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Previous Sittings
Previous Sittings

Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

1st Session, 44th Parliament
Volume 153, Issue 66

Tuesday, October 4, 2022
The Honourable George J. Furey, Speaker


Tuesday, October 4, 2022

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



Question of Privilege


Hon. Scott Tannas: Honourable senators, pursuant to rule 13-4, I give oral notice of a question of privilege I intend to raise later this day.

When witnesses appear before Senate committees, parliamentary privilege is accorded to them and gives them certain immunities and protections, including protections against threats, intimidation and harassment. I became concerned with the timing and content of an article in The Globe and Mail dated September 27. It spoke of a complaint filed with the Commissioner of Lobbying against a witness who was scheduled to appear the following day before the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications.

Later today, I will present my views, this being a potential question of privilege and contempt of Parliament.

The First Ford Mustang

Hon. Fabian Manning: Honourable senators, today I am pleased to present chapter 62 of “Telling Our Story.” The iconic Ford Mustang car was officially unveiled by Henry Ford II at the world’s fair in Flushing Meadows, New York, on April 17, 1964. That same day, the new and extremely popular car was also debuted in Ford showrooms across North America. Prior to the Mustang actually going on sale, and in order for all showrooms to have at least one Mustang for the official sales launch, Ford sent cars to its dealerships that were farthest away. The cars were intended strictly for display purposes.

George G.R. Parsons Ford in St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, received the very first Mustang ever built: a white convertible with serial number 5F08F100001. The new, sporty‑looking vehicle that the Ford vice president and general manager Lee Iacocca had envisioned in the 1960s was finally a reality and was creating plenty of excitement.

Captain Stanley Tucker, an Eastern Provincial Airways pilot, was driving by the Ford dealership on April 14, just three days before the official launch, when he saw what he later called “a huge fuss” outside in the parking lot. He decided to go in and see for himself what the fuss was all about. When he saw the Mustang, he instantly fell in love with the car and wanted to buy it immediately. He approached salesman Harry Phillips and told him so.

Harry said there was nothing like the Ford Mustang on the market. It was a beautiful car, but told Captain Tucker that he could not sell the car for another two weeks. Phillips said that Tucker was determined to be the owner of the Ford Mustang convertible and said to the salesman, “I don’t care, I wants it.”

He had to have that car, so the two of them worked out an agreement. No one knows exactly what Tucker said to convince the dealership to sell him the car but they did, and for three days he was the only person in the world who owned a Ford Mustang.

Tucker purchased the car for $4,300 and sealed the deal just 72 hours before Henry Ford would officially unveil the Mustang. Captain Tucker agreed to let the dealership keep and display the car for a couple of weeks.

A few weeks following the sale, the St. John’s dealership received a call from Ford’s head office in Michigan looking for the car, because it was a pre-production model and was never meant to be sold. When they were told that the very first Mustang that they had built was sold and being driven around the roads in Newfoundland, Ford set out to get the car back. “Not so fast,” said Captain Tucker. He told Ford, “I’m sorry, you’ve cashed my cheque . . . and I’m very happy with it.” He refused to give the car back.

It took Ford two years and 10,000 miles later to negotiate with Tucker to get the car back. Tucker finally gave in to Ford and drove the car to Michigan. In exchange for the first Mustang ever built, Ford gave Captain Tucker a brand new 1966 “Silver Frost” model with all the bells and whistles, which happened to be the one-millionth Mustang to roll off the assembly line.

Lee Iacocca presented Tucker with the keys to his new car, and the original car was donated to the Henry Ford museum where it remains on display to this day, complete with its Newfoundland and Labrador licence plate.

Salesman Harry Phillips made a career of selling cars and retired in 1995, having never seen the Mustang he mistakenly sold in 1964 again. In 2019, 55 years after Phillips sold the car, his granddaughter Stephanie Mealey started a social media campaign titled “Send Harry to Henry.” Matt Anderson, curator of the Ford museum, discovered the social media campaign and made arrangements for the salesman, his daughter and his granddaughter to travel to Michigan and receive a VIP tour of the museum in addition to a tour of the Rouge plant where the iconic and historic Mustang was built. Harry Phillips had never had the opportunity to visit Detroit before, and was overwhelmed when he was able to see the car that he accidentally sold so many years ago.

Captain Tucker passed away in 2008 and never had the same opportunity as Harry Phillips, but, because of his perseverance in making sure he got to buy the first Mustang ever built, he unknowingly created another bit of history for Newfoundland and Labrador.

Treaty Day

Hon. Brian Francis: Honourable senators, Treaty Day, which is held annually on October 1, is the start of Mi’kmaq History Month. It is a time to learn more about the history, culture and contributions of the Mi’kmaq. It is also a time to commemorate the significance of the Peace and Friendship Treaties signed in the 1700s.

These legally binding agreements act as the foundation for the ongoing relationship between the Mi’kmaq and the Crown. We are all treaty people and, therefore, responsible for upholding the range of rights, benefits and obligations that our ancestors committed to.

Colleagues, the Mi’kmaq never surrendered or ceded our lands, waters and resources when we entered into these treaties, but we agreed to share them with settlers and still continue to do so. In contrast, the Crown has not honoured its promise not to interfere in our traditional ways of life.

Instead, it has tried to forcibly displace and assimilate many generations. As a result, the relationship between the Crown and the Mi’kmaq over the centuries cannot be characterized by peace and friendship. Instead, it is one of exploitation and violence, but also of struggle and resistance.


To give you an example, in recent years various Mi’kmaq First Nations have launched their own rights-based fisheries without federal approval. Lennox Island First Nation, where I was born, did so last May. After an interim understanding was reached with the federal government, the first season was deemed successful; however, there was pushback on how many traps and where to place them.

Last month I was also impressed by how Elsipogtog and Esgenoopetitj are working to assert their constitutionally protected rights to fish. The failure of various governments to not fully implement this right has hindered socioeconomic development in the communities and left members vulnerable to further harassment and violence from state and other actors.

The withholding of federal funds tied to a 2019 agreement is also undermining the ability of Esgenoopetitj and Elsipogtog to fish as safely and sustainably as possible. It is shameful that Canada is reneging on the treaties and other agreements. The full implementation of the Mi’kmaq rights-based fisheries is long overdue.

Colleagues, I hope everyone in Mi’kma’ki and beyond will take time in October to learn about and take action to realize the many treaty promises that remain unfulfilled.

Wela’lin. Thank you.


Child Obesity

Hon. Chantal Petitclerc: Honourable colleagues, in August, the medical journal The Lancet published the results of a very large study on cancer risk factors around the world. This vast study confirmed the known causal relationship between obesity and cancer.


If we narrow it down to Canadian kids, 30% of children aged 5 to 17 are obese or overweight. The last ParticipACTION Children and Youth Report Card was far from reassuring. Canadian children received a D+ grade for overall physical activity, D+ for sedentary behaviour, B for sleep and F for overall 24-hour movement behaviour.

As parents and grandparents, we would be alarmed by such grades for our children at school, so why should we be fine with it when it comes to health and physical activities, and what do we do about it? To be fair, our country has taken some action.


Canada’s healthy eating strategy is gaining ground. The 2019 food guide was very well received. Nutritional information on food labels is helping Canadians make informed choices. Industrial trans fats are now prohibited. But is that enough? Evidently not, given the troubling levels of obesity and sedentary behaviour among our youth.

Faced with this alarming situation, we have to take ambitious action. Consider European countries where people are less sedentary. For example, in Iceland, almost 30% of the population and almost 80% of all 12-year-old children are members of sports clubs. Many countries have understood that physical activity is truly beneficial when coupled with healthy eating habits.


They have put in place measures to restrict food advertising to children based on nutrient criteria, usually linked to a food’s sodium, sugar and saturated fat content. Many other countries are considering similar measures.


Here in Canada, I salute Patricia Lattanzio for introducing a bill in the House of Commons to restrict the marketing of certain foods and beverages to children. She is giving us an opportunity to support parents who are trying to make healthier food choices for their children.

As I wait for us to do our part, I will conclude my remarks by thanking all the organizations, such as ParticipAction, the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada and the Weight Coalition, that believe, as I do, that it is essential for us to halt the rise in child obesity and reverse the trend. We must aim high, because our children deserve it.

Thank you.

Visitors in the Gallery

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I wish to draw your attention to the presence in the gallery of ambassadors and representatives of Latin American embassies, in honour of Latin American Heritage Month. They are the guests of the Honourable Senator Galvez.

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

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!

Latin American Heritage Month

Hon. Rosa Galvez: Honourable senators, I rise today to speak on the occasion of the fifth annual Latin American Heritage Month.

Canada’s Latin American community is thriving and growing in numbers and influence every year. I am very proud to be part of this determined, resourceful and resilient community. I am also thrilled by the accomplishments that members of our community are making in so many areas. This is a community with a big heart, where love, solidarity and collaboration abound.


I would like to recognize and thank personally the ambassadors of Latin American countries who have been working diligently to reinforce the links between Canada and their respective nations. They are here today in the gallery. I also want to thank the Speaker and the Usher of the Black Rod for their hospitality in our Senate Chamber.

Later today, we will be celebrating Hispanic Day on the Hill with a reception from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Sir John A. MacDonald Building. The embassies have generously contributed traditional food and beverages along with artistic and music shows. I invite you all, dear colleagues, to come and experience the vibrant Latin American culture.


Thanks to the embassies and multiple Latin American organizations in Canada, throughout the month of October, events will be taking place across the country to celebrate our art, cuisine, music, film, literature and more.


I encourage my honourable colleagues to seek out and participate in the events that will take place near your home province. The Latin American community is very welcoming and would love to share its richness and vivacity with you. In this month of October, I wish everyone a happy Latin American Heritage Month.

[Editor’s Note: Senator Galvez spoke in Spanish.]

Thank you. Meegwetch.


October 3, 2022, Quebec Election

Hon. Marie-Françoise Mégie: Honourable senators, the author Antonine Maillet once said, and I quote:

Acadians, as a people, will know that they have come into their own when they are focused on their contributions to society, rather than what they need to maintain their own vitality.

To contribute to society, a community must maintain a healthy relationship with that society, have something to offer, and feel included.

That idea certainly applies to the reality of Quebec’s Black communities. The vast majority of Black Quebecers speak French and have an immigrant background.

This brings me to the Quebec election on October 3. Out of the 880 candidates, about 60 were from Black communities. This level of representation was found in every political party and was spread out among more than 40 ridings. I congratulate the 125 candidates who were elected, including the five Black people who will represent 4% of the seats in the National Assembly of Quebec.

I do have one observation to make. Voter turnout this year was just over 60%, well below the 85% that was reached when I arrived in Quebec in 1976. Without identifying a specific cause, a study conducted through the Datagotchi app by researchers at Laval University found that being in good health also means having more chances to vote. In light of the pandemic we just went through, do we need a sound body and mind to have a healthy democracy? That is something to think about.

Let’s continue to encourage all voters to go to the polls.

In conclusion, I hope that the presence of candidates from Black communities is a sign that we are welcome here and that we are fully contributing to a healthy democracy.

Thank you.



Canada-Europe Parliamentary Association

Meeting with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and Third Part, 2022 Ordinary Session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, June 20-24, 2022—Report Tabled

Hon. David M. Wells: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the report of the Canada‑Europe Parliamentary Association concerning the Meeting with the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the Third Part of the 2022 Ordinary Session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, held in Strasbourg, France, from June 20 to 24, 2022.

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!

The Senate

Notice of Motion to Strike a Special Senate Committee on Human Capital and the Labour Market

Hon. Diane Bellemare: Honourable senators, I give notice that, two days hence, I will move:

That a Special Senate Committee on Human Capital and the Labour Market be appointed until the end of the current session, to which may be referred matters relating to human capital, labour markets, and employment generally;

That the committee be composed of nine members, to be nominated by the Committee of Selection, and that four members constitute a quorum; and

That the committee be empowered to inquire into and report on such matters as may be referred to it by the Senate; to send for persons, papers and records; to hear witnesses and to publish such papers and evidence from day to day as may be ordered by the committee.



Privy Council Office

Results and Delivery Unit

Hon. Donald Neil Plett (Leader of the Opposition): Senator Gold, last week I could not help but be reminded of a department that the Trudeau government put together when it first came to power named the Results and Delivery Unit, which was based on the “deliverology” approach. Your government said it was adamant on keeping focused on its priorities and delivering what was promised to Canadians.

I was reminded of this thanks to an answer that you gave in this chamber last week to a question posed by my colleague Senator Martin on reconciliation efforts. You said:

This government has begun the work. In the tradition that I am part of and I’m proud to embrace, it is said that we are not obligated —

— this is interesting —

— to finish the work, but we are not permitted not to start it. This government has started it.

