite a perspective, Senator Gold.

Senator Gold, my supplemental question is even simpler. Hopefully I get a clearer answer. What is your government’s position on NATO members who go rogue and blatantly break international law? We’ve seen numerous examples of this from our NATO partner Turkey, and again, Mr. Erdoğan, whether it be the occupation of northern Cyprus or his blatant disregard for the sovereign water territories of their fellow NATO member Greece. Over the last few months, we’ve seen Turkey continue to be aggressive in regards to the Aegean. Of course, we also saw a few months ago how they converted Hagia Sophia again, an historical site recognized by UNESCO. They did it unilaterally, again without any protest from the Canadian government.

At what point does your government stand up to Mr. Erdoğan? Or are we still waiting for a phone call from Erdoğan to take further instructions on what he expects from the Canadian government?

Senator Gold: Again, senator, there were too many assumptions and premises in your question which are simply incorrect for me to waste the chamber’s time in detailing. It is again not the case that the government takes instructions from a foreign leader in this regard. Canada has sophisticated and ongoing relationships with all the countries with whom we have dealings, including its NATO allies. We’ll continue to operate in the best interests of Canadians.

Fisheries and Oceans

Repatriation of Offshore Fisheries

Hon. Dennis Glen Patterson: Honourable senators, my question is for the Leader of the Government in the Senate. Senator Gold, the sale of Clearwater Seafood Incorporated has led to a rare opportunity for reconciliation since the company first announced it was evaluating options to sell its shares and interests on March 5, 2020. On March 6, the Qikiqtani, Nunavut Tunngavik and the Government of Nunavut all signed a joint letter in connection with this transaction, asking to engage with the federal government on the repatriation of certain offshore fisheries quotas in Nunavut’s adjacent waters.

They wrote again on May 11, 2020. I understand this continues to be a very high priority for Inuit and the territorial government to this day. It respects Article 15 of the Nunavut land claims agreement, which calls on the government to recognize the importance of the principles of adjacency and economic dependence of communities in the Nunavut settlement area on marine resources, and shall give special consideration to these factors when allocating commercial fishing licences within Zones I and II.

So, Senator Gold, as the Inuit and the GN have spent a year trying unsuccessfully to get a clear answer on this issue, I’m hoping you will be able to provide me with a clear yes-or-no answer today or soon. The question is: Will the Government of Canada act in accordance with the principle of adjacency and the spirit of reconciliation with Inuit, and honour its obligations as set out in the Nunavut land claims agreement, by working with the QIA, NTI and the GN and all other affected parties to negotiate the repatriation of fishing quotas in Nunavut’s adjacent waters?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Thank you, honourable colleague, for raising the question. Your advance notice of this question allowed me to inquire with the government, and I can say the following.

First, the government knows very well that fisheries are an important cultural and economic driver for many coastal communities from coast to coast to coast. I recognize it is of particular importance for Inuit and territorial areas. That’s partly why, from February 2018 to July 2019, the government undertook consultations on Nunavut fishery regulations, with the aim of modernizing the governance structures to support the implementation of self-determination. I’ve been advised, to answer your question more directly, that the specific matter that you raise is currently before the minister.

I should close by reminding this chamber that reconciliation and collaboration remain key priorities for the Government of Canada going forward.

Transport

Air Traffic Safety

Hon. Paula Simons: Honourable senators, my question is for the Government Representative. NAV CANADA is proceeding with its studies to close air traffic control towers and flight service stations at airports all across the country as a way to deal, in part, with revenue losses related to COVID-19. At the same time, the company recently paid out $7 million in executive bonuses, as well as $30 million in severance costs, including to departing senior executives.

As Transport Canada tries to find a way to help NAV CANADA through its revenue crisis, can you tell us what your government is doing to ensure that any relief package for NAV CANADA is contingent on protecting air safety and service at regional airports across the country?

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Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Thank you for your question. Again, your advance notice did allow me to inquire with the government. I’ve been advised as follows: NAV CANADA, which, as senators will appreciate, is an independent, not-for-profit organization, is undertaking several studies to assess level-of-service needs in various regions of this country. I’m advised, however, that no decision on these studies has yet been made. I’ve also been advised that any changes to the level of services proposed by NAV CANADA will be subject to a very rigorous safety assessment.

The process envisaged provides for full consultation with all effective stakeholders and no compromise on safety will be tolerated.

Senator Simons: NAV CANADA has already made significant cuts to staff levels at its area control centres in places such as Edmonton and Gander, which control huge swaths of our northern airspace. Can you tell us what steps the government is taking now to ensure that we maintain safety and sovereignty over those airspaces, despite the staff reductions we’ve already seen.

Senator Gold: Thank you for your question. As I said, the safety is absolutely fundamental in the processes that I described. As for sovereignty, Canada takes its sovereignty seriously, and the assertion of its sovereignty over all of its territory, airspace, coastal and land, and will continue to do so.

Health

COVID-19 Vaccine Rollout

Hon. Donald Neil Plett (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, my question again is for the government leader. The United States has fully vaccinated over 37 million of its citizens against COVID-19. Last week, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued guidance on how fully vaccinated Americans can safely visit each other and unvaccinated people in private settings. There was updated guidance also issued on how nursing homes in the U.S. can safely expand visits from loved ones. We are nowhere near anything like this in Canada, leader. Canadians have received no public health guidance from the federal government on how they can expect their lives to change when they are fully vaccinated, whenever that may be.

Leader, when will we see the Trudeau government’s plan for reopening our economy and allowing families and friends to safely meet with each other again?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): The Government of Canada works tirelessly with provincial and territorial governments to coordinate, and to plan together, the implementation of the vaccine program and the follow-up recommendations that the federal government may make for consideration by the provinces. But the decision as to when businesses will open, who can visit whom and under what circumstances remains exclusively a provincial one, which explains why the rules in this country are different in my province of Quebec than they are in yours, senator, and across the country. That is a feature of our federalism. That’s one of our strengths because it allows us to learn one from each other.

Senator Plett: The U.S., of course, has many more states than we have provinces and they seem to be able to do this. The United Kingdom has delivered one of the fastest COVID-19 vaccination programs in the world, leader. Last month, the U.K. government laid out a step-by-step plan for the gradual reopening of their economy.

Again, last week the United States set out their reopening plan as well, with all adults to be eligible for the vaccine by May 1. Canadians are looking for similar leadership, leader, in our own country. When will we get it? Or will the provinces and territories be left to figure things out in their own respective jurisdictions?

The Hon. the Speaker: Sorry, Senator Gold, but the time for Question Period has expired. Perhaps you could respond to Senator Plett by delayed answer.


[Translation]

ORDERS OF THE DAY

Criminal Code

Bill to Amend—Message from Commons—Senate Amendment Concurred In, Disagreement with Certain Senate Amendments and Amendments

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I have the honour to inform the Senate that a message has been received from the House of Commons which reads as follows:

Thursday, March 11, 2021

ORDERED,— That a message be sent to the Senate to acquaint Their Honours that, in relation to Bill C-7, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (medical assistance in dying), the House:

agrees with amendment 1(a)(ii) made by the Senate;

respectfully disagrees with amendment 1(a)(i) because this matter, including questions of most appropriate precise definitions, whether those definitions should be included in the Criminal Code or elsewhere, and whether any consequential amendments or protections relating to issues such as consent and capacity are necessary in relation to such an amendment, will also be addressed by the expert panel and the upcoming parliamentary review, and the Government will collaborate with provincial and territorial health authorities to ensure a consistent approach;

respectfully disagrees with amendment 1(a)(iii), 1(b) and 1(c) because it would permit advance requests for medical assistance in dying before an individual has a grievous and irremediable medical condition, a change which goes beyond the scope of the bill, and further, this expansion of the medical assistance in dying regime requires significant consultations and study, including a careful examination of the safeguards for persons preparing advance request and safeguards for practitioners administering medical assistance in dying, all of which could be part of the parliamentary review undertaken to study this important type of advance request to reflect the crucial input of Canadians affected by the medical assistance in dying regime;

proposes that, with respect to amendment 2:

the portion of paragraph 241.31(3)(a) before subparagraph (i) be amended by replacing it with the following:

“(a) respecting the provision and collection, for the purpose of monitoring medical assistance in dying, of information relating to requests for, and the provision of, medical assistance in dying, including”;

clause 241.31(3)(a)(i)(B) be amended by adding after the words “respecting the race” the words “or indigenous identity”;

subparagraph 241.31(3)(a)(i) be amended by deleting “and” at the end of clause (A), by adding “and” at the end of clause (B) and by adding the following after clause (B):

“(C) information — other than information that must be provided in relation to the assessment of eligibility to receive medical assistance in dying and the application of safeguards — respecting any disability, as defined in section 2 of the Accessible Canada Act, of a person who requests or receives medical assistance in dying, if the person consents to providing that information,”;

paragraph 241.31(3)(b) be amended by replacing it with the following:

“(b) respecting the use, analysis and interpretation of that information, including for the purposes of determining the presence of any inequality — including systemic inequality — or disadvantage based on race, Indigenous identity, disability or other characteristics, in medical assistance in dying;”;

as a consequence of amendments 1(a)(ii) and 3, proposes that the following amendment be added:

“1.New clause 3.1, page 9: Add the following after line 20:

“Independent Review

3.1 (1) The Minister of Justice and the Minister of Health must cause an independent review to be carried out by experts respecting recommended protocols, guidance and safeguards to apply to requests made for medical assistance in dying by persons who have a mental illness.

(2) A report containing the experts’ conclusions and recommendations must be provided to the Ministers no later than the first anniversary of the day on which this Act receives royal assent.

(3) The Ministers must cause the report to be tabled in each House of Parliament within the first 15 days on which the House is sitting after the day on which they receive the report.”;”

proposes that, with respect to amendment 3:

section 5 be amended by replacing it with the following:

“Review

5 (1) A comprehensive review of the provisions of the Criminal Code relating to medical assistance in dying and their application, including but not limited to issues relating to mature minors, advance requests, mental illness, the state of palliative care in Canada and the protection of Canadians with disabilities must be undertaken by a Joint Committee of both Houses of Parliament.

(2) The Joint Committee shall be composed of five Members of the Senate and ten Members of the House of Commons, including five Members from the governing party, three Members of the Official Opposition, and two Members of the opposition who are not Members of the Official Opposition, with two Chairs of which the House Co-Chair shall be from the governing party and the Senate Co‑Chair shall be determined by the Senate.

(3) The quorum of the Committee is to be eight Members whenever a vote, resolution or other decision is taken, so long as both Houses and one Member of the governing party in the House and one from the opposition in the House and one Member of the Senate are represented, and that the Joint Chairs be authorized to hold meetings, to receive evidence and authorize the printing thereof, whenever six Members are present, so long as both Houses and one Member of the governing party in the House and one Member from the opposition in the House and one Member of the Senate are represented.

(4) The Committee must commence its review within 30 days after the day on which this Act receives royal assent.

(5) The Committee must submit a report of its review — including a statement of any recommended changes — to Parliament no later than one year after the day on which it commenced the review.

(6) When the report, referenced in paragraph (5), has been tabled in both Houses, the Committee shall expire.”;

section 6 be amended by replacing the words “18 months after” with the words “on the second anniversary of”.

ATTEST

Charles Robert

The Clerk of the House of Commons

Honourable senators, when shall this message be taken into consideration?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate) moved:

That the message be considered now.

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

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

(Motion agreed to.)

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[English]

Bill to Amend—Message from Commons—Motion for Non-Insistence Upon Senate Amendments and Concurrence in Commons Amendments—Debate

The Senate proceeded to consideration of the message from the House of Commons.

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate) moved:

That, in relation to Bill C-7, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (medical assistance in dying), the Senate:

(a)do not insist on its amendments 1(a)(i), 1(a)(iii), 1(b) and 1(c), with which the House of Commons has disagreed;

(b)agree to the amendments made by the House of Commons to Senate amendment 2;

(c)agree to the amendment made by the House of Commons in consequence of Senate amendments 1(a)(ii) and 3; and

(d)agree to the amendments made by the House of Commons to Senate amendment 3; and

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

He said: Honourable senators, I rise today to speak to the message from the other place in response to our amendments to Bill C-7, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (medical assistance in dying). As you would expect, I am asking you to accept the message, and here is why.

When I spoke to the bill on second reading, I told you that the government was open to considering any constructive amendments that were consistent with the objectives of the bill. The ministers who appeared at committee said the same thing. Some expressed skepticism, both at committee and in debate, but on any fair reading of this message, I believe that I have kept my promise to you.

Honourable senators, some in the other place have unfairly questioned the basic legitimacy of our work on this legislation. However, as this message makes clear, it is the government’s view that the Senate has appropriately fulfilled its constitutional role as an independent body of sober second thought by complementing the work of our elected colleagues.

I would suggest that the process that has unfolded to date represents the very best of the interaction and legislative dialogue that is possible between the two houses of Parliament. I would go even further to say that it is an example of the Parliament of Canada at its very best, and I say this as one who is not prone to hyperbole. For the government of the day to not only accept but to build upon Senate amendments and to have that passed in the other place by a minority Parliament is an achievement that is as significant as it is historically quite rare.

We in the Senate discharged our constitutional responsibilities with distinction. We studied the bill carefully, debated it fully, amended it as we judged appropriate and, supported by a strong majority in this chamber, we proposed the bill, as amended, to the other place for their consideration.