Leader, is that what your government meant by “deliverology” back in 2015, that it was not obligated to finish the work it started? Senator Gold, without shaking your head, please answer the question.

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Senator Plett, thank you for the question. I was referring to an important teaching in the Jewish tradition that imposes upon all of us the responsibility to do what we can to make this world a better place. All of us here in the chamber, having agreed and been summoned here, would agree that that is what we are here for in our small, modest ways.

With regard to your question, I stand by my answer. The Government of Canada, this government — unlike any other government before — is taking seriously the work with Indigenous communities across this country to begin the process of confronting the truth of our history and doing what is necessary so that we can reconcile ourselves with our Indigenous citizens and with our history.

In that regard, the amount of work that has been done, though difficult, is impressive. There is a great deal to be done, and Minister Miller and the whole of government are to be congratulated for the seriousness with which they are approaching this work and the respect they are giving our Indigenous colleagues and partners in the co-development of the initiatives.

Senator Plett: The answer was a very direct answer to a very direct question. Senator Gold, your response from last week, in fact, rings truer than your government’s “deliverology” mandate at the start of its term.

This Trudeau government has a long track record of broken promises to Canadians, which are brought up week after week in this chamber: electoral reform, fixing the housing crisis, clean drinking water for Indigenous reserves, planting 2 billion trees and the budget that was supposed to balance itself. I can go on and on, leader. These are all promises that your government has not delivered on.

Leader, did your government ever have the intention to fulfill these promises; and, if so, when? Or was it always more about appearances, as it often seems to be with this government?

Senator Gold: The government is committed to doing what it has set out to do to improve the lives of Canadians, as it has helped us get through a worldwide crisis, the effects of which we are still feeling. This is about concrete action to help Canadians. It is not about appearances or scoring partisan points.


Public Accounts

Hon. Elizabeth Marshall: Senator Gold, the National Finance Committee had a very interesting meeting this morning with the Auditor General. She told us that she signed off on the Public Accounts for the last fiscal year. Last year we waited nine months for the Public Accounts. In fact, we did not get them until the day we adjourned for the Christmas break. Since she signed off on the Public Accounts already, when will the government release the 2022 Public Accounts?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Thank you, senator, for your question. I will have to make inquiries and come back with an answer as quickly as I can.

Senator Marshall: Thank you, Senator Gold, I would appreciate that. We need that information for our study of supplementary estimates this fall. When you inquire as to when we are going to get the Public Accounts, could you also inquire as to when we will get the departmental results reports? We did not get last year’s reports until this year. We need those documents together as a package. Thank you very much.

Senator Gold: I will do my best to get the answers as quickly as I can.


Canadian Heritage

Hockey Canada

Hon. Chantal Petitclerc: My question is for the Government Representative in the Senate. As you probably noticed, Hockey Canada was in the news again yesterday. We know Hockey Canada’s lack of transparency has broken its bond of trust with Canadian families. Federal funding for the organization has been frozen, the police are investigating and an audit is under way. Minister St-Onge is suggesting people should resign, but is that enough, especially given that the senior executives and board members remain in place?

Isn’t it time to do the right thing and make it clear to Hockey Canada’s current leadership that the tide has turned and that we need a new team to send a very clear message that sexual violence and abuse are unacceptable?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Thank you for your question. The government completely agrees with you, colleague, that the situation is totally unacceptable. That is why the minister has announced, as you just pointed out, that she wants to see a change within the team.

I will go even further. The government recently announced a comprehensive reform to the funding and accountability framework for sport federations. This reform will give Sport Canada the leverage to closely monitor organizations with respect to their governance and transparency practices. Accountability within sport federations will be significantly strengthened. In conclusion, the government reaffirms its resolve to put an end to the culture of silence that has prevailed for too long in the field of sport, not only in hockey, but unfortunately nearly everywhere, as we have seen recently.


Senator Petitclerc: When a new team takes over at Hockey Canada, can the government commit to ensuring that outside experts are brought in to identify and implement concrete solutions to address sexual abuse and violence? Those individuals will also need to ensure that there is a trust mechanism in place so that victims have adequate resources to have their complaints heard.

Senator Gold: Thank you for the question. I do not have any details about plans for creating a new team. However, I will pass on those suggestions to the government and the minister for their consideration.

Crown-Indigenous Relations

Creation of Indigenous Ombudsperson Position

Hon. Michèle Audette: Honourable senators, my first question is for the Government Representative in the Senate.

Today is an important day for thousands of families and survivors across Canada, as well as for those who have lost loved ones. We are marking Sisters in Spirit Day. I would like to thank my colleagues who have decided to participate.

I have a duty of responsibility towards these families, as well as a great deal of love for them. They campaigned for over 50 years for the creation of a national inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls, and Canada finally ordered the launch of this inquiry. The inquiry produced many reports and recommendations, of course, as well as Calls for Justice for Canada and Quebec. The third anniversary of the inquiry’s final report was on June 3. In addition, the first anniversary of the federal government’s action plan recently passed.

Senator Gold, one of the Calls for Justice is particularly important to me. Call for Justice 1.7 calls for the creation of an Indigenous ombudsperson position in partnership with organizations, Indigenous governments and the federal government. This Call for Justice also aims to create space for human rights and Indigenous peoples’ rights.

I would like to know where Canada stands with regard to Call for Justice 1.7, which is very important.

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Thank you for the question. Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people have the right to be safe in the communities they call home.

This national strategy calls for a whole-of-government approach, which means respecting our goals as a country and all the Calls for Justice.

I am told that, in the Federal Pathway, the Government of Canada committed to producing an annual progress report on key milestones and its progress toward fulfilling the commitments. On June 3, 2022, the government released the first Federal Pathway progress report. The report provides an update on more than 50 initiatives and programs launched as part of the Federal Pathway and led by 25 federal departments and agencies. The report also identifies what remains to be done.

Senator Audette: Let me repeat the question. What progress has the federal government made on Call for Justice 1.7 concerning the creation of an ombudsperson position?

Senator Gold: I don’t have an answer to your question. I will look into it and try to get a response for you. I want to note, however, that the work has already begun in partnership with Indigenous communities to ensure that we can develop the Federal Pathway together.


Foreign Affairs

Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps

Hon. Leo Housakos: Honourable senators, my question is for the government leader in the Senate.

Senator Gold, in recent days we have had information circulating that high-ranking government officials connected to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or IRGC, and the brutal regime in Iran — including the family members of none other than the supreme leader himself — have been seeking refuge right here in Canada. It has been reported that many might already be here.

My question for you, government leader, is very simple. Can you tell us what due diligence the Trudeau government has undertaken to make sure that no individual, or individuals, with links to the IRGC and to this brutal government will be — or have been — granted entry into Canada?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Thank you for the question. I don’t have the answer to your question. I will endeavour to determine what information can be shared on a subject that clearly engages our security and our commitments to oppose the tyranny and the state-sponsored terrorism for which Iran is properly held accountable. I’ll do my best to have an answer as quickly as I can.

Senator Housakos: Senator Gold, with all due respect, this is a very important issue when it comes to freedom of democracy and dealing with human rights. Recently, we saw 30,000 Canadians get together in solidarity for freedom and in solidarity for what the people in Iran are going through. Given how important this issue has been over the last few weeks, you as government leader should have an answer to this simple question: What due diligence has the government undertaken to make sure that any individual who is linked to the IRGC, or to this regime in Iran, does not get entry into our country?

I don’t think that is a very difficult question, but I’ll leave that one with you. And I’ll ask a second one which is a lot simpler, but again we’ve received no answer.

After all these years — after both chambers of Parliament have demanded that your government add the IRGC to the list of terrorist organizations — why does the Trudeau government refuse to? Explain that one. That’s an easy one. It’s been a long time that we’ve been asking.

Senator Gold: Thank you for the question. As I’ve answered in this chamber before, the government has listed a number of entities attached to the regime and individuals — and, indeed, most recently, the government has added more to the list and is constantly reviewing how to proceed further. The government condemns the actions of Iran against its own citizens and the actions of Iran as a state sponsor of terrorism.

If I may respond to the preamble to your second question: Of course, these are serious questions. Of course, they’re important questions. But the fact that I don’t have, at my fingertips, the answer to what due diligence has been taken with regard to specific attempts, such as there may be, to enter this country, and the fact that I undertake to try to find an answer that can be shared, without compromising national security, is something that I hope senators will understand is the best that I can do. That is in no way to diminish or minimize the importance of the question.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship

Passport Services

Hon. Yonah Martin (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): I have a question for the government leader as well. Life is returning to normal after the COVID pandemic. Children are back at school. People are back at work. Canadians are travelling again — well, they would be if they could get their passports, that is.

Canadians are facing these unprecedented backlogs at Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, or IRCC, to get their passports so they can travel. Miscommunication and contradictory information from Service Canada have only exacerbated the problem. Senator Gold, when will the minister responsible apologize to Canadians and clear the backlog?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Thank you for your question. The minister and the department are working hard to address what is a very difficult situation for too many Canadians who are facing uncomfortable and stressful waits. The government is very aware of the burden that this imposes on Canadians who want to travel. It is seeking to do — and has done — many things to tackle these challenges.

There is a triage system in place in our larger communities, such as the Vancouver area — where you’re from, senator — the GTA, Calgary and Edmonton, to help people be served more expeditiously. Officials continue to look for solutions to what is a very troubling and difficult situation for far too many Canadians.

Senator Martin: Senator, excuses and further delays are unacceptable. The government knew that the 10-year passports were expiring and knew there would be demand once the pandemic was over.

Passports aren’t the only issue at IRCC. While life has returned to normal for millions of Canadians, new Canadians still cannot take their oath of citizenship at an in-person ceremony. As an immigrant myself, I know that for a new Canadian taking their oath, alongside dozens of other excited new Canadians, is among the most important moments and memories.


Senator Gold, why is the minister continuing to deny new Canadians this once-in-a-lifetime experience?

Senator Gold: Having participated as a witness to those events, I couldn’t agree with you more about how important they are to the members and their families.

The government is working to be in a position to make all services available — as they once were before the pandemic — and will continue to do so. When changes to the system can be introduced, the announcements will be forthcoming.

Foreign Affairs

Canada-China Relations

Hon. Marilou McPhedran: Honourable senators, I want to thank colleagues in the Canadian Senators Group for this opportunity to ask a question. It’s a rare and generous offer.

The 2022 Hong Kong Watch report recently revealed that Canada has holdings in Chinese companies on the U.S. sanctions list and companies that have provided equipment used in camps where it’s estimated that about a million Uighurs are still detained.

Respected former parliamentarians Irwin Cotler and David Kilgour noted that Canada Pension Plan investments are more than $50 billion in Chinese companies. In addition, other pension plan investments have been reported to have been made in companies connected to the forced labour of Uighurs. We also have reports of several provincial Crown investment management corporations listed as investing in equities and companies accused of human rights violations in China. Perhaps more shocking is the fact that Canadian universities have endowment funds invested with firms that are exposed to these inequities.

Although we condemn the genocide, we continue what Hong Kong Watch has called “passively supporting oppression” by investing in Chinese equities with proven links to industries in contravention of human rights.

My question, Senator Gold: How is Canada identifying violators? What is Canada doing to ensure that public and private investments, such as the Canada Pension Plan, are not contributing to these human rights violations by investing in such companies?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Thank you for your question and for underlining again — it can never be too often — the plight of the Uighurs and the oppression of which they are victims.

I don’t know what steps are being taken, and I will have to make inquiries and report back.

Senator McPhedran: Senator Gold, could you add to that inquiry, please, a specific request to specify what kind of transparency and accountability mechanisms are in place or are planned to be put in place?

Senator Gold: Thank you for your question. I will certainly do that in the area and the jurisdiction over which the government has some responsibility.

Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps

Hon. Donald Neil Plett (Leader of the Opposition): Leader, my next question is maybe somewhat of a supplementary to what Senator Housakos already spoke about.

Last week, you will recall that I asked you twice about your government’s reluctance to designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or IRGC, as a terrorist organization. In your answer, you spoke about the separation of powers, implying that it is not your government’s responsibility to decide whether to designate or not to designate — a bizarre response considering that the decision on whether to list an organization as a terrorist entity is taken entirely within the executive branch.

In fact, in 2018, the House government leader’s parliamentary secretary at the time outlined the process for listing the IRGC under the Criminal Code. A criminal or security intelligence report is drafted which documents the entity’s activities. The report is then reviewed by an independent council at the Department of Justice to ensure that the entity meets the legal threshold for listing. If the Minister of Public Safety agrees that this is the test that is to be met, he may make a recommendation to cabinet that the entity be listed.