The government has not simply paid close attention to our amendments in good faith; it has built upon them. The work we did in this chamber — the research, the thought, the attention paid to witnesses and to each other — provided the foundation for the message we are debating. On behalf of the Government of Canada, I want to thank you all for your contribution and work on this important bill.

I know that some of you may be disappointed with the results in some respects — some because certain amendments were not passed in this chamber, and others because certain amendments were passed here and accepted in the other place. But that is behind us now. The Senate did its job in considering the bill and amending it as it saw fit, and our job now is to consider the message that the House has sent us in response to the Senate amendments. I believe in this respect that the message is very much worthy of our support.

The process that culminated in the message before us is an extraordinary example of thoughtful and meaningful policy development by both houses of Parliament and one that demonstrates a high degree of mutual respect between our two houses.

The bill began as a response to a court ruling and was passed in the other place by a significant majority of members from all political parties. The Senate fulfilled its role by proposing changes to the bill designed with the constitutional rights of those suffering intolerably in mind. The message we received from the other place is a respectful and thoughtful response to the contribution of the Senate.

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The other place has used the Senate’s amendments as a bedrock to build upon so that Bill C-7 could be in the best form possible upon receiving Royal Assent, with a clear plan for moving ahead on the big outstanding issues.

One might even be tempted to say that the house has exercised its own sober second thought on the Senate amendments so that we may now consider a version of Bill C-7 that is a joint product of both chambers with a plan for MPs and senators to move forward together with more important work in the very near future.

The message responds to the Canadian experience to date with medical assistance in dying, respects the Charter right to freedom and autonomy and provides for further in-depth study on issues that were hotly debated in both chambers and which mattered greatly to all Canadians.

All told, the message reflects a fair and principled compromise for the final iteration of Bill C-7.

The original MAID bill, Bill C-14, called on Parliament to conduct a review at the five-year mark. COVID-19 and emergency legislation to deal with the pandemic got in the way of setting up this review process by the June 2020 mark.

The government is building upon the amendment put forward by Senator Tannas and Senator Boniface to initiate that process now. The Senate amendment was not accepted as written; instead, it was expanded. Moreover, while the committee’s mandate will be the study of important issues such as advance directives, mature minors, palliative care, mental illness and the protection of Canadians with disabilities, the list is not exhaustive. Members can take on whatever subjects flow from their work.

The joint committee review will begin immediately within 30 days of Bill C-7 receiving Royal Assent and the joint committee will report one year afterward.

The government also accepted the amendment put forward by Senator Kutcher for a sunset period relating to the exclusion of access to MAID for those whose sole underlying condition is a mental illness.

The government extended the time frame to 24 months from Senator Kutcher’s 18 months so that the issue can be properly studied by experts. This is not to delay the process. Rather, a new clause was added to the amendment for the Minister of Justice and Minister of Health to initiate an independent review on mental illness in the form of an expert panel. The panel will study the issue of mental illness in MAID during the first 12 months of the sunset period. It will study and analyze the suggested protocols, guidelines and protections for MAID requests from patients with mental illness as their sole condition for assessment.

This group of experts would then make their recommendations to the government and these recommendations would be tabled in Parliament.

The government would then have an additional 12 months to consider what safeguards should be established and to develop the necessary legislation surrounding mental illness in MAID. The government will then collaborate with provincial and territorial health authorities to ensure a consistent pan-Canadian approach.

[Translation]

Honourable senators, 24 months is a reasonable amount of time for these steps. The expert panel will have the time to study the complex issues associated with MAID in cases of mental illness, including the issues of assessing capacity, the trajectory of the illness and access to mental health care. The Association des médecins psychiatres du Québec and the Council of Canadian Academies have already done a great deal of work on this issue in their 2018 reports on MAID in cases of mental illness. These reports are valuable resources on this matter, with information that the expert panel will likely take into consideration in its recommendations. This is another example of how the Senate’s amendment was strengthened and improved with the inclusion of expert panels and will serve as a foundation for the government’s proposed policies and legislation.

Allow me to expand on this. Although we could let the joint parliamentary committee responsible for the overall study look at the safeguards, protocols and guidelines for MAID and mental illness, an expert panel could only contribute to the process.

[English]

Witnesses, both those who opposed MAID on the basis of mental illness and those who believe it can and should be permitted, have warned us not to expect a short-term consensus among practitioners on whether or not MAID can be safely provided in cases where a mental illness is the sole underlying factor.

It is also unlikely that new evidence would become available in the short term that would definitively resolve the issue one way or the other. A panel of experts may not answer this question conclusively, but it can be given a specific mandate to examine all of the evidence of the work to date and make specific recommendations about how to make MAID for mental illness as safe as possible, given the current state of knowledge.

Importantly, an expert panel — as opposed to the parliamentary committee — will work independently of the constraints in Parliament’s schedule. Neither will it be constrained by procedural rules limited by the parliamentary calendar nor by the time limitations that members of parliamentary committees must contend with when hearing from witnesses.

Requiring the expert panel to submit its report within 12 months, in conjunction with the amendment extending the sunset period to 24 months, would leave 12 months for the government to develop legislation incorporating the recommended safeguards and for parliamentarians to study and enact the proposed legislation. This, colleagues, would allow adequate time for the parliamentary process to unfold.

While the amendment put forward by Senator Dalphond, which would have introduced a definition of mental illness into the Criminal Code so as to exclude neurocognitive conditions, was not accepted by the government, the government recognized the importance of the issue raised by the amendment. Accordingly, this is a topic to be studied further by the expert panel and to be considered during the parliamentary review.

The message makes it clear that what constitutes a mental illness in the MAID context is a matter that can and will be addressed.

The amendment put forward by Senator Wallin allowing for advance directives also was not accepted by the other place. However, the message in response makes it clear that this important subject will be part of the joint parliamentary review. The review could recommend safeguards for both patients and practitioners in order to move forward on an issue vitally important to a majority of Canadians when looking at the MAID regime.

Senator Wallin, I would be remiss if I did not pay tribute to your work and to your advocacy on this issue. As Government Representative in the Senate, I wish to explain that while this amendment was not supported by the House, that should in no way be viewed as the end of the road. In fact, your amendment and advocacy were instrumental in the House’s decision to accept Senator Tannas’s proposal to establish a joint committee within 30 days of Royal Assent with a broad mandate and a firm plan for moving forward.

In my view, the House’s endorsement of a joint review is a tangible, constructive and meaningful contribution of the Canadian Senators Group to the parliamentary process on Bill C-7 and one for which the government is thankful.

Senator Jaffer’s amendment concerning data collection was accepted and then expanded to include persons with disabilities. The message also clarifies the data collection provision by adding the words “Indigenous identity” so as to capture as many groups as possible.

Senator Jaffer’s amendment and its expansion will ensure that the monitoring regime will produce a more complete picture of MAID in Canada. As we all know, good data is what grounds better policy.

One of the main issues raised during our study of Bill C-7 was the importance of gathering and analyzing data and the lack of that information thus far. That data will be crucial to the transparency of and public trust in a regime that permits MAID for Canadians who are not otherwise approaching their natural death.

Let me conclude where I began. I know that many of you still have reservations about the expansion of medical assistance in dying to those whose death is not reasonably foreseeable. I understand and I respect your position. But the Senate has spoken, and so now has the other place on two occasions.

The message before us represents an historic collaboration between our two houses of Parliament. The government could have been dismissive of Senate amendments; it was not. It could have discounted the input from this chamber out of hand; it did not.

Quite the opposite: The government studied our amendments, recognized their value and built on them to provide a strong foundation for the development of public policy going forward on matters of critical importance, not only to us as senators but to all Canadians. The message from the other place was more than simply responsive to the Senate; it demonstrates a deep respect for our contribution and for our work as parliamentarians.

(1730)

Honourable senators, the Senate has discharged its constitutional role with sensitivity and with distinction. We’ve done our job well, and it’s now time for us to demonstrate the same respect to the other place that they have shown to us and to pass the Bill C-7 message. Canada’s MAID regime must conform with the Quebec Superior Court decision mandating the constitutional rights for those Canadians who have been waiting and suffering while Parliament concluded its business.

We have reached this point after a long and difficult debate, one that engaged and engages our deepest personal convictions. But we did the job we have been summoned to do. In my humble opinion, this is the work that the framers of our Constitution had in mind for us as they debated the parameters of a future upper chamber for Canada in a magnificent building overlooking the St. Lawrence River where the Château Frontenac stands today, and in a senatorial division that I proudly represent in this place.

[Translation]

I’m proud of the work that we’ve accomplished together, and I’m proud to represent a government that believes in the legislative value of a more independent and less partisan Senate. I’m also very proud to work with all of you in this chamber in the service of Canadians.

[English]

Please join me in voting to accept this message from the other place. Thank you for your kind attention.

Hon. Yuen Pau Woo: Senator Gold, would you take a question?

Senator Gold: Of course.

Senator Woo: Thank you for your thoughtful and thorough exposition of the message from the House of Commons. I have a set of questions on the joint committee that has been proposed and I will ask all three since they are closely related. The first is whether you believe there should be constraints on the ability of the committee to meet in a virtual, hybrid or all-person format. The second is whether you see any obstacles to this committee meeting, even if either the house or the Senate is sitting. And the third related question is whether this committee will cease to exist in the event of prorogation or an election.

Senator Gold: Thank you for those questions. I don’t have definitive answers for you, senator. It seems to me how this committee meets will be something that will be worked out jointly between representatives in the Senate and in the other place, as will an understanding both between the Senate and the chamber and the groups within both chambers as to how and when they will sit.

As for the constitution of the committee and how it might continue its work, again, that’s a matter that certainly will be clarified once the groups get together and figure out the terms of reference.

Hon. Denise Batters: Senator Gold, the Senate sunset clause amendment left the subject matter of MAID for mental illness much more open-ended. As such, some senators may have voted for the Senate amendment believing that it was open for this expert panel to determine that MAID for mental illness should not occur if the evidence leads that way. Yet your government’s amendment allowing MAID for mental illness makes it crystal clear that this expert panel will not have the power to determine whether to allow MAID for mental illness, only how to allow MAID for mental illness.

Why won’t your government allow this expert panel to truly exercise sober second thought on such a critical issue for so many Canadians suffering with mental illness?

Senator Gold: Thank you for the question, senator. The only change that the House effected to Senator Kutcher’s amendment was to extend the period in his amendment from 18 to 24 months. The introduction of the expert panel was to provide greater and more fulsome input to the parliamentary process — the legislative process — that’s contemplated in the 24-month period. I might add as well that complements the parliamentary review that is also going to be undertaken 30 days after Royal Assent.

Senator Batters: The message that was just read indicates this about the independent review: It’s very prescribed and it does not contain any sort of open-ended manner. It says:

The Minister of Justice and the Minister of Health must cause an independent review to be carried out by experts respecting recommended protocols, guidance and safeguards to apply to requests made for medical assistance in dying by persons who have a mental illness.

That does not allow these experts to determine whether MAID should be made available for mental illness. Do you disagree with that? Do you believe that it is within their power to determine whether MAID should be made available for mental illness or would you agree with me that it is simply a how-to manual?

Senator Gold: I think the idea behind the expert panel is to take advantage of and, indeed, to structure inquiry into what is currently a clear lack of consensus amongst professionals as to what standards ought to be applied. As I mentioned in my speech — not only with regard to safeguards but with regard to the trajectory of different conditions that can be lumped under the heading of mental illness — it remains ultimately the parliamentary responsibility to legislate, depending on the views that parliamentarians arrive at, benefiting, as they will, from the expert opinion.

Senator Batters: Senator Gold, this is a critical issue and we need a clear answer on this. We need to know if it’s the position of the Government of Canada that this expert panel is able to determine whether MAID is available for mental illness or only how. That is a critical issue that this Senate will need to consider when determining whether or not to accept this particular amendment.

Senator Gold: Thank you for your question and your follow-up. The message speaks for itself. The idea behind the message is for experts to provide the benefit of their expertise and feed it into the parliamentary process. It’s the position of this government that it is a major step forward in ensuring that the decisions that parliamentarians will have to make, whether in the other place or in this house, are as fully informed as possible.

Hon. Yonah Martin (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): I think the questions from my colleagues Senator Woo and Senator Batters cause me to rise to just get some clarity, because the government has had five years to do a review and they failed, and yet these are tighter timelines. I’m really interested in the assurances that we have that any of these lofty, very big goals will be achieved by a government who failed to even meet a five-year timeline.

Senator Gold: Thank you for your question, senator. I think it’s important to separate two issues. I have already explained the fact that the parliamentary review did not happen as hoped, and it was a matter of much debate in this chamber and in committee. Happily, the amendment that was proposed by Senator Tannas and Senator Boniface was accepted and, indeed, expanded and broadened by the government and the House as reflected in this message so that the parliamentary review on all aspects surrounding medical assistance in dying, including access or challenges for providing proper and full access to palliative care and all the things that we’ve talked about in debate will be looked at and looked at immediately. So it goes even beyond what Bill C-14 had contemplated.

The sunset clause is a separate matter. The Senate judged it appropriate to propose an amendment out of a concern for the constitutionality of the exclusion. The government took that seriously. Though it remains of the view that the exclusion is constitutional, for a number of reasons the government has decided that it would be appropriate to allow a two-year period of study, review and ultimately deliberation by Parliament, so that the decision of what the system should be, for those whose sole underlying condition is mental illness, is properly put into place, and that’s the sunset clause.

(1740)

I’m asking this chamber to accept the reasonableness of the government’s response to the Senate amendments. It’s important in experience, and all senators will appreciate that we are now debating the message; our task now is not to relitigate Bill C-7 or medical assistance in dying or all the issues about which we’re no less passionate and we feel no less strongly today, just because we’re at this stage of the legislative process. However, we are now at this stage of the legislative process.