Leader, the procedure is clear, so is it that your government can’t list the IRGC or that it won’t? Which begs the same question I asked you last week, leader: why?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Thank you for your question. I certainly did not intend to say that the government had no responsibility for the ultimate decision in the process that you described. So if you said my answer implied that, I think that was certainly not my intent.

But if I recall, your question also touched upon the role of security agencies that are seized with the responsibility to advise and make recommendations as part of an appropriate process to make sure that decisions of this nature are made intelligently and appropriately.

In that regard, the government remains focused on what further steps it might take to enhance the sanctions and the pressure on Iran, its agencies and its instruments to condemn and further underline our condemnation of the actions against their citizens and against our values abroad.

Senator Plett: Leader, in October 2018, the House of Commons was told by Ralph Goodale, parliamentary secretary at the time, that officials had begun their assessment of the IRGC to list them as a terrorist entity. Yet, just last week, we were being told — or implied — by you and Public Safety Minister Mendicino that it wasn’t a job for the government.

Which one is it? Are we supposed to believe that Department of Justice officials have been working on this report since 2018? Was a report produced, and if so, did the Minister of Public Safety or anyone make a recommendation to cabinet?

Senator Gold: Senator, you know from your own political experience and your experience in government that I’m not at liberty to disclose what advice or reports were issued to cabinet. I simply stand by the answer that I have already given on a number of occasions to this question.


Canada’s Inflation Rate

Hon. Leo Housakos: Honourable senators, my question is again for the government leader in the Senate and it has to do with “JustinFlation.” I have asked about this issue on a number of occasions, and it is an issue that is starting to destroy average middle-class and poor Canadians who are struggling to survive.

I’ll ask the question a little bit differently because in the past I’ve tried to hold this government responsible for some of the things they have done, and, of course, this government never takes responsibility. It’s market forces, international conditions, wars — it’s any other reason but the Governor of the Bank of Canada, Mr. Trudeau or his two finance ministers over the last seven years.

Will you agree that, with three small steps, we can solve “JustinFlation”? Number one, will you agree that this government should cap the Liberal government’s spending and taxation of the middle class with the Employment Insurance, or EI, taxes that are being implemented as of January?

Second, cap the Liberal government runaway deficit right now?

The third step, very importantly, unleash the energy sector in this country to produce energy that Canadians badly need to heat their homes, that farmers need in order to fuel their tractors and produce more food and, of course, that the rest of the world is so thirsty for because right now they’re under the grip of a bunch of dictatorships like Russia, Iran and I can go through the list.

Do you agree with those three simple steps the government can take in order to give middle-class Canadians, and those working hard to join the middle class, some relief?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): No, I do not. Thank you for your question.

Senator Housakos: Your Honour, at some point, Question Period here has to be the opposition asking questions and the government making some feeble attempt to provide an answer.

At the end of the day, government leader, you constantly diminish the questions we ask, but they’re questions that are being asked on behalf of Canadians.

Last week, I took the time to visit a bunch of families with autistic children and a bunch of families who are going to and relying on food banks in order to feed their children and families. They do not live in the same context and bubble as we do in this place and in this town. This government has to first acknowledge there is a problem with inflation and, second, take steps to resolve the problem — rather than continue to print money and continue to add to the deficit, thinking that’s some kind of solution. I think Canadians deserve an answer, government leader.


Senator Gold: I’m choosing to find a question in your comments, which gives me the opportunity to say the following: These are serious matters. As I’ve said on many occasions, what Canadians are going through — with the rising cost of food and other essentials and with the challenges in finding appropriate and affordable housing — are real and serious problems. I have stood here many times, Senator Housakos, and tried to draw a distinction between the tone and content of the questions, as well as the use of slogans like “JustinFlation” — which does not violate any privileges in this place because there is no Justin here. It can’t be used in the other place, so I guess one has to cycle these slogans where they can be safely said.

I draw the distinction between the purposes, which I accept and which we all accept. Question Period is where you ask questions to hold the government to account, and I do my best to answer. These are serious questions that deserve serious answers. As I’ve tried to do on so many occasions — and I won’t sit here and lecture, because I think you’re tired of hearing me say the same thing, as are our colleagues here who may have a different view than you as to what the policy instruments or causes are. Suffice it to say, these are real problems that require real solutions and analysis worthy of this chamber.


Income Tax Act

Motion to Resolve into Committee of the Whole to Consider Subject Matter of Bill C-30 Adopted

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate), pursuant to notice of September 29, 2022, moved:

That, notwithstanding any provision of the Rules, previous order or usual practice:

1.the Senate resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole at 6 p.m. on Thursday, October 6, 2022, to consider the subject matter of Bill C-30, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (temporary enhancement to the Goods and Services Tax/Harmonized Sales Tax credit), with any proceedings then before the Senate being interrupted until the end of Committee of the Whole;

2.notwithstanding rule 3-3(1), the sitting be suspended at 5 p.m., rather than 6 p.m., for a period of 60 minutes;

3.if the bells are ringing for a vote at the time the committee is to meet, they be interrupted for the Committee of the Whole at that time, and resume once the committee has completed its work for the balance of any time remaining;

4.the Committee of the Whole on the subject matter of Bill C-30 receive the Honourable Chrystia Freeland, P.C., M.P., Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, accompanied by no more than two officials;

5.the Committee of the Whole on the subject matter of Bill C-30 rise no later than 95 minutes after it begins;

6.the witness’s introductory remarks last a maximum total of five minutes; and

7.if a senator does not use the entire period of 10 minutes for debate provided under rule 12-32(3)(d), including the responses of the witnesses, that senator may yield the balance of time to another senator.

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

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

(Motion agreed to.)

Department of Public Works and Government Services Act

Bill to Amend—Third Reading—Debate Continued

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Quinn, seconded by the Honourable Senator White, for the third reading of Bill S-222, An Act to amend the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act (use of wood), as amended.

Hon. Percy Mockler: Honourable senators, before I speak on Bill S-222, I would like to quote Michael Green, a famous architect from Vancouver, who said the following in the preface of The Canadian Forest Sector: A Future Based on Innovation report by the Agriculture and Forestry Committee in 2011:

I would love to see our nation move to a sense of ambition, of world leadership and dominance in the way we express wood and the way we build with wood. We are wonderful at cutting down trees but we still export them and hope others use them well. We have to learn how to celebrate our own material in the architecture we do.


Honourable senators, it is with great pride that I rise today as the critic of Bill S-222, An Act to amend the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act (use of wood). Bill S-222 is essential. It is a very positive initiative for Canada’s forestry industry that will benefit our country from coast to coast to coast.


Honourable senators, I would like to thank our recently retired colleague Senator Diane Griffin for sponsoring this bill, which is a reintroduction of an earlier Commons bill that died on the Order Paper.

Congratulations to Senator Griffin for her dedication to this file and her steadfast vision of the importance of using wood from coast to coast to coast in Canada. The benefits will be monumental for the industry — economically, socially and environmentally.

I would also like to thank a newcomer to the Senate, our friend and colleague from New Brunswick — a fellow New Brunswicker — Senator Jim Quinn, for carrying this bill through the remaining legislative stages in the Senate. Great leadership, sir.

Honourable senators, I want to congratulate the Chair of the Agriculture and Forestry Committee, Senator Robert Black, as well as the members of the committee, for the excellent report that was produced on Bill S-222. The report is very informative and enlightening and highlights the importance of the use of wood for our economy and for the forestry sector as a whole, in all areas of Canada and in our communities. There is no doubt in our minds that Canada is the leader of the best practices in managing forests.

Put into context, honourable senators, it is the story of our great country. No one can deny that, from our earliest beginnings, forestry was part of our life, and today it still plays an important role in our economic sector from coast to coast to coast.

I will share with you a bit of history, the reason I support Bill S-222 and why now is the right time for it to become law.


Honourable senators, I cannot criticize the strategic objectives of this bill, which seeks to require the Minister of Public Works and Procurement to consider using wood in an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

I must say that although I am the bill’s critic, I am a friendly critic, as the people back home would say. Honourable senators, in the federal riding of Madawaska—Restigouche, the forestry industry has generated a total of $363 million and represents 26.6% of all jobs in the region. What’s more, New Brunswick’s forestry industry generated more than $1.7 billion in economic spinoffs in 2016. I think it is easy to understand that wood has been an economic driver for our region, our province and Atlantic Canada, and from coast to coast to coast in Canada.


Honourable senators, the Senate provides increased representation for smaller regions of Canada so they are not overlooked. It is our responsibility to ensure that laws are beneficial for all Canadians, regardless of where they live across Canada. There is no doubt in my mind that using wood has many benefits, which I will highlight as I share comments from stakeholders across Canada.


Honourable senators, we cannot deny the fact that successive governments, provincially and federally, since our humble beginnings in 1867, had a vision to legislate for natural resources and environmental management. As we are growing and modernizing our country, both jurisdictions, provincial and federal, shared a common national forest strategy that still benefits all regions of our great country.

Let us remind ourselves as parliamentarians that the sixth national forest strategy was groundbreaking. It was entitled A Vision for Canada’s Forests: 2008 and Beyond, and it was released in December 2008 by the Canadian Council of Forest Ministers. With that strategy, the Canadian Council of Forest Ministers, including representatives from the federal, provincial and territorial governments, identified two major priorities that still stand today: the transformation of all forest sectors and — yes — climate change.


I would also be remiss if I did not mention the two reports issued by a Senate committee in 2011 and 2018, which also drew the attention of successive governments to the importance of communicating the benefits of using wood in the construction of multi-storey buildings, both residential and commercial.

These two reports have been raising awareness among governments of different stripes for the past 10 years, ensuring that they recognize the important role that wood and the Canadian forest play in the fight against climate change and greenhouse gases. One of the reports was entitled, and I am looking at Senator Galvez, The Canadian Forest Sector: A Future Based on Innovation.


Honourable senators, the second report of the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry, chaired by Senator Griffin, was released in 2018 with the title Feast or Famine. One observation that is appropriate and telling with respect to Bill S-222 going forward. Observation 13 states:

That the Government of Canada:

a. ensure that research funding is available for high-level assessment to determine the most effective, economical investments in climate change action; and

b. continue to implement programs and initiatives that reduce greenhouse gas emissions by encouraging the use of new materials, such as advanced bioproducts, and new technologies to sequester carbon, like constructing tall buildings with wood.

That was groundbreaking. It is the right thing to do, honourable senators.

Please permit me to quote the Canadian Wood Council:

Canada is sustainable forestry, in conjunction with widespread use of wood as a construction material, is a simple and cost-effective way to mitigate the greenhouse gas emissions of other industries. A typical 216 square metre (2,400 square feet) wood-frame house holds 28.5 tonnes of carbon dioxide, an amount equal to the emissions of a small car over seven years.

Honourable senators, for additional information, Forintek Canada Corporation is also revealing important statistics on the use of wood. It is also reported that, according to science-based evidence, from an environmental perspective, for every cubic metre of additional wood used in Canada, the wood removes from the atmosphere one tonne of carbon dioxide. An increased use of wood by mills in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia in Atlantic Canada would remove 160,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, which is the same as 35,000 vehicles being off of our highways.

When there is an alignment between environment and economy, we as a country must show leadership and rise to the occasion. We must continue to use smarter techniques to use wood in construction. There is no doubt in my mind that we are the best country in the world to lead that fight.

I want to share with you that on June 9, 2022, there was signed the Memorandum of Cooperation between the Government of Canada and the Government of the State of California of the United States of America concerning Climate Action and Nature Protection. The memorandum’s objective 1(a)(ii) is to promote, inter alia:

. . . the use of clean technologies to meet their emission reduction and Canada’s net zero goals, . . . and to build resilience;

In the spirit and intention of that memorandum, Canada should require the use of wood whenever federal buildings are converted to housing, creating an opportunity to contribute to a significant national need of reducing emissions. It is incumbent upon us, honourable senators, in order to maintain the quality of life of all Canadians going forward.

The Canada-California memorandum is an initiative working in the spirit of our debate today on Bill S-222, An Act to amend the Department of Public Works and Government Services Act (use of wood).

Parliamentarians, we have a duty to act now. There is no doubt that Bill S-222 is a catalyst. Sustainably managed forests are a net carbon sink and a critical tool to fight against climate change. It will help Canada meet its emissions-reduction targets.

Lumber sourced from sustainably managed forests is a viable alternative for our economy, also.

Science-based evidence notes that lumber stores carbon for over 100 years. In North America, it is laudable that most Canadian forestry products companies, from coast to coast to coast, carry third-party forest certifications, like the Sustainable Forestry Initiative, which also means that the lumber is LEED, or green-building-certified. It is Canada’s leadership, and there is no doubt that we are the envy of many other countries.