As I’ve said before, honourable colleagues, I think that the Senate proposed, the government listened and the House responded in a very respectful way. That’s why I believe that we’ve done our job, and our job now is to accept the will of the elected members of Parliament and accept the message.

Senator Martin: I agree; we’re not here to relitigate. We’re not doing that. We’re looking for assurances. A two-year timeline is very short when you look at the five-year timeline that wasn’t met, and the fact that so much can happen in two years: interruptions, prorogations, elections. I think the questions Senator Woo asked were important ones to give us assurance before we agree to this message, because we need to have clarity. The question that Senator Batters asked, in terms of what does that two-year process look like; it’s very different when we’re saying we’re going to do that, and we’re going to create a regime that will include others that weren’t eligible when the original regime was designed for a narrow group of individuals. We had experts who told us we must look carefully at every aspect.

Two years is not a lot of time, senator. I’m looking for assurances from you, as the government leader.

Senator Gold: I appreciate that and I’ll try to answer better. I hope it’s reassuring. Again, I draw the distinction. Senator Woo’s question was about the parliamentary review and how that would work in light of — well, that was one part of it — how it would meet, and would it meet when the house is or isn’t sitting. All those things will be worked out in an appropriate way by the two chambers.

The sunset clause is a different matter. If we accept this message, this is the law. There is now a two-year period, at the end of which the exclusion of mental illness will lapse.

The government is of the opinion that this is an adequate period of time — 18 months was thought to be too little — that 24 months is an adequate period of time to get the benefit of the experts’ recommendations, to consider them and to legislate accordingly, so that there are proper safeguards in place — both, obviously, for those who are seeking access to MAID but also for the practitioners and others supporting them in their suffering.

As I pointed out, one of the advantages of using the experts is that they are not bound by the parliamentary calendar. Regardless of what happens in the coming year, whether there is an election or prorogation, those experts will continue their work. At such time as they complete their work, parliamentarians will be seized with the issue, because it’s in the bill and it’s independent of an election or prorogation.

I don’t know if that is sufficient reassurance, senator, but that’s why the government believes that 24 months is a prudent and appropriate way to proceed.

Hon. Donald Neil Plett (Leader of the Opposition): Senator Gold, I agree that we don’t want to relitigate Bill C-7. I could ask you a number of questions about your speech, but I won’t. I will have my opportunity to speak on the bill, and I may find a way of pointing out a few of the inconsistencies in your speech when I do that.

The questions that have been posed about this committee and the timelines are very real, Senator Gold. I don’t think there is anyone in this chamber who doesn’t expect that we’re having an election this spring. In all likelihood, we will have prorogation. We may have prorogation before this committee is struck.

Yes, the senators will be here. It has been said many times: What are the best two words you hear as a senator after an election? It is “Good morning, senator.” The members of the House of Commons don’t have that, and they may not even be back. Certainly, when an election is called, they are gone until after the election.

Then we’ll have a government, and many of us hope that the 6 million Canadians who voted for the Conservatives the last time will add another million to it this time and we’ll have a different government. However, even if we don’t, Senator Gold, after prorogation and an election, there will be a significant period of time — I would suggest maybe late September or October — before the government comes back with a Speech from the Throne and then probably adjourns until after Christmas.

We are losing a third of those two years before this committee may be struck. What plan does the government have? Do we have assurance from the government that this committee will be struck before prorogation, and do we have assurance from the government that this committee will be able to work? Because once prorogation is here, I don’t think we have to ask the question; this committee is non-existent.

Senator Gold: There is an old joke saying that Jews always answer a question with a question. It wasn’t clear to me from your question, senator, whether we’re talking about the parliamentary review or the expert panel in the context of the sunset clause.

Senator Plett: I was talking about the expert panel.

Senator Gold: Thank you for that. The expert panel can be constituted and can continue its work whether or not Parliament is prorogued and whether or not there is an election. The panel has 12 months to report. I don’t know, and none of us know, when an election will be held. However, it’s not an unreasonable assumption that the panel will continue its work. If there is an election within the year and a new Parliament begins, there will be time for that new Parliament, one year hence or one year after Royal Assent, to have the benefits of the expert opinion and start its work as legislators.

Senator Plett: Let me ask you to clarify that a little more. You are saying it’s not an unreasonable expectation that this committee will continue to work. When an election is called, MPs no longer have a job; they’re done until the election. How will this committee work? Because there won’t be a House of Commons contingent; there will be only a Senate contingent.

Senator Gold: I thought that in your answer to my question, in response to your question, you were talking about the sunset clause, not the parliamentary review. The sunset clause contemplates an expert opinion — not of parliamentarians but of experts in the field working for the first 12 months — to report back to Parliament. That’s separate and apart from the joint review.

Colleagues, the frustration that many of us felt — because the parliamentary review that was contemplated in Bill C-14 did not happen at such time as the Truchon decision came down the pike and the legislation of Bill C-7 came before us — was palpable and very real. The government was criticized and pressed, and understandably so, for a commitment to launch the parliamentary review. But any parliamentary review would be subject to the same vagaries of prorogation and election as the one that is being contemplated in this message.

(1750)

In that regard, nothing has changed. What is significant in this message is that the government has made a commitment not simply to do its own parliamentary review but a joint one with the Senate. This is what the Senate wanted, and the amendment that Senators Tannas and Boniface proposed.

In that regard, colleagues — again to return us to the message — the Senate proposed a procedure for a parliamentary review of the range of questions contemplated not only in Bill C-14 but that also arose in our deliberations on Bill C-7, notably concern for Canadians suffering from mental illness, disabilities more generally, the question of palliative care, and we’ll be acting in a timely fashion with a reasonable timeline.

It is hard to resist the comment that were the government to say “We’ll do a parliamentary review and we’ll report back in 5 or 10 years,” I think the government would be properly criticized. When the government says “We’re going to launch this within 30 days of Royal Assent and we’ll report back in a timely fashion,” I think that’s the responsible thing.

I hope I’m answering your question. There is a difference between the parliamentary review and the impact of an election, and the expert panel which would feed into the parliamentary process under the terms of the sunset clause.

[Translation]

Hon. Chantal Petitclerc: Honourable senators, on February 17, the majority of senators voted in favour of Bill C-7 at third reading. We voted on that bill after holding rigorous and respectful substantive debates and engaging in individual and collective reflection on expanding medical assistance in dying. The feeling shared by most senators was that we had accomplished the work that was expected of the Senate. That certainly does not mean that we agreed with everything about the bill, far from it. However, I think it’s fair to say that we took the time to listen to Canadians, to listen and talk to each other, and then to vote on what we believed was best in order to improve our MAID regime. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: It is very inspiring for me to see what we can accomplish when we work together.

The serious work that we did based on the law, solid evidence and compassion led us to propose a number of substantial amendments to the House of Commons. Today, we have before us the other place’s response to our proposals. I support that response, and I invite you to do the same, honourable colleagues.

As you will recall, from the beginning of the consideration of Bill C-7, Minister Lametti said he was open to possible Senate amendments. In public statements and in appearances before the Senate Legal Affairs Committee, the Minister of Justice, his colleagues and Senator Gold have always expressed a willingness to seriously consider our input into the study of this bill. Each of us here will of course have our own assessment and interpretation of the House’s message. Personally, I am quite satisfied, and I sincerely believe that the government has kept its promise to listen to us.

Although some of our amendments were modified and others were declined, I feel that this response is a “fair and principled compromise,” as Senator Gold put it.

The Minister of Justice didn’t initially provide for a sunset clause on this exclusion of mental illness as sole underlying condition and instead chose to wait for the findings of the parliamentary review of Bill C-14. The senators and witnesses in committee were convincing enough to make the government consider the potential constitutional issues that could arise from that exclusion if the bill were passed. Our suggestion was accepted and, in my humble opinion, was improved by the other place when it added that an independent expert panel will have one year to undertake a study and propose appropriate safeguards to ensure that this expanded access to MAID is measured and appropriate and that it will protect vulnerable Canadians.

I am in favour of this prudent approach, which respects the rights of individuals and which will ensure that this conversation on mental illness happens in our communities and in Parliament, and not in the courts. I want to share a quote from Mr. Virani, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice. He said the following:

Some witnesses said the exclusion of mental illness alone could perhaps give rise to a section 15 challenge. We are trying to ensure that Canadians who are concerned about this exclusion would have a remedy that is not via the court process, but rather through the task force of experts and the parliamentary study that would follow therefrom.

That seems like a good solution to me.

I would also like to highlight the contributions of Senator Tannas and Senator Boniface, whose amendments essentially launched the parliamentary review process required under Bill C-14. During our study of Bill C-7, many of us stressed the importance of that review and lamented the fact that it had not been undertaken as planned. I salute the government for not only accepting the Senate’s amendment but for amending it in such a way as to make it easier to implement. The amended version sets out the key issues the review will focus on, including issues listed in Bill C-14’s review provisions. It also details the allocation of the co-chairpersonship and MP membership in a minority government context, establishes quorum requirements that take into account the joint committee composition and suggests a reasonable timeline for completing the review. These amendments create the necessary conditions for the review to be undertaken as soon as possible.

The House added that, in addition to addressing the issue of mature minors, advance requests, mental illness and palliative care, the parliamentary review will also have to focus on protecting persons with disabilities. To me that is one of the most significant changes the House made to our message. This responds to the concerns of the groups who were calling for guarantees to ensure better protection for persons who might end up in a vulnerable situation.

The other aspect of this message that caught my attention is the change to our amendment on the oversight regime for MAID. Senator Jaffer’s proposal was expanded to collect and analyze information on Indigenous applicants and any disability as defined in the Accessible Canada Act, in addition to data on the applicants’ race. Honourable senators will recall that, under this legislation that was passed in 2019, disability means any impairment, including a physical, mental, intellectual, cognitive, learning, communication or sensory impairment — or a functional limitation — whether permanent, temporary or episodic in nature, or evident or not, that hinders a person’s full and equal participation in society.

Future reports will use comparable data on a national level that over time will help reveal trends in requests for and provision of MAID to Canadians with a disability —

(1800)

[English]

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Honourable senators, it is now six o’clock, and pursuant to rule 3-3(1) and the order adopted on October 27, 2020, I’m obliged to leave the chair until seven o’clock.

(The sitting of the Senate was suspended.)

(The sitting of the Senate was resumed.)

(1900)

[Translation]

Bill to Amend—Message from Commons—Motion for Non-Insistence Upon Senate Amendments and Concurrence in Commons Amendments—Debate Adjourned

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Gold, P.C., seconded by the Honourable Senator Boehm:

That, in relation to Bill C-7, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (medical assistance in dying), the Senate:

(a)do not insist on its amendments 1(a)(i), 1(a)(iii), 1(b) and 1(c), with which the House of Commons has disagreed;

(b)agree to the amendments made by the House of Commons to Senate amendment 2;

(c)agree to the amendment made by the House of Commons in consequence of Senate amendments 1(a)(ii) and 3; and

(d)agree to the amendments made by the House of Commons to Senate amendment 3; and

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

The Hon. the Speaker: Senator Petitclerc, you have six minutes.

Hon. Chantal Petitclerc: As I was saying, future reports will therefore use comparable data on a national level that over time will help reveal trends in requests for and provision of MAID to Canadians with disabilities, but more importantly, they will help inform our future discussions and choices about potential disability-based inequalities or disadvantages in Canada’s MAID regime.

[English]

This is in addition to an amendment in the other place at the committee stage, if you remember, requiring that the Minister of Health consult with the minister responsible for the status of persons with disabilities in carrying out her reporting obligations concerning the collection of information and production of reports.

Honourable senators, the combination of our message and the response we have before us today, in my view, is a good example of the collaborative work that can be done between both places. We are demonstrating that we can work very well together and deliver what Canadians need. Moreover, as the Supreme Court recalled in 2014, in the Reference on Senate Reform, one of the fundamental characteristics of the Senate is its complementary role in the legislative process. From the court, I quote from paragraph 56 of this decision:

The contrast between election for members of the House of Commons and executive appointment for Senators is not an accident of history. The framers of the Constitution Act, 1867 deliberately chose executive appointment of Senators in order to allow the Senate to play the specific role of a complementary legislative body of “sober second thought”.

I do believe that the work on Bill C-7 demonstrates this.

[Translation]

With respect to the two amendments that the other place did not accept, those pertaining to advance requests and the clarification of the definition of mental illness in the context of MAID, I don’t see this as a final rejection or a setback. I understand and support the government’s prudent approach. It’s inviting us to spend more time listening to what experts and Canadians think about these two issues during a more in-depth study.

Clearly, we need to have a conversation about advance requests. Even though support for advance requests is significant among Canadians and senators, including me, we agree that there are still some pieces missing.

During my speech on the debates relating to this amendment, I had an opportunity to talk about the Council of Canadian Academies’ conclusion that more time was needed and that adequate safeguards had to be adopted. The majority of experts, practitioners and stakeholders consulted during the government’s February 2020 round table agreed.

I am relieved to see that our vote on this bill will start the 30‑day countdown to the beginning of what is a necessary study of the complexities and details that must be carefully examined before proceeding with advance requests.

In my speech at second reading, I mentioned that this is not the first or the last conversation that we will have about MAID and that this conversation will never be an easy one. However, we once again managed to hold this conversation in a professional, empathetic and dignified way, and I thank you for that.