It is a step in the right direction, and in the spirit of Bill S-222, I want to share with you that the new National Building Code of Canada 2020 allows the construction in Canada of 12-storey buildings using wood only and what is called cross-laminated timber, which has a smaller carbon footprint than conventional materials.

Bill S-222 is the next pillar to move forward with wood and cross-laminated timber to help create better jobs. Most of the commercial tree species growing in Atlantic Canada are accepted and can be used in cross-laminated timber and other wood‑engineered products. It has a role to play, just like concrete, and it has a role to play, just like steel.


Honourable senators, the erection time required for wood, mid‑rise buildings, that are 12-storeys high and use cross‑laminated timber is significantly less than a conventional building, which therefore reduces labour costs and allows for fast project completion.

Cross-laminated timber buildings are meeting all Canadian fire codes and seismic requirements, and have been used in new construction in Europe for many decades. Government policies that would favour and promote the use of engineered wood in commercial and government buildings would help to support the local forest product value chain, create more jobs locally and reduce the reliance of our Atlantic lumber industry on exports.

According to the Forest Products Association of Canada, if Bill S-222 becomes law, there is potential for 10% growth in the use of wood across Canada. When the bill is combined with a review of building codes to allow for the construction of tall, wood buildings, the Forest Products Association of Canada predicts the possibility of an increase of 500–750 well-paying jobs in the Maritimes alone and about 5,000 jobs across Canada.

Honourable senators, it is reported — as per science-based information — that from an environmental perspective, for every cubic metre of additional wood used in Canada, the wood removes from the atmosphere one tonne of carbon tax.

Therefore, the increased use of wood by mills in New Brunswick, and by looking at the impact it would have on our emissions, I believe that when there is an alignment between the environment and the economy, as a country, we can continue to show leadership.


To conclude, I would like to quote the Canadian Wood Council:

Canada’s sustainable forestry, in conjunction with widespread use of wood as a construction material, is a simple and cost-effective way to mitigate . . . greenhouse gas emissions . . . .


Honourable senators, when I was asked to be the critic of this bill, I thought back to my time as Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Agriculture and Forestry where we issued a 2011 report called The Canadian Forest Sector: A Future Based on Innovation. The leadership provided to the senators in 2011 and the leadership provided now is the right thing to do.

Colleagues, we are starting to see the benefits of this long-term innovation, but its use is not uniform across the country. Bill S-222 is our last building block to ensure the use of wood in our construction cycle.

In conclusion, Sir Winston Churchill once said:

 . . . it is better to be both right and consistent. But if you have to choose—you must choose to be right.

Honourable senators, as I conclude, we are doing the right thing, and we are consistent in the spirit of Sir Winston Churchill and the challenges that we have to protect the quality of life of Canadians and create durable jobs. Thank you.

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Senator Woo, do you have a question?

Hon. Yuen Pau Woo: Will the senator take a question?

Senator Mockler: I will say yes.

Senator Woo: You are very kind. Thank you, Senator Mockler, for your speech and your advocacy of this bill. Thank you to Senator Quinn as well and to former Senator Griffin.

I support this bill enthusiastically, in addition to all of the things that you said about the benefits of wood. Wood buildings also look gorgeous and they are very pleasing to the eye.

I wanted to ask you about your citation of research that shows wood buildings have a net reduction in carbon emissions. Maybe this is a bit technical. I certainly need an education on how that works.

Are you saying that the wood that is embedded in a wood building reduces more carbon from the atmosphere than the wood that is embedded in a forest in the trees? I do not know how that works.

Are you saying that the carbon emissions used to build a wood building are less than the carbon emissions from building a non‑wood building — say, a concrete building — and the net savings are what you are referring to? Sorry this is a little bit technical, but it is an important point that you raised and I do not fully understand how it works. Thank you.

Senator Mockler: You are correct, Senator Woo, it is science-based. It is technical. I will take your question under advisement and I will send you a written response.

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Senator Galvez, do you have a question?

Hon. Rosa Galvez: Will Senator Mockler take a question?

Senator Mockler: Yes.

Senator Galvez: The answer to Senator Woo is that he is right. It is not different. Whether it is taking carbon here in the chamber, it is the same amount in the tree outside.

I’m also supportive of this bill because it encourages a circular economy. The part that is missing is that we are going to take more trees to construct more buildings from wood, and wood is cheaper, cleaner and it is less energy, as you said.

But the trick is that we need to plant more trees, and much faster. It is like a rate — if you take more, you have to plant more. Can you please elaborate on this part of the equation of the circular economy? Thank you.


Senator Mockler: That is a fundamental issue that is in the spirit of Bill S-222. I will go back a little and talk about tree planting in North America. Canada was, and still is, the leader in the forestry industry, especially in northwestern New Brunswick, with the large industrial family of the Irving Group of Companies. There are also many other companies across this country that are part of this industry.

I was impressed by the current government’s efforts to create and implement a program to plant 2 billion trees across Canada. Every province, no matter where we live, will reap the benefits. These trees will restore balance to the forest and lead to the development of new wood products, such as laminated lumber. However, we will have to be very careful. In some areas of the country, certain tree species grow better than others.

I will conclude by mentioning that we will have to prove to stakeholders, whether they are industries, small and medium‑sized businesses, or workers in the forestry industry, that Bill S-222 will have major benefits that will lead to a better economy.

Hon. Renée Dupuis: Will Senator Mockler take another question?


Senator Mockler: Yes.

Senator Dupuis: Senator Mockler, Senator Woo’s question is extremely important. I don’t want to make this a question of privilege, but would you be willing to share your written response to Senator Woo with the rest of the senators?

Senator Mockler: I must start by saying that that is a very good question and an excellent suggestion.

We can draw on the experience of our experts, including Senator Galvez. I will be sure to send a very thorough answer to Senator Woo, and collectively, we can use all of our experience to ensure that every senator, no matter who they represent in this country, gets the right answer when asked the question. We will be there for our children and grandchildren, to safeguard a very important economic sector in Canada.


Hon. Jane Cordy: I would also like to ask a question of Senator Mockler. It’s a pretty easy one. Would you agree that the legacy of the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver continues in part because of the excellent wood structures that were built for the games? Those who got to use these buildings during the Olympics and those who continue to use the structures today underscore that the Olympians and Paralympians shared the stage with the creativity of the forest industry in Canada.

Senator Mockler: Thank you, Senator Cordy. I will look to enhance that before you take the adjournment. I will quote the architect Michael Green, whom I quoted earlier. I will say it again, because I think it is worthy, and it is a step in the right direction. He says:

I would love to see our nation move to a sense of ambition, of world leadership —

— and we are —

— and dominance in the way we express wood and the way we build with wood. We are wonderful at cutting down trees . . . .

You are right, we are wonderful at cutting trees. But we need to make it value added. Looking at Bill S-222 is a step in the right direction. Thank you.

(On motion of Senator Cordy, debate adjourned.)


Governor General’s Act

Bill to Amend—Second Reading—Debate Continued

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Carignan, P.C., seconded by the Honourable Senator Plett, for the second reading of Bill S-221, An Act to amend the Governor General’s Act (retiring annuity and other benefits).

Hon. Claude Carignan: Honourable senators, this bill is fairly complex, and I need to work on my speaking notes. I therefore move adjournment for the balance of my time.

(On motion of Senator Carignan, debate adjourned.)


Jane Goodall Bill

Bill to Amend—Second Reading—Debate Continued

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Klyne, seconded by the Honourable Senator Harder, P.C., for the second reading of Bill S-241, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act (great apes, elephants and certain other animals).

Hon. Jane Cordy: Honourable senators, I acknowledge that I rise to speak today from the unceded territory of the Algonquin and Anishinaabe peoples.

I would like to thank Senator Klyne for bringing forward Bill S-241, and I would like to acknowledge the original author of this legislation, our former Senate colleague Murray Sinclair, for his work on this issue.

Honourable senators, as societal norms and attitudes change and evolve, it is incumbent on us as parliamentarians to ensure that our laws evolve in step to reflect this change.

Over the last 10 to 20 years here in Canada, we have seen a sizable shift in Canadians’ attitudes toward animal protections and treatment, from the food we eat to the products we purchase to the entertainment we enjoy. Canadians are paying attention more than ever to the things we enjoy in life and where they come from. This naturally extends to concerns for how we treat the animals with whom we share the planet. Canadians are demanding better, more ethical treatment of animals while at the same time demanding more transparency and accountability from the people, organizations and businesses profiting from our animals and wildlife.

Bill S-241 will take some of the biggest steps to date toward ensuring protections for captive wild animals in Canada.

Based on our continued and evolving scientific understanding of nature and the animals who call our planet home, along with Indigenous understandings of nature, this bill will create new legal protections for captive wildlife in Canada. Big cats, bears, wolves, seals, sea lions, walruses, certain monkeys and dangerous reptiles such as crocodiles and giant pythons will see new protections come into force.

The bill also contains measures for protecting the public from privately owned exotic and potentially dangerous wild animals. I was particularly alarmed to learn that anywhere from 4,000 to 7,000 big cats can be found in private ownership. Regulations vary from province to province. Some provinces like British Columbia have strict regulations where private ownership of big cats is banned outright, while others, like Ontario, have no provincial licensing requirements for ownership, breeding or trade in big cats.

The Jane Goodall act will also phase out captivity of elephants in Canada. As noted by others, elephants are compassionate and social animals. They suffer needlessly when kept in small enclosures or in isolation. Also, Canada does not have the climate to provide the proper environment for these animals, and it has been shown to be detrimental to their well-being to keep these grand creatures indoors for months at a time.

Honourable senators, Bill S-241 has the potential to establish the strongest legal protections for captive wild animals anywhere in the world. If we examine what is being accomplished as a direct result of the passing of measures contained in our former Senate colleague Wilfred Moore’s Bill S-203, which ended future captivity of whales and dolphins in Canada, Bill S-241 has the potential to do great work here in Canada, and it can also lead to change worldwide.

After an extensive search, the Whale Sanctuary Project chose a bay in Port Hilford, Nova Scotia, to establish the world’s first whale sanctuary. This will be the first permanent seaside sanctuary in the world for beluga whales and orcas. The sanctuary will provide an actual environment for once-captive animals who are incapable of being released into the ocean for their own safety. The bay will provide the whales with about 110 acres of space to roam and explore waters up to 18 metres in depth. The Whale Sanctuary Project’s mission is:

. . . to transform the way people relate to whales and dolphins by bringing an end to their exploitation and by creating seaside sanctuaries, assisting with international marine mammal rescues, and advancing whale and dolphin science.

. . . with your help, we are creating a gold-standard coastal sanctuary in Port Hilford Bay, Nova Scotia, where cetaceans (whales and dolphins) can live in an environment that maximizes well-being and autonomy and is as close as possible to their natural habitat. It is being designed to serve as a model for many more that can then be built all over the world in the coming years.


The sanctuary is gearing up to welcome their first inhabitants in 2023, and they have made it publicly known that their hope is to relocate Kiska the killer whale from Marineland as their first inhabitant.

Colleagues, we have a bill before us that is supported not only by groups representing some of Canada’s largest zoos, leading animal welfare organizations and the Jane Goodall Institute but also by a majority of Canadians. On September 8, in a statement directed to us as parliamentarians, the Jane Goodall act coalition said:

Protecting wildlife is not a partisan issue. It’s a national and international issue — one that should concern everyone. The Jane Goodall Act is Canada’s chance to lead and make a difference for our fellow creatures at this pivotal time for the natural world.

The Minister of Environment and Climate Change has also been charged by the Prime Minister in his mandate letter to specifically introduce legislation to protect animals in captivity. The Honourable Steven Guilbeault has tweeted his interest in Bill S-241 and our work in the Senate on the legislation.

Honourable senators, the principle of this bill is sound, and it should be referred to committee for study. The Jane Goodall act has the potential to establish the world’s strongest legal protections for captive wild animals. I would like to again acknowledge and thank my colleague Senator Klyne for continuing the work initiated by our former colleague Senator Sinclair.

Canada has the opportunity with this bill to be a world leader and set more gold standards when it comes to protecting wildlife and conserving nature in Canada. As legislation is not overwhelming Senate committees at this time, I think this would be the ideal time to send Bill S-241 to committee for further study. Thank you.

Hon. Ratna Omidvar: Will Senator Cordy take a question?

Senator Cordy: Certainly.

Senator Omidvar: Senator Cordy, I support the bill. I recognize that all animals on this planet are God’s creatures. From that value base I support the bill, but there is also a question of public safety. I recall — I think it was 10 years ago — when private ownership of dangerous pets resulted in the death of two twin boys in New Brunswick when a 100-pound pet snake came crashing down the ceiling and smothered the seven-year-old boys.