Honourable colleagues, it is with those who shared their stories, their suffering and their hopes with me in mind that I support this reasonable response from the other place. I encourage you to do the same so that we may pass Bill C-7.

The Hon. the Speaker: Senator Petitclerc, would you take a question?

Senator Petitclerc: Yes, with pleasure.

[English]

Hon. Scott Tannas: Senator Petitclerc, I note that in the changes that were made in the House of Commons that any reference to a requirement to reconstitute the committee in the case of an election or prorogation was removed. Especially given the current circumstances — the likelihood of an election and so on — do you have any idea why the government would want that requirement, or moral requirement, to quickly reconstitute the committee removed?

[Translation]

Senator Petitclerc: Thank you for the question, honourable colleague. I think that it is somewhat related to the question Senator Gold was asked earlier. No, I do not have any additional information, and I do not know the reason for that decision. That being said, I think that once the bill is passed and implemented, there could obviously be an election, a prorogation or some other event that is beyond our control, but I believe that the study would resume afterward as required by law.

[English]

Hon. Dennis Glen Patterson: Honourable senators, on September 11, 2019, the Quebec Superior Court ruled that the current assisted dying bill was unconstitutional and overly restrictive. On October 5, 2020, the Liberal government finally submitted a bill to address the ruling. In this chamber, we have held pre-studies and devoted long hours to committee study and debate in order to respect a court-imposed deadline. Even then, the deadline has been extended four times in an effort to give us a chance to legislate this properly.

If that story sounds familiar to you, it is because we faced similar issues with the passage of the original Bill C-14. That debate saw a Committee of the Whole struck, as well as a joint parliamentary committee that sought to expedite the passage of a bill that would transform the Canadian health system significantly.

However, with rushing sometimes comes mistakes. In 2016, former senator Joyal, a constitutional law expert, warned the chamber that the exclusion of Canadians suffering intolerably from non-terminal medical conditions would be considered unconstitutional. He wanted a Supreme Court reference tied to the passage of the bill in an effort to address that question. He was, unfortunately, voted down and we stand here now — five years later — as proof positive that his concerns were valid.

(1910)

This time around, we have expanded the scope of the bill to go beyond the original intent and the issues identified by the court, but again, we are rushing as we do it.

The inclusion of access to medical assistance in dying for those suffering mental illnesses in two years’ time is now a forgone conclusion. It will be happening. Over the course of the next two years, engagement sessions will not focus on if we should be doing this, but how we will implement the change.

You may wonder why I have been so indignant about the lack of consultation with the Inuit of Nunavut, or indeed the Aboriginal peoples of Canada, on Bill C-7. It’s because it’s the same movie over and over again — even with the same government, whose leader pledges that is there is no relationship more important than the one with Indigenous peoples. The government simply cannot seem to learn.

The pattern of ignoring Aboriginal voices in consultation showed itself in recent years in the last Parliament. The development of Bill C-45 displayed clear issues within the bill relating to Aboriginal peoples, such as, to name but a few, opportunities for a successful approach to cultivation on Indigenous lands and the sharing of excise tax revenues, as well as the need to consider scientific advice about known vulnerabilities and negative impacts of cannabis legislation on a proportion of Indigenous peoples, and how those impacts might be mitigated.

Despite these and other issues of importance to Aboriginal people, and despite the Crown’s clear obligation in the Nunavut Agreement to do so, there was no engagement with NTI Social Development Council. That omission and strong recommendations from the Standing Senate Committee on Aboriginal Peoples yielded a pledge from the government of the day, including concrete funding announcements to contribute capital, and operating and maintenance funds towards a Nunavut-based treatment centre, augmented by Inuit-led, community-based mental health programs based on successful models we already have seen in, for example, Pangnirtung, Clyde River and Cambridge Bay. I look forward to receiving the follow-up report from Minister Miller on this project, as was promised to the Aboriginal Peoples Committee when the bill passed.

There was yet another failure of engagement on impactful legislation during the so-called co-development process on the Indigenous Languages Act in the last Parliament, when Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, representing Inuit of Canada, withdrew from the co-development process for that legislation, citing concerns that the unique needs of the Inuit languages in Canada were overlooked and subordinated in the process.

The same flaw occurred with the Indigenous child welfare legislation, and now, here we are again. I’ve already stood in this chamber and decried the lack of consultation that has taken place on this bill. Since then, I’ve had an opportunity to receive the views on this issue from Isaksimagit Inuusirmi Katujjiqaatigiit Embrace Life Council, a non-profit suicide prevention organization based in Iqaluit, Nunavut. I was pleased to have received advice from Nunavummiut leaders engaged in suicide prevention about the potential impacts of this bill and the mental illness inclusion in a territory that has a disproportionate number of suicides amongst its predominantly Inuit population.

A special meeting with the board of directors led to clear recommendations. Firstly, the board reinforced the obligations of the Government of Canada under section R32.1.1 of the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement Act. They noted that this obligation would be fulfilled by: (a) providing Inuit with an opportunity to participate in the development of social and cultural policies, and in the design of social and cultural programs and services, including their method of delivery in the Nunavut Settlement Area; and (b) endeavouring to reflect Inuit goals and objectives where it puts in place such social and cultural policies, programs and services in the Nunavut Settlement Area. The board noted that Nunavummiut have yet to be consulted on this important issue.

The board of Embrace Life Council also noted the need for more data collection on mental illness in Nunavut to help make informed decisions as:

. . . mental illness has a significant impact on productivity, morbidity, and mortality in Nunavut. More data collection is required to inform methods to address the rate of suicide, enhance the quality of wellness service and educate Nunavummiut on the implications of Bill C-7.

I know I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: Nunavut does not have adequate mental health supports in place in its territory. Currently, those seeking addiction and mental health support are left underserved or are forced to leave the territory. This is not healthy, and some fear this could lead to situations where it is easier to choose to die than to choose to live. While many promises have been made, very few have been actioned.

When debating Bill C-45, the legalization of cannabis, I drew attention to this urgent call for a mental health and addiction treatment centre in Nunavut. The federal government committed to doing so as a solemn pledge made by ministers of the Crown to encourage passage of that bill. Yet despite several announcements and reassurances before the APPA committee, talks have stalled, and Nunavut seems to be no closer to a bricks-and-mortar treatment facility three years later.

On August 14, 2019, the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations made a formal apology to the Qikiqtani Inuit on behalf of the federal government, as a step toward healing the intergovernmental, intergenerational trauma resulting from forced relocations, dog slaughters and other discriminatory policies and practices. The apology was made in response to the Qikiqtani Truth Commission led by the regional Qikiqtani Inuit Association, whose report outlined a path forward and toward healing.

The report included three asks: a formal acknowledgment and apology, a memorandum of understanding to establish the Saimaqatigiingniq Fund and an announcement of Inuit industry and empowerment programs and initiatives.

The Saimaqatigiingniq Fund, which means a new relationship fund, is meant to allow:

. . . Canada and QIA to turn the page on the apology process and look toward the future well-being of Inuit with long-term support for core social and cultural programs as well as innovation and capacity development initiatives.

The programs referenced include crucial mental health and wellness supports. However, despite an initial advance of funding with a MOU for additional financial support, no additional monies have flowed.

Honourable senators, allow me to take this opportunity to shine a light on the mental health crisis in Nunavut, which sadly leads the nation in suicide rates; 10 times the national average. We know a lot about mental illness because there’s virtually no one who has not been touched by suicide in Nunavut.

As long as the promises I’ve referred to remain unfilled, Nunavut Inuit will not have access to crucial mental health supports. I would strongly urge the government to ensure that the funding programs and building are in place within the next two years. This should happen while simultaneously engaging Nunavummiut to ensure that their advice is sought prior to this section of the act coming into force.

Honourable senators, I had frankly wanted to make an amendment to the message to ensure that the consultation obligations under the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement Act were met, but I was told that at the message stage such an amendment would be found out of order. As such, I can only put on the record my concerns, and the concerns I have heard from those across Nunavut.

In their letter to me, the Embrace Life Council stated:

You are empowered with the capacity and privilege to make a difference. We urge you to take the necessary steps so that Inuit in Nunavut have an opportunity to contribute an informed opinion toward the third amendment under Bill C-7.

I take that charge very seriously, as I know you, my colleagues, do as well. I hope that those leading the discussions over the next two years will reach out to and embrace advice from the Inuit of Nunavut on the implementation of the bill in Nunavut. It will also be necessary, in the years leading up to implementation, that those in charge of ensuring Nunavut receives its promised supports in mental health deliver on those promises. We will be vigilant. Qujannamiik. Thank you.

(1920)

Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.

Hon. Pamela Wallin: I rise to speak to the message from the House of Commons on Bill C-7. I want to thank the Government Representative for his kind words about my work on advance directives. And while I am grateful for small mercies, in that the house agreed to accept part of the amendments offered and endorsed overwhelmingly by this chamber, and while it is progress that Audrey’s amendment will become law, it is, in my view, a hard-fought inch in the right direction when we needed a mile.

I am saddened and profoundly disappointed that the government chose to reject the amendment to allow for advance requests, and I think it was a constructive in-scope amendment.

I stand by the belief that consenting to an advance request is not a privilege but a right. It is certainly not a controversial part of MAID as the polls attest: Canadians want this right and they want this choice.

The government’s response is not the best we can do as lawmakers. If the government will not heed the advice of this chamber, then please, at least follow the wishes of those who elected you.

In the time since the Senate sent back its Bill C-7 amendments to the house, an Ipsos Canada poll on MAID confirmed what we already know: an overwhelming majority of Canadians support advance requests for medical assistance in dying — some 87%, in fact. As the public becomes increasingly aware and educated on some of the more complex issues surrounding MAID, such as mental illness and mature minors, still, over 80% continue to support advance requests, notably, even higher for cases of dementia and Alzheimer’s. It’s what people want. For far too many, this feels like a rejection of them by their government.

We have yet to hear real commitment from this government to bring something very specific forward on advance requests — even an acknowledgment or a promise. Instead, we hear that the issue is important but it was far too complex to have been dealt with in Bill C-7.

Now we wait. I hope that within 30 days this committee is struck, and that when it comes to advance directives it will be readied for implementation. I hope as well that we do not see the delays we have seen over so many years. The time is now.

We have already waited for more review, consultation and analysis, and we will wait again for parliaments to dissolve or elections to be held or pandemics to ebb and flow. In the meantime, thousands will die unnecessary deaths or live too long in pain because we could not do what the Supreme Court of Canada said we should and what people have begged us to do. We know we have the constitutional right: the Charter says so.

How many more years of anguish, fear and disqualification for those who have or who are expecting a diagnosis of dementia? What will it take to satisfy those who want more time to study and review? For people like 81-year-old Ron Posno and countless others who have reached out to me directly, they are simply running out of time. For Ron, he will now have to accept living a life that will end without dignity. He knows his death will come sometime in a future when he has long since lost any control or awareness.

There are those who argue that the system now will eventually allow for MAID for those with dementia or Alzheimer’s, but only once they have reached a place where they no longer know, when it’s too late to leave in the company of friends and family, to leave while able to say a proper goodbye. It defeats the whole point.

For Ron and thousands like him, because of their age and their diagnosis, they are still denied the same right as those suffering from cancer or ALS or other illnesses that rob people of dignity and movement and intellect, and instead fill them with pain. They have been forever denied having some sense of autonomy in both life and death.

With the tragedy in long-term care homes, both before and certainly during the pandemic, with a lack of rural access to health care and now a rejection of their pleas for advance requests, it is alarmingly clear that in so many ways we continue to let down the greatest generation. They fought wars, survived depression and now, in their final years, we deny them dignity.

We only need remember the debates in this chamber and the personal stories of many of our colleagues to show how little we, as a society, seem to value our elders. How much longer are we going to let them down? Will we let inaction spill over into the next generation, our generation — to many of us in this chamber?

Perhaps those who chose to deny the right to advance requests have just not lived it yet. Perhaps they have not locked their loved ones behind closed doors or restrained them by tying their frail arms to a bedrail. Perhaps they have not cleaned up the sickening messes or looked into the vacant, fear-filled eyes of a parent as you try to force feed them, prying their mouths open because their body has forgotten how to do these very basic things. To what end? They’re not hungry. They do not know you, where they are or who they once were. Tapping their toes to music is not living.

Our job, and the job of government, is not just to make the easy decisions but to make the difficult ones. Fear of the single-issue voter ought not mean shutting out the will of an overwhelming majority on the issue of advance requests.

I appreciate that this issue is complicated, but if that is our excuse for not taking on the difficult issues there would be no medicare in this country, no railways, no computers, no heart surgery and no vaccines.

It’s time to lead. Hell, it’s even time to follow. It is long past time to do something. I hope we do. Thank you, colleagues.

Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.

Hon. Peter Harder: I’d like to briefly make comments with respect to the motion on the message we have received from the other place with respect to Bill C-7, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (medical assistance in dying).

Let me begin by thanking those who helped shape the Senate’s consideration of this bill, the contributions of many senators, both those in particular on the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs led by Senator Jaffer, and the sponsor of this legislation, Senator Petitclerc, whose dedication and tireless leadership have been an inspiration to us all.

In addition, I would like to thank all senators who participated in earlier debates and moved various amendments, some of which are now seeing themselves reflected in the message back. Finally, I would like to thank Senator Gold. I understand somewhat the task he has as the Government Representative in the Senate. He has done an outstanding job of being the representative of the Senate to the government in respect of this piece of legislation and the views of the Senate, as passed in its amendments, and ensured their appropriate consideration by the government.

Bill C-7 has been a deeply challenging bill for every one of us, whatever our personal conviction. I know that each of us feels the weight of responsibility we carry as parliamentarians. This speaks to the profound issues that we as human beings face in life, for death is a destiny we all share.

During our extensive deliberations, we’ve faced the power of reason and argument; we’ve also faced the power of emotion and our own personal stories. Indeed, we’ve been challenged with soul-searching that such a piece of legislation demands. As legislators, we understand the situation that we now face with a message from the other place.

Colleagues, I believe that the Senate has done its work. We have, through our deliberations and the work of the Senate, triggered an impassioned and gripping public debate.

(1930)

We have, through our amendments, I believe, improved the bill to a great degree and provoked in the other chamber yet another debate of reflection and, in the broader public, a debate with respect to the amendments we have made. This is not the work of either an illegitimate institution, as some would have us believe, or a rubber stamp. This is the role of the Senate: to provoke, to inquire, to make recommendations for improvements, to urge the government and the House of Commons to consider our amendments and our reflections.

The role of the House of Commons and the government is to consider the recommendations we have made and to take seriously the amendments and views of the Senate.

I believe they have done that in a respectful fashion and through meaningful engagement. They have sought an accommodation with the amendments that have been brought forward by this place. That is their role. They are the representatives of the people, and the government will be held accountable. This must be so because democratic accountability for public policy making flows through the other chamber.

Some, like Professor Andrew Heard of Simon Fraser University, would argue:

If the Senate’s principal task in legislative review is to provide sober second thought, then that role appears fulfilled with the Commons’ initial response to Senate amendments. . . . The alternative is to unnecessarily pit the wishes of elected MPs against appointed Senators, with the Senate appearing to be an obstacle rather than a complement to the elected chamber.

Colleagues, the Senate’s debate on medical assistance in dying is a blueprint for the appropriate discharge of the Senate’s role as a complementary body of sober second thought. We can be proud as an institution that the bill is widely viewed as having been improved due to the amendments that have been accepted in the other place, while the basic integrity of the bill remains.

The government, the House of Commons and Canadians have benefited from the sober second thought of this chamber. We are now in a constructive institutional dialogue between an elected and an appointed chamber. As a legislative body designed to provide a complementary review of government bills before they become the law of the land and a counterweight to majoritarianism in the other place, the Senate plays an important role in our federal bicameral parliamentary system. However, robust bicameralism that is respectful of the democratic expression, particularly in a minority House of Commons, has its limits.

The Senate is an advisory body, not a politically accountable body. We are here to advise, amend and improve the legislation that is given to us, but we are not here to obstruct. The political accountability goes through the other chamber. I respectfully submit that it is by concurring with the message of the other place — and not by insisting on further amendments — that we have appropriately and usefully fulfilled our role as the complementary body of sober second thought.

Our former Senate colleague Senator Tkachuk understood that, in the end, the right to govern is for those who are elected to govern by the people of the country. Five years ago, in the passionate speech he gave on the House of Commons message to Bill C-14 — and remember, he opposed this legislation — he said:

We cannot — and I will not — thwart the will of the elected members of Parliament. We have done our job, and although it breaks my heart, I am going to continue to do my duty by voting for this bill in the form that it has been sent back to us by the people’s representatives.

In the end, colleagues, the Senate acts neither as a rubber stamp nor as a rival to the people’s representatives, precisely as the Founding Fathers had intended and — most importantly — where Canadians expect us to be.

I would therefore ask you to support this message before us and concur in the decision of the other place. Thank you.

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, I rise today to speak to Bill C-7 and the message received from the House of Commons.

Senators, during COVID times we are all working under very difficult circumstances, especially our staff and the Senate staff who are working under even tougher conditions.

The Legal Committee was formed on November 18, 2020, and on November 19 I received a call from the leader of the Senate, Senator Gold, that the leaders had agreed that the Legal Committee could start a pre-study of Bill C-7 on November 23, a few days later. This was a very short timeline.

Today I want to acknowledge the support that Blair Armitage, Clerk Assistant, Committees, and Shaila Anwar, Principal Clerk, Committees, gave to our committee. They put together all the staff and the resources that they could for us to carry out our work, and I thank them for that.

The clerk of the committee, Mark Palmer, did a yeoman’s job of organizing 81 witnesses with a few days’ notice to be heard in five days.

Later, on February 1, 2 and 3, we heard from 66 witnesses.

I would like to acknowledge the hard work of our clerk, Mark Palmer, whose dedication and commitment were crucial as he successfully managed our work. I would also like to thank our clerks and administrative staff, this team of hardworking devoted members who worked silently behind the scenes to facilitate our work. We could not have done our work without the continual assistance of Joëlle Nadeau, Evelyne Cote, Maritza Jean-Pierre, Lori Meldrum, Debbie Larocque, Brigitte Martineau and Elda Donnelly.

I also want to thank Heather Lank, Parliamentary Librarian, and her staff for giving us tremendous support.

We had two amazing analysts, Julian Walker and Michaela Keenan-Pelletier, who produced not one but two reports besides supporting us on the study of Bill C-7. Our analysts prepared two reports capturing everything we heard during the sessions and assisted us with the background analysis and ideas to help us navigate this critical and sensitive legislation.

Many others have helped, and I sincerely apologize if I have missed anyone, and I express my absolute gratitude.

Senators, I want to thank the interpreters in particular. This was a very difficult study for us. Imagine how much harder it was for the interpreters. And not only that, but we, as you know, senators, made available many witnesses who had challenges. When some witnesses showed up to testify, there were challenges. It is amazing how the interpreters would not let them leave. They worked hard with them so we senators could hear from all witnesses who wanted to testify. I have really learned a very important lesson: Our interpreters are exceptional, and COVID is making it very difficult, but they continue to work with us. I thank them for that.

I also want to thank the members of the Legal and Constitutional Affairs steering committee — Senator Batters, Senator Campbell and Senator Dalphond — for tirelessly working on this bill, dealing with a very heavy schedule during the limiting circumstances of a pandemic lockdown and trying to meet a tough deadline. Thank you, honourable senators.

A big thank you goes to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee members and all senators for diligently studying this bill.

I also want to thank the sponsor of the bill, Senator Petitclerc, and the critic, Senator Carignan.

(1940)

Senators, thank you for all the support you gave to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee. I believe that these are tough issues in front of us, and we have all worked in the best way we can to serve Canadians because we know what this bill is about. It is about suffering and about death.

In her letter to us, which we all received, Janet Hopkins asked: “What is considered an acceptable amount of suffering?”

Immediately, the words of Jason LeBlanc came to mind. Mr. LeBlanc is a caretaker of his common-law partner who is a MAID applicant. At the hearings, he said that:

This . . . decision . . . is not made by your doctor, your caregiver, your family or your government. The concept of assisted death is about Canadians being able to grant themselves an end to suffering that they deem to be intolerable.

We all know, senators, that MAID is a complicated topic with very real consequences on the lives of the most vulnerable Canadians. It intersects with health care, palliative care, mental illness, systemic racism, access to social services and, most of all, the right of a person to take ownership of how they live and how they die.

As Ms. Hopkins told us: “It’s not that we want to die, it is that the pain has taken away the will to live.”

Bearing such pain in mind directed our committee study on Bill C-7. We heard from witnesses who were affected Canadians, leading university professors, medical practitioners, psychiatrists, legal experts and non-governmental agencies. In February, as I’ve already said, we heard from another 66 witnesses and received tens of thousands of submissions. With the help of our analysts, the committee produced two reports over the course of our studies.

In our studies, senators, we realized that one aspect that was overlooked in the bill might affect racialized Canadians. Sarah Jama, in her strong testimony at the committee, told us: “These priorities do not line up with the realities of classism, racism and ableism in our country.”

Ms. Jama was justified in assuming this as we came to learn when we received the government’s Gender-based Analysis Plus. The GBA+ should include a race-based analysis but, unfortunately, this GBA did not. The reason was, as Justice Minister Lametti explained, that there was not sufficient disaggregated data.

I have to admit that I was left wondering how legislators and parliamentarians are supposed to take informed decisions and ensure that correct, meaningful policies are put in place without any data. How are we to solve our problems and prevent them from festering without any information? So I moved an amendment to include the collection of race-based data.

Honourable senators, I want to thank the minister for supporting my amendment and echoing our call for systemic collection and analysis of data on the race of all people who request and receive MAID.

Many of you know that I was very hesitant to expand the amendment. We had many discussions about this because I was worried that if I added any other group this amendment would fail. So I did not want to expand the amendment beyond the collection of race-based data as I was not sure that the government would accept it. That said, I was extremely overjoyed that the government, and especially Minister Lametti, took the important next step and made this amendment richer by adding the data collection respecting Indigenous identity and disability of all people who request and receive MAID.

I commend the statement by Minister Lametti’s Parliamentary Secretary in his speech announcing the government’s expansion of my amendment. In it, he explains the inclusion of Indigenous identity and disability as well as race:

This, of course, is important, especially and specifically as we broaden the MAID regime to circumstances where death is not reasonably foreseeable, in response to the Truchon decision, which creates the real possibility that people will seek and obtain MAID because of vulnerabilities in their lives as opposed to their health conditions. I am grateful to the Senate for proposing this important legislative change.

This amendment to Bill C-7 ensures the race, Indigenous identity and disability data collection of all people who request and receive MAID. In doing so, it also ensures that all parliamentarians know exactly who is being impacted by the expansion of the MAID regime.

Honourable senators, I have to share something with you. When I moved this amendment, I did not think that this amendment would pass, but the tremendous support that I have received from all of you — and I mean all of you — has truly humbled me. I feel that we are one body that truly looks after the most vulnerable. I salute you and I thank you. I very much appreciate the support you gave. Thank you very much.

[Translation]

Hon. Claude Carignan: Honourable colleagues, I rise today to speak to the message from the House of Commons on the Senate amendments to Bill C-7. More specifically, my speech will be on my disagreement with the members’ collective response, as contained in this message, to the amendments of Senators Dalphond, Kutcher and Wallin.

I will begin by commenting on the House of Commons’ rejection of Senator Wallin’s amendment, which authorizes a patient to give advance consent to medical assistance in dying when their natural death is not reasonably foreseeable.

It saddens me to think that the government’s inaction on the issue of advance consent for persons suffering from Alzheimer’s disease may have serious consequences in the months and years to come. I am thinking about people who, at the time of their diagnosis, are able to consent to, receive or refuse medical care, but whose natural death is not reasonably foreseeable.

I am obviously not saying that every person with this disease would like to receive MAID. Nonetheless, some of them would like to have the option.

Because people with Alzheimer’s don’t have the right to give advance consent to MAID if their natural death is not reasonably foreseeable, I worry that some may choose to end their lives before their illness gets so bad that they lose the ability to choose death with dignity. I remind senators that people at an advanced stage of this terrible disease may lose all autonomy and generally become unable to recognize their loved ones.

As we know, the federal government did not meet the legal obligation set out in Bill C-14 to initiate a parliamentary review in June 2020 of some issues associated with MAID, including the complex issue of advance requests for MAID. The government’s current position is that advance requests in cases of dementia are complicated and that it needs more time to study them.

Do you really think this answer is reassuring to people who have recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and who would want to access MAID once their disease reaches an advanced stage?

When Bill C-14 was being studied more than four years ago, the federal government promised Canadians with illnesses that it would study the complicated issues surrounding advance requests in the case of dementia. On May 2, 2016, the federal health minister at the time, the Honourable Jane Philpott, said the following:

[English]

I think that on the matter of things like dementia, for instance, one of the real challenges — and you’ve heard me speak to this repeatedly — is that people fear the loss of dignity that happens. They fear that they will get into a position where they will be a burden on their families or where they won’t be able to care for themselves. To me, one of the things, in addition to the fact that we’re going to study this in an ongoing way and we’re absolutely committed to that, is that we need to do better at caring for people with dementia, for example.

(1950)

[Translation]

Since that statement in 2016, how many Alzheimer’s patients have lost their capacity to consent and have not qualified for MAID because their natural death was not reasonably foreseeable? The government’s delay in taking action and conducting a parliamentary review has had an impact on these individuals and their loved ones, as well as on those who will be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2021. I am outraged and disturbed by this inaction.

I hope that the committee that will be formed to conduct the parliamentary review will examine the work that the Quebec government has done on the issue of advance consent. I am thinking, for example, of the 2019 report on MAID for persons who have lost the capacity to consent that was released by the expert panel established by the Quebec government.

With that report, the joint committee’s 2016 report, the Council of Canadian Academies’ impressive report on advance requests, and the forthcoming report based on the parliamentary review of Bills C-14 and C-7, I see no reason the federal government can’t quickly introduce a new bill that would allow advance requests for MAID in cases where natural death is not reasonably foreseeable.

Now let’s talk about the House of Commons’ rejection of Senator Dalphond’s amendment, which clarified that neurocognitive disorders, such as Alzheimer’s and other diseases that cause dementia, would not be considered mental illnesses within the meaning of this bill. This amendment would have made it so that a person whose only health issue is a neurocognitive disorder could not be denied the right to MAID.

My thought process here is based on the writings of professor emeritus Pierre-André Côté. In paragraph 1594 of his 2009 treatise on the interpretation of legislation, he explains that an amendment adopted by Parliament as a whole is often a clear indication of legislative intent. I wanted to mention this interpretation principle because I believe that, if the Senate agrees to the Bill C-7 amendments proposed by the House of Commons, judges and doctors interpreting the MAID legislation will conclude that the decision by Parliament as a whole not to specify that a neurocognitive disorder isn’t a mental illness in the Criminal Code is an unclear indication of the legislative intent.