Will your bill regulate private ownership of potentially dangerous animals, or is that a provincial issue?

Senator Cordy: Thank you very much. That’s an excellent question. I recall that incident in New Brunswick, and when you brought it back up again, a shiver went up my spine as to how this could happen.

I was particularly alarmed, as I said in my speech, that between 4,000 and 7,000 big cats are found in private ownership, and that to me is very scary. Big cats are not meant to be living in homes and having private ownership. The same thing that happened in New Brunswick with the snake could conceivably happen again. I think this bill contains measures for protecting the public from privately owned exotic and potentially dangerous wild animals.

I don’t know the bill as well as Senator Klyne does, but from the research that I have done, I would say that is the case. I know that currently there are provinces like British Columbia that have stringent controls, some like Ontario that have none and probably a lot that are in between. My understanding is that this bill will go a long way in preventing big cats from being owned by private individuals.

Senator Omidvar: Senator Cordy, maybe I missed it in Senator Klyne’s speech. Which committee does the sponsor want this bill to go to for study?

Senator Cordy: That is a decision that would be made by the Senate. Somebody usually comes forward that the bill be sent to a specific committee, but I’ve been in the Senate when it has actually overturned that. Usually it’s a discussion among leaders. I’m not going to suggest what committee it goes to. I’m not sure that the sponsor of the bill is going to suggest that. He may as we get closer, but that is a decision to be made by the Senate.

Hon. Donald Neil Plett (Leader of the Opposition): Will Senator Cordy take another question?

Senator Cordy: Of course.

Senator Plett: Senator Cordy, you mentioned in your speech that regulations around this vary from province to province. It is actually quite simple as to why they do. It is because private ownership of exotic animals falls entirely under provincial jurisdiction. Senator Omidvar already asked about part of this.

Do you have any concerns that Bill S-241 may be encroaching on provincial jurisdiction? Have you spoken, Senator Cordy, to any of the provinces to see how they feel about this legislation? Because clearly, we are considering passing legislation here that doesn’t fall under our jurisdiction.

Senator Cordy: I think that you have raised a really good issue that could be discussed at committee. I would hope, as I said in my speech, that this would be an excellent time for this bill to go to committee. The members of whichever committee could certainly invite provinces and territories to appear as witnesses, and there could be a thorough discussion at that time.

To answer your question, no, I have not spoken to provincial ministers responsible for the owning of big cats by private individuals.

Senator Plett: Thank you, Senator Cordy, for that. I guess some of us believe that this would be the tail wagging the dog, so to speak. Maybe we should go to the proper jurisdictions first. Nevertheless, I will leave that, and I will leave it for my speech.

You alluded a fair bit to elephants. Have you visited any establishments that have elephants? Have you seen these elephants crammed into small cages? Have you seen them freeze in wintertime? If you haven’t, are you aware — and I don’t want you to answer for him — whether the sponsor has made some of those trips to these places? Has he informed you that, in fact, these elephants are being mistreated — elephants that have never been in the wild; they have always been in captivity? Most elephants in our country have been bred in captivity and have never been in the wild. Have you collaborated? Is there anyone who has visited any zoos, any wildlife establishments that have elephants?

Senator Cordy: I’ve gone to places where there are elephants, but I’ve not had great discussions with people about elephants. That would be a question that you would have to ask the sponsor of the bill. He can’t answer at this time because he’s not making the speech. Again, these are great questions that you’re asking, and that’s why I think that the bill should go to committee as soon as possible so that the questions that you are asking can be answered.

(On motion of Senator Tannas, for Senator Patterson, debate adjourned.)


Question of Privilege

Speaker’s Ruling Reserved

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, earlier this day Senator Tannas gave notice of a question of privilege. I now call upon Senator Tannas.

Hon. Scott Tannas: Honourable senators, I rise today to bring to the Senate’s attention a serious breach of the Senate’s collective rights and privileges, and a possible contempt of Parliament. According to rule 13-1:

A violation of the privileges of any one Senator affects all Senators and the ability of the Senate to carry out its functions. The preservation of the privileges of the Senate is the duty of every Senator and has priority over every other matter before the Senate.

As required under rule 13-3(1), written notice of this question of privilege was given to the Clerk of the Senate this morning and was circulated to all senators. I gave oral notice earlier today during Senators’ Statements, pursuant to rule 13-3(4).

Parliamentary privilege exists to permit Parliament to conduct its duties without interference. According to Senate Procedure in Practice on page 226, senators should fulfill their responsibilities with “freedom from obstruction and intimidation.”

Actions taken by an individual or individuals to impede the work of Parliament can be considered as contempt of Parliament. Again, as defined on page 230 of Senate Procedure in Practice, contempt involves, “Any actions that substantially obstruct Parliament and its members in the performance of their duties . . . .” This statement is supported by numerous parliamentary references and authorities such as Erskine May, House of Commons Procedure and Practice and more than a dozen Senate Speaker’s rulings since 1998.

Witnesses who appear before Senate committees are given the same protections against coercion and intimidation. On page 203 of Senate Procedure in Practice, it says:

Since official meetings of a committee are part of the proceedings of Parliament, any person appearing before a Senate committee is protected by parliamentary privilege.

As such, the protections provided to senators, including freedom of expression and freedom against intimidation, flow to witnesses.

According to section 865 in Beauchesne’s Parliamentary Rules and Forms, sixth edition:

To tamper with a witness in regard to the evidence to be given before either house or any committee of either house or to endeavour directly or indirectly, to deter or hinder any person from appearing or giving evidence is a breach of privilege.

On April 13, 2000, the Standing Committee on Privileges, Standing Rules and Order — now the Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament — presented a report following allegations of reprisals against a witness. The report says:

The Senate, and all Senators, view with great seriousness any allegations of possible intimidation or harassment of a witness or potential witness before a Senate committee. In order for the Senate to discharge its functions and duties properly, it must be able to call and hear from witnesses without their being threatened or fearing any repercussions. Any interference with a person who has given evidence before a Senate committee, or who is planning to, is an interference with the Senate itself, and cannot be tolerated.

Senators, I am providing this information to show you the seriousness of the issue at hand.

On Wednesday, September 28, 2022, Mr. Scott Benzie appeared before the Standing Committee on Transport and Communications on Bill C-11. Mr. Benzie is the Managing Director of Digital First Canada.

At the beginning of his testimony, he informed the committee of a string of intimidation events that began with his appearance before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage on May 30, 2022.

Mr. Benzie was accused by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage during the public hearing that he had failed to disclose that his group, Digital First Canada, received funding from YouTube and TikTok. Another member of the committee accused Mr. Benzie of violating the Lobbyists’ Code of Conduct. Needless to say, Mr. Benzie was given a very rough ride during his testimony before the House of Commons committee.

I am mentioning this simply for context, with full knowledge that the parliamentary activities of the House of Commons are outside the Senate’s purview for a question of privilege. I am simply stating that events seem to have begun in the other place and then moved outside and led directly to a specific event of intimidation before an appearance before the Senate committee.

In August 2022, the parliamentary secretary sent a letter to the Commissioner of Lobbying requesting an investigation into Mr. Benzie and his organization for failing to disclose the receipt of funding from private organizations.

This complaint is clearly unfounded, and, according to correspondence from the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying and provided to the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications, there was no requirement to disclose private funding, only government funding. Digital First Canada has not received any government funding for their operations.

Again, I am providing this information for context, but it is important.

Now that I’ve given context, I will share the direct actions taken to intimidate a Senate witness.

Mr. Benzie was invited to appear before the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications on Wednesday, September 28, 2022. The notice of meeting was posted Friday, September 23, indicating Mr. Benzie’s participation in the public hearing on Bill C-11.

Prior to his scheduled appearance before the Senate committee, Mr. Benzie was contacted by a journalist from The Globe and Mail who wanted to publish a story on the complaint presented to the Commissioner of Lobbying. Again, it was after Mr. Benzie was invited to appear before the Senate committee. We should note that the actual complaint to the Commissioner of Lobbying was dated August 3, 2022.

An article outlining the parliamentary secretary’s complaint to the Commissioner of Lobbying, which was sent two months earlier, was published by journalist Marie Woolf of The Globe and Mail on September 27, 2022. That was the day before Mr. Benzie’s testimony.

To be clear, the timing and the sharing of the content of the letter to the Commissioner of Lobbying was intended to attack Mr. Benzie’s credibility before he provided evidence to the Senate’s Transport Committee.


Other than the recipient of the letter, who was the commissioner, the full content was only known to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Ms. Lisa Hepfner, another member of Parliament. A reasonable person could only come to the conclusion that it was sent by one or both of these individuals or someone working for them under their direction.

Divulging the complaint mentioned in The Globe and Mail article on September 27 is not a coincidence and was deliberately timed to appear before Mr. Benzie’s testimony.

Again, let me be clear: Divulging the information was to intimidate Mr. Benzie and discredit his testimony and to discourage other digital content creators from appearing before the Senate committee. Digital content providers who are opposed to the bill or wish to highlight changes to the bill are scared to appear before the Senate’s Transport Committee to give their testimony. This is preventing Parliament from hearing dissenting opinions from specific groups.

Mr. Benzie was asked last Wednesday by Senator Housakos, before the Senate Transport and Communications Committee, if he felt intimidated, silenced or bullied. Mr. Benzie responded that he felt attacked because he was providing his views. He went on to say:

Digital creators were attacked in a way that we’ve never seen before, to the point where, I’ll tell you, a lot of digital creators have refused to come forward and speak because they’ve seen the treatment that we’ve received.

This is a truly worrying statement for all of us to consider. For the Senate to properly conduct reviews and investigations into legislation, it must hear from all sides of an issue without its witnesses fearing reprisals to their livelihoods and their personal lives.

Now that I have shown how there was an attempt to intimidate a witness appearing before a Senate committee, let me turn to the criteria needed to raise a question of privilege and determine a breach. Under rule 13-2(1):

In order to be accorded priority, a question of privilege must:

(a) be raised at the earliest opportunity;

(b) be a matter that directly concerns the privileges of the Senate, any of its committees or any Senator;

(c) be raised to correct a grave and serious breach; and

(d) be raised to seek a genuine remedy that the Senate has the power to provide and for which no other parliamentary process is reasonably available.

I will now show how this question of privilege that I’ve raised falls within the criteria.

On the first point, let me start with a short chronology of events. The article in The Globe and Mail entitled “Critic of Bill C-11 should be investigated for failing to disclose funding from YouTube, says Liberal MP” appeared on Tuesday, September 27, 2022.

The Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications heard from Mr. Benzie on Wednesday, September 28, 2022, and the chair asked directly if Mr. Benzie felt intimidated by the timing of the article; he responded in the affirmative.

On Thursday, September 29, 2022, I became aware of the testimony and reviewed the transcripts. Since this is a very serious and complicated case of privilege, additional information was gathered.

Mr. Benzie sent further information to the committee after his appearance, which was circulated to the members on Monday, October 3. This was vital to fully understanding this question of privilege.

The Senate did not sit on Friday, September 30, nor Monday, October 3. Therefore, I sent my notice to the Clerk of the Senate today.

As this chronology indicates, today is, in fact, the earliest opportunity to raise this issue.

Second, as it states in the Rules, this matter must “directly concern the privileges of the Senate, any of its committees or any Senator.”

Mr. Benzie appeared before a public hearing of a Senate committee and gave evidence on September 28, 2022.

Here, I would also like to note that committees are not empowered to decide any questions of privilege. Only the Senate can decide if a breach of privilege has occurred.

As I outlined earlier, the intimidation of witnesses constitutes a direct breach of our privileges as legislators to receive true and factual information. Individuals should never fear to appear before a Senate committee to provide their views on the nation’s business.

Next, the question must be raised “to correct a grave and serious breach.” I will briefly expand on this point.

In his decision on May 8, 2013, Speaker Kinsella said:

If there were intent to intimidate the witness, it is clearly a grave and serious breach, therefore meeting the third criterion.

In my view, there was an attempt to intimidate Mr. Benzie. However, this goes beyond only one witness. As Mr. Benzie stated in committee, “A lot of digital creators have refused to come forward and speak.” In essence, the action by representatives of the government has poisoned the well of potential witnesses who can be invited to appear before the Transport and Communications Committee in opposition of the bill or of sections of it.

Honourable senators, the fear of reprisal of speaking against government policy has absolutely no place in a democratic system and goes against our Charter and our values as citizens of Canada.

Finally, the question must “seek a genuine remedy that the Senate has the power to provide and for which no other parliamentary process is reasonably available.”

I will again quote from former Senator Kinsella, since this case mirrors the question of privilege raised by former Senator Cowan in 2013:

. . . the fundamental issue is whether there was a deliberate attempt to prevent a witness from appearing. Were this to be so, it would constitute contempt. The accepted remedy is to treat such issues as cases of privilege. As such, the final criterion has also been fulfilled. This ruling, to be clear, does not establish that there was a deliberate intent to intimidate, which would be a decision for the Senate to eventually make, but rather that there is reason for concern.

It is within the powers of the Senate to deal with affronts to the dignity of Parliament. According to page 249 in Senate Procedure in Practice:

The Senate may punish, as contempt, an action that substantially interferes with or obstructs the performance of its duties or offends against its dignity or authority.

The case I bring before you today fits into the last criterion mentioned.

I raise this question of privilege out of concern for witnesses appearing before our committees. It is in no way to slow down the review of Bill C-11 and the good work that needs to be done by the Transport and Communications Committee.

A line has been crossed by some in relation to this bill. Intimidation and harassment behaviour should never be tolerated in any form.

Before I conclude, I would like to make a final point to my colleagues in this debate. We are asking the Speaker to determine if there is a prima facie case, meaning at first look. In his May 29, 2007, ruling, Speaker Kinsella stated that the role of the Speaker is to determine if “a reasonable person could conclude that there may have been a violation of privilege.”

It is not the role of the Speaker here, today, to adjudicate to resolve this matter or pass a final judgment. That will be the role of senators. We are simply asking the Speaker to, in his opinion, determine if there is some merit to the question to be further reviewed.

I want to reiterate finally that raising this issue does not signal any desire or intent that the legislative process for Bill C-11 be delayed or postponed, but this behaviour must be called out, stopped and can never be accepted as the new normal.

Thank you, colleagues.

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Honourable senators, I rise, albeit briefly, in response to the point of privilege raised by Senator Tannas to offer some perspective that may assist you, Your Honour, as you come to a determination. I have full confidence in your ability to come with sound judgment on this issue.


At this point in the process, we are to address the narrow issue of whether there is a prima facie case of a question of privilege using the four criteria set out in rule 13-2(1). The four criteria listed in rule 13-2(1) begin by underlining the urgency of the matter. It must be raised by a senator at the earliest opportunity.

I respectfully submit that the question was not raised at the earliest opportunity. The article in question was published Tuesday, September 27, with the witness in question scheduled to appear Wednesday, September 28. The Senate sat on both Wednesday, September 28, and on Thursday, September 29. Although I acknowledge Senator Tannas’s claim that more details were required before proceeding, there was an opportunity to raise the question of privilege on any of those two days. In fact, a point of privilege on this matter was, indeed, raised in the other place by the Member of Parliament for Perth—Wellington on Wednesday, September 28.

On September 16, 1994, the Speaker ruled that even a gap of a few days may invalidate the claim for precedence in our proceedings.

Second, rule 13-2(1) provides that the matter must directly concern the privileges of the Senate, any of its committees and must relate to a grave and serious breach, which has been defined as something that “would seriously undermine the ability of committees to function and would even jeopardize the work of the Senate itself.”

Clearly, colleagues, this bar is set very high. I would note in that regard, at least at first blush, that the case brought forward by Senator Tannas involves more than its fair share of conjecture and indeed rests upon a large measure of speculation. To state the obvious, colleagues, it is newspapers who are in control of what they publish and when they publish.

At the crux of Senator Tannas’s argument is the notion that a newspaper report containing information around a complaint to the Commissioner of Lobbying is tantamount to a form of intimidation that has jeopardized the Senate’s work.

Now, assuming for argument’s sake that we accept all of the speculation and conjecture, Senator Tannas seems to be making the case that a journalistic source is engaging in a form of witness intimidation rising to the level of a breach of the Senate’s privileges.

To be frank, there’s something chilling about the idea that the Senate would embark upon inquiries around journalistic sources based upon conjecture alone. Indeed, this chamber has pronounced itself firmly in favour of freedom of the press and the need to protect the confidentiality of journalistic sources.

The point of privilege raised today engages broader questions of principle that, unfortunately, cannot be addressed adequately in this forum today, which I would invite you, Your Honour, to address: How do our privileges interact with freedom of the press in a context such as this? May we rely upon the Senate’s privileges to interfere with the confidentiality of journalistic sources?

I would also submit that, notwithstanding the speculative nature of the point of privilege, the record plainly shows that the committee’s ability to function has not been jeopardized or undermined by media coverage of Bill C-11. Setting aside the conjecture around the content and timing of the news story — which I would again note is entirely within the purview of the news outlet — did this newspaper story impinge upon the ability of parliamentarians to do their jobs properly?

For my part, I fail to see how this story undermined the ability of the committee to receive true and factual evidence from the witness. And, indeed, I would further submit that the individual in question did appear before the committee on Bill C-11 and was able to fully advance his views on the bill, as is, of course, appropriate.

Finally, it strikes me that for Senator Tannas’s argument to be valid, one must necessarily first conclude that the complaint made to the Lobbying Commissioner was, itself, a form of intimidation. However, let us be clear that the Member of Parliament for St. Catharines was perfectly entitled to contact the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying if he believed that there was a bona fide allegation of conflict of interest with respect to a witness appearing on a bill and having a financial interest in doing so.

Your Honour, I look forward to your ruling on the matter.

Hon. Donald Neil Plett (Leader of the Opposition): Honourable senators, I have just a few words in support of Senator Tannas’s question of privilege, but first I wish to address at least two of the issues that Senator Gold raised.

Senator Gold raised the issue of Senator Tannas not raising this at the first available opportunity. The fact of the matter is, Your Honour, that Senator Tannas, although he views the newspaper article as having flagged something, I didn’t hear in his remarks that his question of privilege was based upon the newspaper article. It was something that was flagged. His question of privilege is based upon testimony by a witness at a committee and, indeed, written complaints about that.

We look at newspaper articles, and we say, “This needs to be investigated,” and we investigate. That is what Senator Tannas did and rightfully so.

Senator Gold says that Senator Tannas could have raised the question of privilege a little earlier. The fact of the matter is that the chair of the committee rightfully asked the witness, Mr. Benzie, for written confirmation of what had happened. That was on Wednesday evening. Mr. Benzie sent that information to the clerk on Thursday morning, September 29, and I believe the clerk did not receive it until about 11:30 a.m. First of all, that is a half-hour after the deadline for raising notices.

Plus, that particular letter was in English only and had to be translated, which only happened as late as yesterday. So, indeed, there is no way that Senator Tannas could have raised this question of privilege earlier than yesterday because that’s when he and the clerk received the translated version of the entire issue.

First of all, Your Honour, I think what Senator Gold has said insofar as timing is concerned is completely out of line and needs to be dismissed.

I do want to support the position of Senator Tannas. I do not want to repeat everything that he has said, but I will try to add some arguments.

As Senator Tannas has said, Mr. Benzie in his testimony at committee clearly stated that potential witnesses refused to appear in front of our Senate committee because of Member of Parliament Bittle’s conduct. Let me quote Mr. Benzie again:

Digital creators were attacked in a way that we’ve never seen before, to the point where, I’ll tell you, a lot of digital creators have refused to come forward and speak because they’ve seen the treatment that we’ve received.

That, colleagues, bears repeating, and that’s why I did that. It is egregious that witnesses are intimidated to the point where they are afraid to appear at our committees.

His testimony is clear. At this stage, this undisputed testimony must be considered on the face of it by you, Your Honour, deciding whether there’s a prima facie case of a breach of privilege.

Second, let me add to the list of cases that Senator Tannas mentioned in support of his arguments. There was a similar incident raised in the House of Commons in 1992. The CBC threatened a lawsuit against a witness because of evidence she presented at the committee. The Speaker ruled the matter to be a prima facie question of privilege, so the threat of legal repercussions made to the witness was considered by the Speaker as an intimidation of the witness.

In the case of Mr. Benzie, we have the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage, the sponsor of Bill C-11, who did not only make a threat; he actually sent a letter to the Commissioner of Lobbying, and he made sure that this fact would be made public on the day before Mr. Benzie was due to testify in front of our Senate committee.


On page 267 of the twenty-fourth edition of Erskine May it states, “Any conduct calculated to deter prospective witnesses from giving evidence before either House or a committee is a contempt.”

Similar statements are made on page 82 of Bosc and Gagnon, which explains that witnesses are protected from threats or intimidation.

Paragraph 15.23 of Erskine May, twenty-fifth edition, states:

Both Houses will treat the bringing of legal proceedings against any person on account of any evidence which they may have given in the course of any proceedings in the House or before one of its committees as a contempt.

Finally, I must say that this matter causes me considerable concern, largely from what I fear may be a systemic effort on the part of the government to intimidate and shut down not only broader debate on Bill C-11 but also contributions from people and groups we do not often hear from in these debates.

In this regard, let me go back to Mr. Benzie’s testimony when he appeared before our Transport and Communications Committee. Mr. Benzie’s reference to testimony of Mr. Darcy Michael, again, was before the House Heritage Committee but he appeared before that committee on a completely different bill: the Status of the Artist Act.

Mr. Benzie paraphrased Mr. Michael as saying, “I feel like I am being bullied” in the middle of his testimony on the Status of the Artist Act.

When one goes back and examines the specific testimony in question, this testimony occurred on March 21, 2022. What Mr. Michael actually said was, “. . . I’m feeling a little on edge here.”

Why did Mr. Michael say that? It was, again, related to the questioning of witnesses by MP Chris Bittle. What was Mr. Bittle questioning Mr. Michael about? Mr. Bittle specifically questioned Mr. Michael about an answer he had given to another member of the committee about Bill C-11.

Remember that the meeting of the House Heritage Committee on March 21 was on the subject of the Status of the Artist Act. However, Mr. Michael was nevertheless asked about Bill C-11. When he answered that question, expressing his concerns as an online creator about Bill C-11, it apparently triggered Mr. Bittle to go on the attack.

Mr. Bittle demanded to know what section of Bill C-11 Mr. Michael was concerned about. When Mr. Michael’s answer was deemed unsatisfactory, Mr. Bittle became more belligerent, until a point of order by another member of the committee brought an end to this hostile questioning. This was when Mr. Michael stated, “. . . I’m feeling a little on edge here.”

It is hardly surprising he was, since he was not even appearing before the committee to speak about Bill C-11. To quote Mr. Michael’s own words when he appeared before the committee on March 21:

I’m speaking to you as a proud queer digital creator with content that celebrates conversations around mental health, body positivity and human rights. . . .

I’m here in front of you as an artist, as a Canadian, and as a marginalized voice asking all of you not to omit us from this conversation any longer.

Colleagues, what I fear is that the parliamentary secretary for the government’s purpose was ultimately to ensure that, as far as Bill C-11 is concerned, Mr. Michael, and any voices speaking on behalf of digital creators, be excluded from the conversation.

If one considers this incident in the context of the broader pattern, then I submit there is strong evidence that there has been a deliberate attempt to intimidate witnesses from appearing before any parliamentary committee on this matter. Many digital creators were unable or unsuccessful in appearing before the House Heritage Committee on Bill C-11. Fortunately, and despite the efforts of the government, they are now having a much greater voice as they appear before the Senate Transport and Communications Committee on this bill.

A few weeks ago, when the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, Marc Miller, appeared before the Senate, Senator Housakos asked him a question about why, in the context of the promises made in relation to the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, the government had failed to consult adequately with Indigenous people who might be impacted by Bill C-11. The minister responded at that time by stating, “. . . I know you’ll appreciate that the government doesn’t dictate who appears at committees, and who doesn’t.”

However, I believe that, contrary to the minister’s assertion, there is considerable evidence that, when it comes to Bill C-11, the government has been seeking to do precisely that. Not only has it sought to stage-manage proceedings in the House of Commons and to ignore any witness who might cause a problem for the government’s agenda, it has also sought to deter opponents of the bill from speaking. The fact that many of these witnesses speak for marginalized communities should be particularly concerning for all senators. The Senate exists, in large measure, to speak for political minorities.

In that regard, I believe that it is essential that you, Your Honour, put your foot down and say enough is enough. If the Senate is to be independent from the government, the first thing to do is to make sure that our committees can hear witnesses who come here freely and speak their truth. We need to have witnesses other than government-approved ones who come here to repeat government talking points.


Hon. Raymonde Saint-Germain: The issues Senator Tannas raised are serious and extremely important. Anyone in this chamber who takes these allegations seriously could not possibly condone such an attitude were it to be displayed. What you’re talking about is contempt of Parliament, which is very serious and has consequences.

Having said that, given the seriousness of the matter raised, I reviewed the September 28 meeting of the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications at which Mr. Benzie appeared. I noted that Senator Housakos asked Mr. Benzie questions that gave him an opportunity to say he felt intimidated in the other place. However, during his testimony before the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications, he clearly felt quite confident.