It is true that a document from the Department of Justice and certain statements that officials from that department made before the Senate committee may support the interpretation that a neurocognitive disorder does not constitute a mental illness within the meaning of the act. The document in question is entitled Legislative Background: Bill C-7: Government of Canada’s Legislative Response to the Superior Court of Québec Truchon Decision.

However, something that Minister Lametti said recently in the other place stood out to me, specifically, that this type of government document, which provides information about bills, does not constitute a legal opinion. I want to quote his February 1 testimony regarding the Charter Statement on Bill C-7, which was issued by the Department of Justice. He said, and I quote:

Charter statements are not legal opinions. Their purpose instead is to provide the public and Parliament with legal information on the potential effects of a bill on Charter rights as well as considerations that support a bill’s consistency with the Charter.

Although it is not a legal opinion, I want to emphasize that the government’s legislative background document on Bill C-7 states rather clearly that the definition of mental illness set out in the bill does not include neurocognitive disorders.

Despite this, I don’t see how this government document can provide adequate assurances to patients with neurocognitive disorders that they will be able to request MAID if they meet the other conditions set out in the law. It will also be impossible to confirm the state of the law for doctors called upon to administer MAID to patients with neurocognitive disorders.

I am concerned because, during our study of Bill C-7, Parliament heard from witnesses and senators that the term “mental illness” is not well defined and, more specifically, it is unclear whether neurocognitive disorders are or are not included in that term. I wish to quote our knowledgeable colleague, Senator Kutcher, who said the following in this chamber on February 9, 2021:

[English]

Persons with neurocognitive disorders, such as dementias, could be denied assessment for MAID. International diagnostic systems such as the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual and the International Classification of Diseases consider these to be mental disorders, and persons with them are frequently treated by a health care team of which psychiatrists are often in the role of the most responsible physician.

[Translation]

If the Senate agrees to adopt the proposal from the House of Commons, the collective response of Parliament will be to refuse to specify in the legislation that a neurocognitive disorder is not a mental illness.

That way, no one can say that the content of the government document proposing an interpretation of the term “mental illness” that excludes neurocognitive disorders would prevail over the legislator’s deliberate decision to not specify it in the legislation.

Is it conceivable that doctors might deny medical assistance in dying to persons with a neurocognitive disorder out of fear that providing MAID would constitute a criminal offence of assisted suicide under Bill C-7?

I am deeply concerned about this situation, and that is why I disagree with the other place’s refusal to pass Senator Dalphond’s amendment.

I would like to raise one last point, namely the response of the other place to the Senate amendment on excluding the right to MAID when mental illness is the sole underlying condition. I supported this amendment proposed by Senator Kutcher, who suggested that this exclusion apply only for 18 months, but MPs are now proposing that we extend that period to 24 months. I disagree with that idea for two reasons.

First, the president of the Association des médecins psychiatres du Québec told the Senate committee on February 3 that a 12‑month period would be an appropriate amount of time. Professor Jocelyn Downie, from the Health Law Institute at Dalhousie University, said the same thing when she appeared on November 24, 2020.

Second, if the exclusion period is expanded to 24 months, patients whose suffering is intolerable and irremediable will once again have to challenge the constitutionality of the exclusion. In the earlier stages of the bill, I explained why I thought this exclusion, no matter how long it was for, was a violation of the Canadian Charter. I share the concerns Senator Boisvenu expressed on December 16, 2020, that in the near future, the Senate would end up right where we are now, having to study a MAID bill in response to a ruling that has declared a section of this law unconstitutional. I expressed this same concern in my last speech on Bill C-14 back on June 17, 2016, and yet this sadly keeps happening again and again.

Once again, patients who are seriously ill will have to take on the burden of challenging a provision that denies them access to MAID because it violates the Charter.

(2000)

My speech today has something else in common with the one I gave during the study of Bill C-14. Like in 2016, I want to conclude my remarks by expressing how proud I am of the work accomplished in this chamber and to recognize that, even though senators, including some from my own caucus, defended different positions, the debates took place in a calm and respectful manner.

I also want to recognize the commitment and respect demonstrated by the witnesses who, throughout the study of Bill C-7, shared their ideas on issues as sensitive as medical assistance in dying with intelligence and wisdom. Their opinions elevated the quality of debate and our collective reflection on this subject that is so important to all Canadians, particularly those who are seriously ill or who have severe disabilities.

Honourable senators, I believe that we should exercise our constitutional role, stop letting the courts decide limits and rationales in a free and democratic society, and do what we need to do to establish the legal framework, rather than delegating that power to the courts and allowing them to dictate the framework for us.

Honourable senators, I thank you for your attention, and I encourage you to vote against the message from the House of Commons.

The Hon. the Speaker: Senator Carignan, will you take a question?

Senator Carignan: Yes, with pleasure.

The Hon. the Speaker: Your time has expired. Are you asking for five more minutes?

Senator Carignan: Yes, if possible.

An Hon. Senator: No.

The Hon. the Speaker: I’m sorry, senator, but leave is not granted.

[English]

Hon. Pierre J. Dalphond: Honourable senators, we are asked today by Senator Gold, the Government Representative in the Senate, to accept the response of the other place to the amendments proposed by the Senate to Bill C-7 and to conclude this legislative process to broaden access to MAID by removing the criterion of reasonably foreseeable natural death.

Today I rise, proud of the work of this house. As you all know, this place has done a thorough review of the bill and all related concerns. In doing so, we have devoted 8 full days in committee to listen to witnesses and 10 sitting days in this chamber to debate issues and to propose and vote on amendments.

Debates in this chamber were structured and generally reflective of serious consideration of the issues at stake. No surprise, the Senate’s work has received national media coverage and social media attention. We also received hundreds of emails and briefs from stakeholders, organizations and Canadians.

Through the whole process, we have shown to Canadians that the Senate is made of members that take time to analyze the details of important bills and, at the end of the process, enjoy the freedom to propose amendments to improve such a bill while respecting its scope and purpose.

Our proposed amendments were duly considered by the government and by a majority of MPs in the other place. Those deliberations resulted in the revised Bill C-7, now back to us for a final and last consideration.

It is unfortunate that some MPs have refused to consider the Senate amendments because they originated in what they describe as an “illegitimate” institution. Colleagues, allow me to briefly comment on this assertion.

How should we define legitimacy? Where do we find the source of legitimacy? Can we say that an MP elected with 25% of the votes cast in a riding is illegitimate? Can we say that a government made up of members of a party that has received fewer votes than the official opposition is illegitimate? Can we say that a prime minister chosen by a political party and not by a majority of Canadians is illegitimate?

I’ll venture to say that in a constitutional democracy like ours, legitimacy rests with the people and in the constitutional documents that they have agreed to directly or through their representatives.

In Canada, our current written Constitution has not been forced upon us by a foreign king or government. It comprises a series of documents that were negotiated and drafted by representatives of this country in 1864 and thereafter, including the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. These documents are not only legally binding documents but our “basic norms,” to use philosopher Hans Kelsen’s terminology.

The Senate exists because the drafters of the Constitution Act, 1867, and subsequent changes devoted substantial effort to design an upper house as a necessary part of the federal Parliament. The Senate is not only a legally valid chamber of Parliament but an institution as legitimate as the courts, including the Supreme Court of Canada, the provincial and federal governments and the House of Commons.

Of course, each institution, be it the Supreme Court, a government, a legislature or the Senate remains legitimate only insofar as it does not overreach its powers and its mission.

The Senate’s legitimacy rests on its role as defined in our constitutional documents. The drafters of our Constitution have designed a Senate composed of individuals of a certain age residing in the different regions of this country, appointed until they reach the age of 75, to bring to the legislative process a perspective different from those of MPs, elected mostly as members of political parties.

As said by these drafters in their speeches and as reflected in our constitutional documents, the Senate, though called the upper house of Parliament, is not superior in power or authority to the House of Commons, and it does not pretend to be. It is, rather, designed to play a complementary and ultimately differential role to a House of Commons made up of MPs regularly elected by the people. Thus, the famous description of the Senate as the place of sober second — I repeat, second — thought.

[Translation]

With respect to Bill C-7, we fulfilled that role by proposing five amendments to the House of Commons that are essentially based on compassion, as Bloc Québécois leader Yves-François Blanchet said in his comments before the parliamentary press gallery. In response to our proposals, the government decided to move amendments that either respond to them or propose mechanisms to respond quickly. This government response has been considered, debated and accepted by a majority of the members of the House of Commons from several political parties. As a result, we have a better bill before us today.

The government and a majority of MPs also committed to work closely with us to establish a special joint committee in the near future to review the experience to date with MAID, to make proposals on advance directives and on access to MAID by mature minors, and to examine the report of a panel of experts mandated to propose protocols and safeguards relating to access to MAID where a patient’s enduring and intolerable suffering is solely the result of a mental disorder.

The 24-month timeframe is reasonable given that, if amendments are needed to regulate access to medical assistance in dying following the reports of the expert panel and special committee, it will be possible to make them even if an election is held in the meantime.

We must now decide whether, under rule 16-3(2), we want to insist on our amendments as proposed or state that we are satisfied with the revised bill that was sent back to us. In my opinion, as I said in June 2018 when we debated the legislation on cannabis, a response from the House of Commons to the proposed Senate amendments demands deference since, at the end of the day, the elected members are the ones who are accountable to the public with regard to this bill.

(2010)

[English]

Honourable senators, I submit for your consideration that the Senate should disregard the House of Commons’ response to our proposed amendments only under very specific circumstances and never based on political opinions about the rightness of the policy objective in the contemplated bill as defined by a majority of members in the other place. That could possibly be done at second reading of a bill, but we are long past that now.

At this stage, we have reached a point where we are not speaking about the content of the bill but the nature of the relationship we would like to establish between this house and the other house in a manner that preserves our legitimacy. In other words, we must define the relationship with the other place, respectful of the constitutional design without overreaching.

Honourable colleagues, I propose that we adopt, at this stage of the legislative process, a principle-based approach relying on objective criteria and not on political, economic, sociological, religious, personal or other views.

In June 2018, I said at a similar stage of the debate on the Cannabis Act that we must conduct a contextual analysis using certain objective criteria that I outlined, and certainly other criteria. I will only go over them briefly today. These are inspired by previous statements by members of this chamber, current and past, as well as written texts by learned authors, such as Professor Emeritus Paul Thomas of the University of Manitoba.

First, if the response is accepted, will it result in legislation that violates the Constitution or the Charter of Rights? For me, the revised bill is no longer an unjustifiable breach under section 1 of the Charter of the equality rights of those suffering from a mental disorder. If, for you, the answer is unclear, I suggest that the task of answering that question be left to the courts.

Second, is the purpose of the bill an election campaign issue for the government? Or is it instead an extremely controversial issue for which voters did not give the government a mandate? As we all know, the origin of this bill is a decision made publicly by the Prime Minister and the Attorney General during the last general election, not to appeal the judgment of the Quebec Superior Court and instead to propose a bill implementing the judgment.

In addition, polls show that over 70% of Canadians surveyed support the principle of broadening access to MAID.

Third, does the evidence provided to both houses unequivocally and unambiguously show that the message, if accepted, will result in a bill fundamentally defective in part or in whole? Clearly, the bill as amended, pursuant to the message, is not of that nature. To the contrary, it addresses fundamental flaws related to the blanket exclusion of mental illness and the scope of the definition of “mental illness.”

Fourth, does the response show the majority is abusing one or more minorities, showing contempt for some fundamental rights or demonstrating favouritism for one region at the expense of another? Clearly, the bill, as amended in the response, is indicative of a willingness to allow access to MAID to all, without discrimination based on prohibited grounds such as mental disorders.

In saying that, I am mindful of the concerns raised by national disability rights organizations who have made their case for more resources to ensure the right to live in dignity. These concerns have been echoed by some UN Special Rapporteurs and should be further examined.

There’s no doubt that more can be done in terms of improving our health care system and better understanding the social determinants of health, but these arguments must never be used as grounds to deny other Canadians of their constitutional right to autonomy, including the right to die with dignity if they so wish.

Fifth, does the House of Commons response reject Senate amendments designed to prevent unforeseeable and irreparable damage to the national interest? Clearly, the bill and the message received today does not support such a conclusion.

For these reasons, honourable senators, I invite you to vote in favour of the House of Commons message. I want to add that to do otherwise will be an illegitimate overreach demonstrating that the Senate does not understand its true role.

For these reasons, I repeat, we should accept the motion as proposed by Senator Gold. Thank you, meegwetch.

Hon. Donna Dasko: Honourable senators, I rise today to speak to the message from the other place on Bill C-7. I want to start by acknowledging the very important work that was done in this chamber to build upon the work of the government and the other place and to contribute to the improved legislation before us today. I am very pleased that the government has chosen to accept so much of our work.

I am encouraged that the government has accepted the inclusion of those with mental illness in the framework for medical assistance in dying. The longer sunset clause is entirely acceptable. As articulated by Senator Kutcher and others, the sunset clause will give experts the time they need to determine the appropriate safeguards for incorporating those with mental illness into the MAID process.

I am disappointed that Senator Wallin’s amendment with respect to advance requests was not supported by the government. However, I do see value in studying advance planning further so as to ensure that safeguards are in place. We know that the broadening of MAID to include advance requests is supported by Canadians, as Senator Wallin has so clearly said this evening, and I sincerely hope that we can find a way to go forward with this in the future.