Senator Tannas, to prove that you brought this question of privilege before this chamber by the deadline, you referred to a letter that Mr. Benzie provided to the clerk on September 29, the day after the Transport Committee meeting. I have the letter here. Mr. Benzie received it at 11:26 on the morning of September 28, which was before his appearance at the committee. The letter is from the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying. It confirms that he has no obligation to disclose any funding received from parties other than a government. I will read it in English:


“. . . from any domestic or foreign government, at any level – federal, provincial/territorial/state, or local.”


At the time of his appearance, Mr. Benzie knew that he had not violated the Lobbying Act. He knew this when he was appearing before the committee, and the committee had no reason to question it.

The connection you are making with receiving this letter the next day and even later, because it had not been translated, does not, in my opinion, justify the notion that this complaint could have been filed immediately, on September 28. In my opinion, you therefore did not meet the deadline.


Something else that seems important to me is to separate what falls under the privileges and Rules of this chamber, and therefore falls within the purview of our Speaker regarding potential violations of the Parliament of Canada Act or the Rules of the Senate, from what falls within the purview of the other place.

The alleged elements are the responsibility of the other place and have been for some time. After all, Mr. Benzie’s appearance before the House of Commons committee took place four months before his appearance last week before the Senate committee. By his second appearance, he knew what this question was about and what to expect.

You also alluded to the allegation that witnesses who testified before the House of Commons on this same issue were intimidated, and that allegation was made by Mr. Benzie. Now, the important thing is to determine whether these witnesses were intimidated to the point of refusing to come testify before the Senate.

The Clerk of the Transport and Communications Committee has confirmed that no content creator who may have been intimidated at the House of Commons withdrew or declined an invitation issued by the Clerk on behalf of the Transport and Communications Committee. This information, in my opinion, has therefore not been documented.

What concerns me most about this question of privilege is not only the allegations, but the conflation being made between an MP, members of a House of Commons committee who are doing their job and questioning witnesses — rightly or wrongly, I don’t want to be the judge — and the fact that a member of Parliament was able to file a complaint with an officer of Parliament. To me, this is a fundamental issue.

Filing a complaint with an officer is not in itself an act of intimidation and certainly does not mean that the commissioner or officer of Parliament will complete the investigation in a non‑objective manner. If there are legitimate grounds, the officer of Parliament will investigate and come to a conclusion in an objective manner. We have confidence in those officers, whose appointment is endorsed by both houses of Parliament.

The other point that really concerns me is the fact that, once again, there is confusion between the Speaker’s authority over our work and the conflation with what may have happened in the House of Commons. I think that we all care about respecting the independence of both chambers. In my opinion, this misconception fails to respect that independence.

My last point — and I do not want to dwell on it because Senator Gold stressed this point — is that it is also a misconception to assume that any media outlet would cater to the government, an MP or anyone, and that it would choose to publish a news article on a particular day of the parliamentary calendar that would make it possible to somehow influence a witness or even abuse or harass them. It is a misconception to state that the situation is being created by members of Parliament or their employees.

Let me say that it has been stated with great certainty that a complaint filed with an officer of Parliament would be known to only a few people. With my six years of Senate experience, I could comment at length on the breaches of confidentiality that occur in the hallways and even in this chamber.

For all these reasons, I am of the opinion that the conditions for finding that the question of privilege is in order have not been fulfilled. Thank you.

Hon. Julie Miville-Dechêne: I want to add to what Senator Saint-Germain said. Yes, the allegations are serious, but as Deputy Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on Transport and Communications, I was there in person at the September 28 meeting during which the witness, Scott Benzie, appeared.

My colleague, Senator Housakos, did indeed ask questions about the content of the article in The Globe and Mail, and the witness, Mr. Benzie, answered directly, although he said he did not want to spend too much time talking about it. He said that the timing of the article in The Globe and Mail was suspect, but all the attacks on content creators that he referred to occurred in the House of Commons, not the Senate. He talked about attacks that had taken place several months before.

I would note that, during the meeting, I heard Mr. Benzie express his views on Bill C-11 freely and at length, several times, without hesitation. He has major concerns about the bill.

I must add that we are set to hear from about 10 content creators, people commonly called “YouTubers,” all of whom have major concerns about Bill C-11. Not one of them decided not to show up or refused to testify. They have been coming, we have spent several meetings hearing from them, and they have been telling us exactly what they think of Bill C-11.

I do not wish to comment on the merits of the case, as that is for you to do, Your Honour. By merits, I mean the information reported by The Globe and Mail. However, I do not see how the publication of this article violated my privileges, prevented me from doing my job, or otherwise impeded the committee’s work. Not to mention the fact that, as a journalist, I am concerned that an article is being used as the basis for this question of privilege, when this is an example of freedom of the press, a fundamental right guaranteed by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.


Hon. Leo Housakos: Honourable senators, I can tell you that in the 14 years that I have served in this chamber, I have heard a number of questions of privilege. None have gone to the core of what we do here more than this one. I want to thank Senator Tannas for, in a very thoughtful way, bringing up this question of privilege and arguing it factually.

When I first heard of this, it was just before our committee meeting on Wednesday — I believe it was — which I chaired. It raised a number of flags, and I want to address them all.

First, in response to the arguments from the government leader in the Senate, no one is attacking the journalist, their right to maintain their sources or operate and run whatever stories with whatever narrative they feel free to do so.

The story just raised a red flag. It didn’t actually lead to any conclusions — I don’t think — on the part of Senator Tannas hearing his question of privilege, in Senator Plett’s case or in my case. But what that flag did do, it asked questions. And the questions, Senator Gold, it asked were to get some more information from the witness himself, who in testimony before a Senate committee at this chamber said that he felt intimidated and bullied. Those were his words, and he invited us to look at the testimony in the other house in order to confirm that.

Furthermore, your argument, Senator Gold, about questioning the question of privilege on technicality and procedure, about it being brought forward at its earliest opportunity — in itself on an issue so important — is shameful because the government, and you as government leader, should be really concerned about the nefarious nature of these accusations far more than trying to shut them down using some procedural tool.

I will reinforce — because I happen to be the chair of the committee — that, again, in good faith, after the article that raised the flag — after the comments, Your Honour, of the witness before our committee — the committee asked him to table the document that he had from the Commissioner of Lobbying, which he did. That document came to the clerk — at least to my attention — at around quarter to 12 on Thursday. Thus, based on your argument, it was not the earliest opportunity. He wouldn’t be able to make the deadline three hours before that sitting, but, more importantly, the document wasn’t bilingual. I asked the clerk to have it translated, and it was officially tabled with the committee on Monday. I suspect that’s when Senator Tannas saw it, and that in itself raised a lot of questions for me.


That’s in regard to your feeble argument today in defence of this question of privilege.

Now, in terms of my colleague Senator Saint-Germain — I thank you for your arguments, Senator Saint-Germain, because it reinforces how important this question of privilege is. You’re absolutely right; the witness came before us, and he said what he said. You say that in itself shows how he was comfortable; he came before this house of Parliament.

But the truth of the matter is, he was intimidated and bullied to such an extent that as a witness — as an individual Canadian — he felt compelled to go before an officer of Parliament — the Commissioner of Lobbying — a few days or weeks before his testimony to get security of allegations that were made by two parliamentarians. Why were those allegations made? Senator Saint-Germain, when a parliamentarian tells a witness — a Canadian citizen — that they’re a liar and a lobbyist, when they’re before the committee or outside the purview of that committee, that is outrageous.

We have privileges here. We are guardians of this institution, but an individual Canadian citizen who wants to come before a committee and is then attacked by two members of Parliament about lying and being a lobbyist — to the point where he felt compelled to go to the Commissioner of Lobbying to get a letter in order to justify, “Hey, I’m safe,” is inexcusable. That in itself is the argument that there is something deeply nefarious going on here, and we need to get to the bottom of it.

Colleagues, the truth of the matter is that Parliament and the Senate are the custodians of democracy and freedom, and it should be concerning on our part when the executive branch of government overreaches and, at some point in time, feels they can intimidate testimony just because they don’t agree. This is our ultimate job.

Like I said, I don’t want to jump to conclusions, but we have an obligation to get to the bottom of why this individual felt the way he did now more than ever.

Also, if you go to the House testimony, you realize it wasn’t a one-off. There were a couple of people who were bullied to the point where parliamentarians had to be called to order by other colleagues to stop that bullying.

All stakeholders and all individuals need to feel secure when they come before their parliamentary bodies. They need to feel they can come and express themselves without intimidation — without bullying — regardless of which side of the debate they are on. It’s only normal. We expect that courtesy amongst ourselves in this chamber. It doesn’t matter if it’s the opinion of 2 senators versus 103, or whatever the case may be. I think that’s ultimately important.

The fact is that Mr. Benzie, in particular, is not a lobbyist. He is a Canadian content producer who is trying to articulate on behalf of his livelihood and his industry vis-à-vis a bill. The fact that he cannot afford high-priced lobbyists to come to the corridors of power in order to articulate himself is even more reason that we need to make sure these voices are protected more than anyone else’s. We all know the business in this town. High‑priced lobbyists come here — they’re paid to be combative, they send us emails and chase us down the corridors, and they have friends of friends who call us in order to get a hearing. But when, again, a single individual — and that’s what Mr. Benzie is — comes and testifies before our committees, it is incumbent on us to make sure they’re heard.

Colleagues, let’s keep in mind that in 2015, this government promised more transparency, accountability and democracy than ever before. Tampering with a witness and tampering with testimony, either through media or at committee itself, should raise a lot of red flags.

Unlike Senator Saint-Germain, I can tell you — as the chair of a committee who is in constant contact with the clerk — there are a number of witnesses who expressed an interest, at the beginning of our study back in June, in appearing before our committee but who are currently not answering our calls. It’s one thing for witnesses to say, “Sorry, we heard enough testimony, our issues have been addressed and we don’t want to come before the committee.” It’s a whole other situation where I know of a couple of witnesses who were vociferous about coming before our committee in June and are currently no longer responding.

Honourable senators, I will terminate by saying that I think the remedy in the past was to send this to the Rules Committee for review and to have a thorough inquiry, but now, as a chair, I am very uncomfortable, and I question — we should all question — the contamination of this study. We know what happened on the House side. We took measures to make sure it doesn’t happen on this side — that every witness is heard and that we take the time to do a thorough study. But when I start hearing witnesses say they’ve been intimidated, I think there is nothing scarier than that. Our judicial and parliamentary systems have to be transparent, clear and fair.

Your Honour, I leave this to your wisdom to determine.


Hon. Raymonde Gagné (Legislative Deputy to the Government Representative in the Senate): I have a few points to make. The first point is in response to Senator Plett’s and Senator Housakos’ comments that this question of privilege is not based on the article. I would just like to quote the letter from the Honourable Scott Tannas to Gérald Lafrenière, Interim Clerk of the Senate.


The letter reads:

The timing and content of an article in the Globe and Mail on September 27, 2022, entitled “Critic of Bill C-11 should be investigated for failing to disclose funding from YouTube, say Liberal MP” may constitute intimidation of a witness appearing before a Senate Committee.

So that is at the heart of the matter.

Another point I would like to make is that I would like to put on the record, as it is somewhat germane to the present debate, that the Speaker in the other place has ruled against the point of order raised in relation to this issue. In so ruling, the Speaker said the following:


 . . . the Chair has reviewed the facts submitted that are within its purview. It is not immediately apparent that the conduct in question was intended as an attempt to intimidate the witness or an act of reprisal for his appearances before the Standing Committee on Canadian Heritage. The Chair would also remind members of the importance of choosing their words carefully when discussing the conduct of other members.

Nevertheless, I hope that the Speaker of the Senate will take this into account when he comes back to us with an answer.


Hon. Fabian Manning: Honourable senators, I rise to speak on the very important question of privilege that has been raised by Senator Tannas today.

Let me begin by noting that I have served in the Senate for a considerable period of time — now in my fourteenth year. I have also had the privilege to serve as a member of Parliament for Newfoundland and Labrador and to serve in the provincial house of assembly. I have to say that, after nearly 30 years in politics, I have rarely witnessed a more blatant attempt by a member of the government to intimidate a witness appearing before a legislative committee or, more broadly, to potentially deter other witnesses from coming forward.

I believe that is what we are witnessing in this case. The facts that my colleague referenced are compelling, in my view. For one, my colleague has confirmed what the witness, Mr. Benzie, told our Senate Transportation and Communications Committee, which I am a member of. Mr. Benzie was very clear in stating that he felt personally attacked in the House of Commons Heritage Committee because of the views he had expressed before that same committee on Bill C-11 this past spring.