The proposed joint parliamentary committee on medical assistance in dying is the right mechanism to examine this issue and others. The amendment establishing this committee, which originated here with Senator Tannas, will ensure that Canadians’ voices are heard and that scrutiny is provided to these important life and death issues.

As I said when I spoke at third reading, Bill C-7 is a point on an arc. It is still a work in progress, and this committee will look at how we improve this legislation down the road.

Honourable senators, I support the message sent to us by the other place, and I will vote to adopt the message. However, I would like to take just a few minutes here to discuss one aspect of this message: Senator Jaffer’s amendment to require the collection of race-based data as part of the MAID data collection regime and the government’s subsequent expansion of the requirement before us today.

In its reply, the government not only supported the spirit and content of Senator Jaffer’s forward-looking amendment, but also expanded the amendment in key areas. The government modified the language of the amendment to restore the provision that data collection authorized in the bill is to be used for the purpose of monitoring medical assistance in dying.

Second, the government expanded the scope of the amendment to include collection of Indigenous identity information as well as race for those applying for or receiving MAID. This was a necessary and welcome expansion because, in data collection, race and Indigenous status are separate demographic markers.

Third, the government further expanded data collection by including the collection of disability status information, as defined by section 2 of the Accessible Canada Act for those applying for or receiving MAID.

As we know, colleagues, much concern was expressed by the disability community with respect to the MAID legislation and its possible negative impacts. This expanded data collection will ensure that we will have the information we need to be able to understand, on an ongoing basis, how MAID will impact those who live with disabilities.

Finally, while the government maintained the spirit of Senator Jaffer’s amendments, it broadened the explanatory clause.

Honourable senators, this is a welcome expansion of data collection that will help answer some vital questions that have been raised in this chamber and elsewhere about MAID. However, I want to express my concerns, and those concerns are what is missing from these amendments. Simply put, three measures are missing: age, gender and socio-economic status.

We need to analyze gender inequalities and age inequalities in medical assistance in dying. We need to have these measures to examine intersectionality as well. Let us think back to the significant discussions we have had about vulnerable populations and how they might be disproportionately negatively affected by this expansion of MAID.

(2020)

The only way that we can fully understand the impacts on vulnerable people is to determine the socio-economic status of those who apply for or receive MAID. We owe this analysis to the many who have expressed grave concerns about the impacts of MAID; we owe it to them to make sure we do this analysis.

I have four words: age, gender and socio-economic status. Why were they not included in this legislation? Four words — I know exactly where they would go. I could put them in this moment. It would have been so easy to put those four words right in there; very easy. Without guaranteeing these measures, we are left guessing about whether we can ever accomplish the investigations that are needed.

Colleagues, I have asked Minister Lametti about these issues, and in a written response, he referred me to speak with Minister Hajdu. As of this moment, I look forward to her reply. I will continue to pursue this issue after the legislation is passed and as the joint committee takes up its work.

In conclusion, I will support this message. The amended legislation is truly the very best way for us to move the agenda forward with a MAID regime that I believe has the support of Canadians.

Thank you. Meegwetch.

Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.

(On motion of Senator Plett, debate adjourned.)

Canada—United Kingdom Trade Continuity Agreement Implementation Bill

Second Reading—Debate Adjourned

Hon. Peter Harder moved second reading of Bill C-18, An Act to implement the Agreement on Trade Continuity between Canada and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

He said: Honourable senators, it is my pleasure to speak today as the sponsor of Bill C-18, An Act to implement the Agreement on Trade Continuity between Canada and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, a bill that was first tabled in the House of Commons in December of last year and comes to us today.

This bill is good for Canada. It will work for Canadian businesses and workers, and it fully protects Canada’s supply-management industries.

The Trade Continuity Agreement is a replication of the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, or CETA, so that trade relations between Canada and the United Kingdom can continue to benefit from the opportunities CETA has created, even as the U.K. has left the European Union. As such, the Trade Continuity Agreement is an agreement that Canadians are already familiar with and what stakeholders have asked for in terms of creating greater certainty.

As Canada seeks to recover from the economic effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, we can ill afford to lose preferential arrangements with our largest and most established trading partner in Europe. I need not remind you that the United Kingdom is one of Canada’s strategic allies, working closely with us in a number of arenas, such as NATO, the G7 and G20, just to name a few.

We are both open, democratic countries with advanced economies that share deep historical ties, values and have similar systems of government. We enjoy a robust trade and investment relationship. The two-way merchandise trade between us amounted to $29 billion in 2019, making the United Kingdom Canada’s fifth largest trading partner. It is also a key source of innovation, science and technology partnerships, and is Canada’s fourth largest source of direct foreign investment, valued at $62.3 billion in 2019.

The Canada-U.K. trade partnership has also grown rapidly under CETA, in just the past few years. In fact, since CETA was provisionally applied in 2017, Canada’s exports to the United Kingdom have increased by over $2 billion.

As I am sure you are aware, for a country like Canada, trade is absolutely critical to our economic success and prosperity, and trade will play a critical role in our economic recovery and future prosperity. As we look to the future, it will be even more important that we continue to provide Canadian businesses, exporters and the work force related to those activities with as many options and opportunities as possible.

That is why it is not only important for Canada to develop trading relationships with other countries, but also to maintain and build upon economic ties we already have.

When Prime Minister Trudeau and the then-U.K. Prime Minister May met to discuss ways to strengthen bilateral relations, following the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union, both leaders agreed to make the transition as seamless as possible and sought to preserve CETA’s preferential trade terms.

Although the United Kingdom was still a party to CETA at that time and continued to be until December 31 of last year, and therefore not able to undertake new international trade negotiations, discussions began regarding converting or replicating the terms of CETA into a bilateral agreement, the outcome of which is Bill C-18.

While CETA will continue to govern Canada-EU trade, the Trade Continuity Agreement will provide continued predictability and remove uncertainty for Canadian companies doing business with, and in, the United Kingdom.

Bill C-18 ensures that Canada and the U.K. can sustain and build upon our important trading relationship by preserving the benefits of CETA on a bilateral basis in the Trade Continuity Agreement. This means the continuation of utterly unprecedented access to the United Kingdom’s 66 million consumers and a $3.68-trillion economy, which Canadian exporters have enjoyed under the CETA.

It also means the continuation of lower prices and more choices for Canadian consumers, and the reduction or elimination of customs duties. And because this agreement is based on CETA, an agreement Canadians already know well, it provides the predictability and stability that stakeholders have told us they need as they grapple with the economic effects of the global pandemic.

Indeed, Bill C-18 includes the same important benefits of CETA that have successfully helped Canadian businesses grow. Once it comes into force and is fully implemented, it will do the following: one, carry forward CETA’s tariff elimination on 99% of Canadian products exported to the United Kingdom; two, maintain priority market access for Canadian service suppliers, including access to the United Kingdom government’s procurement market, which alone is estimated to be worth $118 billion annually; and three, uphold and preserve CETA’s high standard provisions on labour, the protection of the environment and dispute settlement.

At the same time, while it is largely a replication of CETA, the Trade Continuity Agreement provides no new market access for cheese or any other supply-managed products. This outcome fulfills the commitment made by the Prime Minister and the Minister of Agriculture not to concede any additional market access for this sector in the trade agreements this government signs onto.

Critically, this agreement will also continue to give Canadian companies a leg up on competitors from other countries that do not have free-trade access to the United Kingdom. It is worth noting that Canada will continue to be the only G7 member that has free trade agreements with all other G7 countries, all of which are important economic partners for Canada.

(2030)

Bill C-18 will allow us to continue to serve as an example of how trade in a rules-based system can bring prosperity and protect government’s ability to regulate in the public interest. These are crucial advantages we can look forward to preserving once this agreement is in place.

Indeed, the trade continuity agreement responds to the need to ensure near-term certainty in our trade relationships. For the longer term, Canada and the United Kingdom have also committed to launching subsequent negotiations within a year of its entry into force toward a new bilateral agreement that can reflect specific Canada-United Kingdom interests. Both Canada and the U.K. have committed to this in public statements.

Furthermore, the United Kingdom also recently made a formal application to seek accession to the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, the so‑called CPTPP. Progress in our future bilateral negotiations will be important to Canada’s ongoing support for the U.K. joining the CPTPP, which will also require the U.K. to meet the high standards of rules and ambitious market access commitments of that agreement.

I’ve been advised that Canada and the United Kingdom will be negotiating a new trade partnership in the near future and that, as always, it will be informed by extensive consultations with Canadians.

Colleagues, Brexit posed a unique challenge for partners like Canada that already had trade agreements in place with the EU. Canada has shown adaptability and resilience to this unique challenge in achieving an agreement that mitigates potential disruptions for stakeholders due to the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union and, thereby, the protections of the CETA.

And so it was important for the government to remain engaged with Canadians prior to and throughout the negotiations to understand and address specific interests.

Negotiations on the Trade Continuity Agreement have been part of these regular exchanges with provincial and territorial representatives who also wanted to see continuity in the Canada-U.K. trade relationship.

Canadian business stakeholders understand the unique circumstances of the Brexit and the CETA replication exercise, as well as the fact that an entirely new negotiation was not an option while the U.K. was a member of the European Union and a party to CETA, and therefore unable to negotiate.

Stakeholders are overwhelmingly satisfied with the fact that this Trade Continuity Agreement provides them with the continuity they are seeking. At a time of significant economic uncertainty, we need to leave no stone unturned for Canadian businesses to find stability and grow our economy. Trade agreements are a way for governments to support growth at a minimal cost to the public purse.

Colleagues, this bill has strong support amongst Canadian businesses, exporters and industry. The Business Council of Canada, the Canadian Agri-Food Trade Alliance, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters, and the Canadian Association of Importers and Exporters issued a statement calling for swift passage of this bill. I’d like to quote the shared statement from these businesses directly:

 . . . we ask all parties to support the ratification of the Trade Continuity Agreement by quickly passing Bill C-18. Doing so would protect thousands of Canadian jobs and provide stability and certainty for workers, employers and investors. Without an agreement, $2 billion worth of bilateral trade will be at risk.

Mark Agnew, Senior Director of International Policy at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and a former trade official in the British High Commission in Ottawa said:

Bill C-18 is fundamentally about preserving market access that we already have. Now is not the time to rock the boat on that. From a forward-looking perspective, drawing a line under Bill C-18 will enable us to devote our efforts to focusing on the issues that will allow us to actually expand and improve our market access. This includes such issues as digital trade, regulatory co-operation, trade facilitation, labour mobility and others.

In fact, since the conclusion of this important agreement, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce has said the Trade Continuity Agreement is a “bright spot in the midst of COVID-19 and Brexit-related uncertainty for business.”

Uncertainty remains about the long-term effects of the change in the U.K.-EU trade relationship as a result of Brexit, as well as with regard to changes in the United Kingdom as it works toward its domestic trade frameworks in the coming months.

Subsequent bilateral negotiations, as provided for in this agreement, are an important opportunity to take into account the most recent developments of interest to Canada at the time.

The government has heard over and over from Canadian stakeholders about the importance of maintaining a preferential trading relationship with the United Kingdom. The successful conclusion of the agreement before you goes a long way to minimizing the disruptions that Canadian businesses are worried about and will maintain crucial ties and preferential trade terms with one of Canada’s leading trade partners. It will also ensure that Canadian businesses do not face yet another disruption or challenge at this time.

Indeed, if this agreement were not in place, this would be another setback that Canadians could ill afford.

To close, I would like to quote from the preamble of a question posed by our colleague Senator Doug Black to the Government Representative in the Senate in December:

The government of the U.K. is calling on our government to act. Businesses across the country are calling on us to act.

Colleagues, I couldn’t agree more, which makes it imperative that we move this bill forward as quickly as possible.

Honourable senators, to preserve Canada’s important trade relationship with the United Kingdom and the flourishing of its capacity, I hope you will join me in supporting this bill for second reading so that it might reach Royal Assent as expeditiously as possible. Thank you.

Hon. Tony Loffreda: Honourable senators, I am honoured to join the debate at second reading of Bill C-18, An Act to implement the Agreement on Trade Continuity between Canada and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. I thank the sponsor of the bill, Senator Harder, for providing us with a detailed account of what this bill seeks to achieve.

This bill will implement a trade continuity agreement, or TCA, between Canada and the United Kingdom in light of the U.K.’s departure from the European Union in January 2020. Since January 1, 2021, the U.K. is no longer covered under the Canada-European Union Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement, CETA, that we signed in October 2016. Therefore, to prevent instability for exporters on both sides of the pond, our two governments reached an agreement in late 2020.

The TCA, which is before us today in the form of Bill C-18, replicates nearly all the provisions in CETA. It is meant to be a temporary measure that maintains preferential treatment and access to the markets and ensures Canada’s competitive advantage in that country, in the U.K. For example, the elimination of tariffs on 98% of products exported to the U.K. will be maintained. It is also worth pointing out that there are no new obligations for Canada under the TCA. In other words, Canada has not made any new commitments with the U.K. for greater access to cheese or other supply-managed products. These discussions will likely take place when we formally begin negotiating a new bilateral agreement.

In fact, I want to emphasize that the TCA commits both parties to enter into negotiations for a new free trade agreement, or FTA, within one year of the TCA coming into force. They have also committed to signing an agreement within three years.

(2040)

This, in my view, shows that both countries are making this a priority.

Because the TCA was not adopted and ratified before the December 31 deadline, a memorandum of undertaking was signed, an MOU. This was signed in December between both countries. The MOU continues certain benefits of CETA pending the entry into force of the TCA. Like the TCA, the MOU offers stability and predictability for businesses that trade with the U.K., but the MOU is temporary and expires in two weeks, which is why I think it is important that we adopt Bill C-18 before the end of the month and allow businesses in both countries to breathe a sigh of relief.

I would like to say a few words about Canada’s economy and the importance of trade for our nation. Canada is a trading nation and the United Kingdom has always been one of our most important trading partners. Naturally, the U.K. was our biggest trading partner when Canada was founded in 1867. Over 150 years later, our two nations have enjoyed mutually beneficial trade relations, characterized by strong ties, shared values and common goals.

Case in point: just three years ago Prime Minister Trudeau and former British prime minister Theresa May announced numerous initiatives aimed at expanding and enhancing Canada-U.K. relations on such matters as gender equality, clean growth and climate change and innovation. Today, the U.K. is our fifth-largest commercial partner. For obvious reasons, the United States is our biggest trading ally, but no modern-day economy should rely exclusively on one partner. That is why diversifying our export market is so important.

Thankfully, current and past governments have made it a priority to access foreign markets in order to ensure our continued and sustained prosperity. Canada’s population represents just 0.5% of the world’s population, and yet Canada accounts for approximately 2.5% of global merchandise exports. In fact, two-way goods and services trade represents roughly 65% of Canada’s GDP.

With a small domestic market, it is only natural for Canada to make trade a priority. According to Global Affairs, Canada currently has 14 bilateral and regional free trade agreements in force, covering 51 countries. As Senator Harder said, we are the only G7 nation with free trade agreements with all other six countries, putting us in a unique position at the centre of global trading networks.

As the World Trade Organization submits:

. . . liberal trade policies — policies that allow the unrestricted flow of goods and services — sharpen competition, motivate innovation and breed success.

Canada is fortunate to have preferential access to global markets representing nearly two thirds of the world’s GDP.

It goes without saying that Canada and the U.K. trade relationship is essential for our economy. Among all countries in Europe, the U.K. is our largest trade market. The most recent data shows us that our two-way trade was just under $30 billion in 2020, with Canadian exports to the U.K. representing about $20 billion and Canadian imports from the U.K. around $8 billion. Additionally, Canadian direct investment in the U.K. was just under $110 million, while foreign investment in Canada from the U.K. was about $62 million, which puts us fourth in terms of British foreign direct investment abroad.

With Brexit, the United Kingdom has a lot of work ahead as it begins bilateral negotiations with other nations. However, our trade and investment relationship is mutually beneficial, which is why I hope Canada and the U.K. will make it a priority to negotiate and ratify a new bilateral free trade agreement in less than the three years stipulated in the TCA.

Before I wrap up, and since the Senate will not send this bill to committee, I want to put on the record that many stakeholders want this bill passed as soon as possible. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business said:

We want to ask that you ratify Bill C-18 and then move quickly to negotiate a comprehensive trade agreement with the U.K.

The Canadian Manufacturers & Exporters declared:

We therefore fully support the Canada-United Kingdom Trade Continuity Agreement and we urge swift passage of Bill C-18. This interim measure is required while our negotiators hammer out a more permanent Canada-UK agreement.

I urge that it happen as soon as possible as well.

The Business Council of Canada expressed the following:

The U.K., as part of the EU, has been a critical component of Canada’s fast-growing transatlantic trade relationship. Before the pandemic, it accounted for 40% of Canada’s merchandise exports and 36% of service exports to the EU. . . . Canadian exporters had momentum in the U.K. before the pandemic, and it’s important that we continue to grow our trade.

Finally, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce couldn’t have been any clearer:

. . . if CETA matters, then transitioning it to a bilateral agreement with our largest trading partner in Europe also matters. As we approach March 31, we hope the TCA can be implemented rather than the two governments needing to roll over their current MOU.

Bill C-18 is fundamentally about preserving the market access we already have. Now is not the time to rock the boat on that.

I want to balance these statements by putting on the record that some industry leaders have raised concerns or reservations about the passage of Bill C-18, arguing that Canada should not replicate CETA provisions with the U.K. right now. To those who might suggest we delay passage of this bill, or not implement the TCA at all, I want to say two things. First, now is not the time to make changes to our trade agreement with the United Kingdom. Businesses need stability and continuity. As the WTO points out, the global trading system should be principle-based and include trade predictability as one of its tenets. The TCA offers businesses, manufacturers and exporters in both countries just that.

Second, negotiations for a new bilateral agreement are expected to begin within the first year of the TCA’s implementation. Canada is lucky to have stellar negotiators at Global Affairs Canada. With the backing of our government, I am confident they will do their very best to work out a first-rate deal for Canadian businesses and exporters that will also include meaningful provisions that address labour rights, the environment and sustainable development.

If some sectors of our economy or grassroots organizations have grievances with the current provisions in the TCA, Canada will have an opportunity to bring them up during these forthcoming negotiations.

What we have before us is a good deal. As you know, CETA negotiations began under a Conservative government and the deal was implemented under a Liberal one. There is widespread support for the deal that the TCA replicates. I had the honour of travelling with a Canadian delegation to Italy in 2017 — it seems like yesterday — to celebrate the ratification of CETA. I can tell you from firsthand experience that this deal was well received on both continents. I would also argue that CETA is a great stepping stone for a future free trade agreement between our two nations.

Honourable colleagues, we have an opportunity before us to pass this bill this week and send a strong signal to businesses on both sides of the pond that we value their contributions to our economy and that we do not want to harm, delay or prevent any future business deals or transactions. In early February, the British Parliament completed its parliamentary review of the TCA. The ball is now in our court.

Like many of you, I am also unhappy that the government is putting pressure on us without extensive debate and committee review. I hope this will not become a trend. Nevertheless, businesses expect us to pass this bill without further delay. They’ve suffered enough in the last year. During these unprecedented times, I think parliamentarians have a duty to offer businesses some stability as they continue to navigate these troubling waters.

Let us throw them a lifeline and pass Bill C-18. Thank you. Meegwetch.

Hon. Leo Housakos: Will Senator Loffreda take a question?

The Hon. the Speaker: Senator Loffreda, the senator wishes to ask a question. Are you prepared to take a question?

Senator Loffreda: Yes.

Senator Housakos: Thank you, Senator Loffreda. I want to expand a little bit. Maybe you can share your comments that you made at the end of your speech.

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I, too, as a Canadian parliamentarian, am very concerned about the habit that the current government has fallen into, which is to take important and complicated trade deals and rush them through Parliament around five minutes to midnight, before the deadline. As you appropriately pointed out, the United Kingdom’s Parliament endorsed this deal and passed it through their house in early February, well over a month and a half before the MOU deadline of the end of March.

With our current government, we’ve seen that in the last deal — the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement — they rushed it through the Senate, without consultation, and now we’re experiencing the same thing.

As you highlighted in your speech, given the importance of this deal to Canadians and to industry, what is your reasoning that the government continues to pay little attention to such important trade deals? Furthermore, what steps do you think Parliament needs to take in order to ensure that the role of scrutiny and consultation by Parliament is taken seriously by the current government?

Senator Loffreda: Thank you for your question, Senator Housakos. We all know the importance of sober second thought. In this situation, there’s a strong message to be sent to our businesses, and the government is well aware of that. We are under a tight deadline. As I mentioned in my speech, the March 31 deadline is essential in terms of telling businesses, the business community and the U.K. that we value the relationship, that we’re there to give them a lifeline and to extend this agreement as soon as possible.

I think it is important, and I respect your comments. It is a valid point that we should take the necessary time. As I said, I hope it does not become a habit and a trend. However, in this situation, I fully support the timeline that has been given to us because of the importance of this bill; the importance of trade for Canada, as I mentioned, without repeating the numbers; and the importance of trade with the U.K., which in 1867 was our largest trading partner. Over the years we’ve had a great relationship with the U.K.

It is a strong message we’re sending out, doing so in the time we have, and hopefully it won’t become a trend. Thank you for your question.

(On motion of Senator Housakos, debate adjourned.)

Employment Insurance Act
Canada Recovery Benefits Act

Bill to Amend—Second Reading—Debate

Hon. Patti LaBoucane-Benson moved second reading of Bill C-24, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (additional regular benefits), the Canada Recovery Benefits Act (restriction on eligibility) and another Act in response to COVID-19.

The Hon. the Speaker: Before you begin, Senator LaBoucane-Benson, I apologize beforehand, but I will have to interrupt you at nine o’clock for adjournment. We have about five minutes until then.

On debate, Senator LaBoucane-Benson.

Senator LaBoucane-Benson: Honourable senators, I’m pleased to speak as a Senate sponsor for Bill C-24, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act (additional regular benefits), the Canada Recovery Benefits Act (restriction on eligibility) and another Act in response to COVID-19.

The bill before us today makes significant yet prudent changes to the Employment Insurance Act, the Canada Recovery Benefits Act and the Customs Act. Colleagues, I cannot stress enough the importance of the timely passage of this legislation. Bill C-24 has only 11 clauses, however, it is designed to help Canadians in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Since the beginning of this pandemic, the Government of Canada has had to continuously adapt its policy and legislative response to ensure Canadians have the supports they need to navigate through this challenging period, particularly from an economic perspective. This includes a suite of emergency measures such as the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, commonly referred to as CERB, which was introduced in March 2020 and helped more than 8 million Canadians avoid catastrophic income loss.

Last summer and fall, the government began laying out a plan to continue supporting Canada’s workforce through the ongoing pandemic. This included transitioning Canadians from the CERB to a simplified Employment Insurance program. This simplified EI program includes hours credit, which allows more Canadians to qualify. It establishes a benefit floor of $500 per week and allows Canadians to receive at least 26 weeks of benefits.

The Government of Canada also introduced a suite of recovery benefits to provide income support to workers for whom employment continues to be impacted by COVID-19. These recovery benefits include the Canada Recovery Benefit to support workers who do not qualify for EI; the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit to support workers who are sick, have underlying conditions that would make them more susceptible to COVID-19 or must self-isolate in quarantine as a result of COVID-19; and the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit to support workers who have been unable to work because they need to provide care or support for a child, family member or dependant.

At the time, the government said it would monitor labour market conditions and make further adjustments as needed. Even with the stringent public health measures and the continuing rollout of vaccinations across the country — including my home province of Alberta — all of which are promising, it is critical that the Government of Canada continues to support workers and families, and ensures that benefits are being administered effectively and fairly.

The bill before us today reflects that reality. The government assessed the current labour market and it is following through on its objective of providing certainty for workers.

On March 28, many Canadians could be faced with delayed benefits if we do not take action to pass Bill C-24. The Department of Employment and Social Development Canada requires seven days to set up their system for the renewal of benefits to begin. Hence, Royal Assent is required before March 21. If passed quickly, this bill would increase the maximum number of available weeks of EI regular benefits, and Canadians will not face a gap in receiving the support they continue to need right now.

In addition to Bill C-24, the government will be making increases, through regulations, to the number of weeks available under each of the Canada recovery benefits and to secure job-protected leave under the Canada Labour Code.

As the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion announced on February 19, 2021, the government will increase the number of weeks available under the Canada Recovery Benefit and the Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit from 26 to 38 weeks each, and will increase the number of weeks available through the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit from two to four weeks.

As of February 28, 2.5 million Canadians have accessed one of these three benefits. These additional weeks offer the certainty workers need in a difficult time and in an uncertain labour market. To be clear, I’ve been assured by the government that Canadians receiving recovery benefits will not see any disruption in their benefits. However, the same guarantee cannot be made with respect to Canadians on EI who face the same pending end to their benefits.

While the recovery benefits can be extended through regulations, Employment Insurance regular benefits cannot. This means that amendments to the Employment Insurance Act are required to extend the number of weeks available through EI. As such, it is up to Parliament to ensure that Canadians on EI do not face a disruption to their benefits.

Bill C-24 would amend the Employment Insurance Act so that workers would be eligible for up to a maximum of 50 weeks for claims established between September 27, 2020, and September 25, 2021. This will make it possible for millions of Canadians to continue receiving support while still having access to the essential resources and tools provided by the EI program to help them return to the labour market. Such resources include Working While on Claim, which allows workers to keep part of their EI benefits and all the earnings from their job; and the Work-Sharing program, which helps workers and employers who are facing layoffs because of a decline in production or operations. Keeping workers attached to the labour market will be essential to Canada’s successful economic recovery.

Bill C-24 also amends the Employment Insurance Act so that self-employed workers who have opted into the EI program to access special benefits would be able to use a 2020 earnings threshold of $5,000, compared to the previous threshold of $7,555. This change would be retroactive to claims established as of January 3, 2021, and would apply until September 25, 2021. Self-employed Canadians have been hit hard by the pandemic and they need this extra support.

Now, colleagues, I would like to talk about the bill’s amendment to the Canada Recovery Benefits Act, the Quarantine Act and the Customs Act.

The Government of Canada has been clear from the beginning that no one should be engaging in non-essential travel abroad during the pandemic. In January of this year, the Government of Canada became aware of reports that the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit could be accessed by travellers vacationing abroad for the quarantine period. Once made aware of this loophole, the government signalled its intent to rectify this issue.

(2100)

The Hon. the Speaker: My apologies for interrupting you, Senator LaBoucane-Benson. Obviously, you will be given the balance of your time at the next sitting of the Senate when this matter is called.

(At 9 p.m., pursuant to the order adopted by the Senate earlier this day, the Senate adjourned until 2 p.m., tomorrow.)