Mr. Benzie went on to state that the effect of this attack in the House of Commons Heritage Committee has led other digital creators to conclude that they too were being singled out in a manner that made it inadvisable for them to appear before any parliamentary committees that might be examining Bill C-11.

If one goes back and examines the exchange that took place between Mr. Benzie and Chris Bittle, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage, I believe it is difficult not to conclude that Mr. Benzie was gratuitously attacked. I would like to quote from part of that exchange. At the May 30, 2022, meeting of the House Committee for Canadian Heritage where Mr. Benzie appeared, as soon as it was his turn to raise questions, Mr. Bittle began as follows:


Mr. Benzie, when you appeared before our committee a little while ago, a couple months ago, you were asked if you had received any money from tech companies. You denied that allegation. Today when you appeared you said, “we have received some funding from our industry partners, including platforms and private industry involved in the success of digital creators.”

Was that statement untrue when you testified before us the first time, Mr. Benzie?

After several attempts by Mr. Benzie to point out that what Mr. Bittle was alleging was misleading, Mr. Benzie was finally able to state the following about the allegation made by Mr. Bittle:

I have had conversations with your department, with the minister’s department, with Canadian Heritage, and I have been very open about the fact that we received some funding from our platform partners. . . . Eighty per cent of the revenue in Digital First Canada comes from Buffer Festival, which is our money.

Mr. Bittle responds to that very accusatorially with the demanding question “Which tech companies are you receiving money from?”

Mr. Benzie reiterated what he already apparently told the Department of Canadian Heritage: that he received funding specifically in relation to the Buffer Festival. Mr. Bittle feigns dissatisfaction with that answer and says, “This is really shocking to me.” He then immediately asked, “. . . were you lying to this committee when you first appeared?”

Colleagues, I submit that, for people who rarely interact with government or with a parliamentary committee, this level of hostility from a member of the government is clearly designed to have a chilling effect. However, what is more damning is the fact that Mr. Bittle follows up on these attacks by formally asking the Commissioner of Lobbying to launch an investigation into Digital First Canada, the very organization Mr. Benzie is the executive director of.

Mr. Benzie has since received written confirmation from the Office of the Commissioner of Lobbying that he was not in any way in violation of the Lobbying Act, illustrating how groundless the accusation really was. Colleagues, we need to ask what the purpose was of Mr. Bittle’s actions.

One can only conclude that the action was designed not only to intimidate Mr. Benzie but also to deter other creators who might be thinking of presenting their views on Bill C-11 to a parliamentary committee. In my view, this was an attempt at intimidation, and if we permit it to go unchecked, it will be repeated. If this becomes systemic, then our parliamentary committees will cease to be an effective voice for the public. For that reason, we must hold those who attempt this blatant intimidation to full account.

Thank you.

Hon. Frances Lankin: Honourable senators, I want to thank Senator Tannas for bringing this forward, and I want to thank all of the speakers. There have been some very eloquent arguments put forward.

At the basis of this, though, as Senator Gagné pointed out, the actual wording of the letter appears to say that it’s the timing and content of the article in The Globe and Mail that may constitute intimidation of a witness. I’m willing to read into that what Senator Tannas has argued before us, but technically the letter is something very different than what we’re talking about here.

I have heard no proof that the parliamentary secretary or, as Senator Tannas said, the second member of Parliament who was aware of the complaint to the Commissioner of Lobbying provided any information to The Globe and Mail. It doesn’t matter how many times a senator opposite asserts that; that does not make it true and that does not provide evidence.

I could assert that those who are opposed to this bill, who have been part of a campaign of writing tons and tons of letters and who work closely with certain parliamentarians, decided that this was a way to discredit the government by bringing forward the fact that this Commissioner of Lobbying complaint had been filed.

I could assert that. I have no evidence of that. I have no evidence that the chair of the committee, who created the time and space to ask the questions of the witness and bring it forward, did that for any other reason. I have no basis and no evidence to suggest that the chair of the committee, who is very familiar with the Rules of the Senate and knows his way around these things, didn’t do that or did do that. I have no evidence. I’m saying to you there is no evidence to proceed.

Is it a serious issue? If true, would it be serious? It’s very serious. There is no evidence.

I also want to say that the fact that there is aggressive — and I agree with the words — sometimes bullying questions of witnesses is something that should be seen as abhorrent. It should be seen as egregious in that chamber as well as in this chamber and in our committees. I have seen and participated and heard and talked to senators afterwards about their way of dismissing opinions of witnesses that come before us. That in and of itself is a matter that I think we should be very clear about: that, as a collegial institution, we will not support or allow that to continue, but it is not evidence of what is being alleged here.

I believe you don’t have the grounds for a prima facie case on this, and I’ll leave it at that. Thank you very much.

Hon. Brent Cotter: Honourable senators, I rise to speak to this question of privilege with some trepidation. I don’t mean to belittle the seriousness of the concern raised by Senator Tannas, but my brother is a retired golf pro at a golf club. He describes everything in terms of how big or small a handicap anybody has. Higher numbers are worse. When it comes to questions of parliamentary privilege, I am about a 30 handicap, and I apologize for my limited knowledge on that point.

Nevertheless, I do think there are some issues that are worthy of consideration by the Speaker here, and I would like to refer to them ever so briefly.

I agree, in particular, with the observation that Senator Lankin made about the importance of dignity and decorum in the Senate and in Senate committees, and let me share with you my own personal learning experience on that.

In the debates in the committee and the questioning of witnesses during the consideration of medical assistance in dying, there was a stretch of time when I was fairly aggressive with respect to a witness. Senator Plett upbraided me for my conduct. I was troubled by that, but on reflection concluded that he was right, and I had, at least, overreached. He didn’t bring the matter here, but he provided an opportunity for me to learn the point that Senator Lankin made. I don’t always agree with Senator Plett, but I appreciated that assistance and intervention. I think it’s fundamental for us to think in those terms, and in that respect, Senator Tannas’s angst about this — if I could call it that — is not ill placed.

There are two concerns I think you have here, Your Honour. One is the point Senator Lankin made, which is a lack of evidence, and, quite frankly, based on the nature of the complaint, in my view, it is inaccessible to you because it would require you to be able to dig into the question of that story and how it came about. Who knows? The allegations of deviousness here might be legitimate, but there is actually no way to know. The first question, I think, is evidence.

The second point is jurisdiction. Much of the concern that’s expressed here — and I don’t mean to diminish it, but much of it is rhetoric — focuses on the way in which some people behaved in the other place. I think that is beyond your jurisdiction.

The second problem with jurisdiction is exactly the point that was raised with respect to Senator Tannas’s letter, and if I can take a second to call it up — I don’t quite have the research resources of others — the language of the complaint is that “the timing and content of an article may constitute intimidation of a witness.” It is with respect to this issue of what the press did that could intimidate a witness.

With the greatest respect, wandering into that field invites you to reflect on what I will call the privileges of the press vis-à-vis the Senate, and I would be, with respect, very uncomfortable going there to chastise The Globe and Mail for having published this article as a compromise of how we do our business in the Senate.

Indeed, on reflection, it might invite you to read every newspaper every morning to see if somebody has written something that could be conceived as intimidating a witness at some committee, and, ultimately, quite frankly, that would only be speculation.

Thank you.

Hon. Paula Simons: Honourable senators, I rise to speak to this issue in the bifurcated view of being both a member of the Transport and Communications Committee and a journalist who spent 30 years working in the trenches.


I want to start first by talking about Scott Benzie and the excellent work he has done in highlighting some of the challenges of Bill C-11.

I have been speaking with Scott about this bill on and off in the course of my own research for months now. I have found him to be a thoughtful person with a strong point of view about Bill C-11, not all of which I necessarily share, but I think he is a good-faith witness who speaks passionately and with knowledge about the nature of his industry.

He has been a credible voice because he is not just one single individual. He is the executive director of a lobby group that speaks on behalf of digital creators and he is the artistic director of the successful Buffer Festival.

The issue which arose with Mr. Benzie was a question of whether or not he had revealed soon enough — because he certainly did acknowledge the fact — that his festival and his organization received funding from YouTube and TikTok. They provided cash funding and also goods in kind, providing transportation for artists and filmmakers who were displaying their films at the Buffer Festival.

The question is whether that was a breach of anything. Mr. Benzie has provided us with letters that demonstrate that the lobbyist registry assured him that he was in breach of no protocols. I’ve seen copies of that correspondence.

So whether or not you think Mr. Benzie is correct about Bill C-11, I put it to you that he is a good-faith voice on the issue and that he has not hidden or denied the fact that he has received funding from YouTube and TikTok, nor have YouTube and TikTok denied that they had provided that funding, which was not given to him as a lobbyist but in support of the artistic festival for which they were the underwriters.

The question is not whether Mr. Benzie has done anything wrong, but how suspicious we ought to be about the timing of this leak.

I acknowledge that the timing stinks of what one might call dirty pool, that it is convenient timing that this article came out the day before Mr. Benzie was to testify. Is that, however, a violation of any Senate rules? In the first place, as Senator Lankin has so eloquently said, we have absolutely no idea where this information came from and how it came into the possession of The Globe and Mail reporter.

I want to tell you from — I don’t want to say my vast experience — but from my 30 years of experience as a journalist, you might be surprised how information gets to journalists sometimes, and sometimes it’s not from the most obvious source.

I had a number of scoops in my career in which people had provided me leaks, and people would call and say, “It must have been so-and-so who leaked to her.” “This person should be fired because they must have leaked to her.” I would sort of smirk to myself because that person had not, in fact, been the source of my information.

So although one might induce or intuit where this information came from, we have absolutely no idea what this reporter’s sources were, and it would be a grotesque violation of our whole understanding of freedom of the press to ask the reporter to reveal her sources. Did her sources come from someone in the Department of Canadian Heritage? I don’t know, and neither does anyone else. Did they come from a politician? I don’t know, and neither does anyone else.

So who exactly created this breach?

Then we come to the article itself.

I read it on the day it came out, and I have read it subsequently. It is a perfectly fair and balanced news story. It is not a vicious attack on Mr. Benzie. It quotes Mr. Benzie at length defending himself, and it quotes both TikTok and YouTube defending their funding of Mr. Benzie’s festival.

I grant you that the timing smells fishy. I would also suggest that sometimes our friends in the other place are blissfully ignorant of the timing of what we’re doing here, and we would need to presuppose that somebody plotted knowing precisely when Mr. Benzie was going to be testifying to get this information to The Globe and Mail reporter to have it come out at just the right time.

I worked in newspapers 23 years. They don’t work that way. For all we know, Ms. Woolf could have filed this story a week beforehand, and it was stuck in the queue waiting to be printed.

Journalists can scarcely conspire to hold a staff picnic, much less conspire with the government to attack an artist and creator.

I grant you, when I saw the timing of the article, my back was up because I did not think that Mr. Benzie deserved to be placed in this very awkward situation, but I would caution us: Against whom are we supposing that we would be sanctioning here? We have no idea what the source of the leak was. We have no idea what the timing of the article was meant to be, and we have no evidence that this journalist wrote this piece with any kind of malice. It is a straight-up piece of good journalism that describes this issue and then accurately describes the testimony that we had heard in the committee earlier.

I agree that Mr. Benzie seems to have been the target of perhaps some unfair dealing and I’m grateful to Senator Tannas for raising this issue, but I don’t think you have the prima facie case here.

Hon. Salma Ataullahjan: I rise today to speak on the point of privilege before you, Your Honour. Honourable senators, I stand today to say a few words on the intimidation of witnesses during a committee meeting.

As Chair of the Human Rights Committee, I want to share my concerns and some personal experiences with you. I believe it is important to ensure the safety and mental well-being of witnesses. We deal with very sensitive topics, and it is very concerning to hear about a witness being intimidated and it becoming a national story in the media.

I think of the recent hearings that the Human Rights Committee had in Edmonton where two women had to stop very difficult testimony to share with us. Senators Busson, Arnot, Martin and Jaffer were all present during this emotional testimony. Senator Jaffer and I consistently reassured the witnesses and helped them through this testimony. I shudder to think of the outcome had we not been sensitive.

We heard similar stories during our visit to the Quebec mosque. Survivors shared their harrowing ordeal, and the shock from the shooting was still clearly painted on their faces. We were sympathetic and encouraged them to share their stories. Can you imagine if we had been insensitive in our line of questioning?

Senators Gerba, Oh, Jaffer and I found it incredibly difficult to hear, and I can only imagine how painful it was for them to recount.

I also think of the study we just completed on forced and coerced sterilization. Survivors opened their hearts to us and shared their trauma with us. Some shared details they had never spoken out loud before. They told us how difficult it was for them to speak and that they had never spoken about this to anyone. We made them feel comfortable. We assured them they were in a safe space.

We need to remember that witnesses often put themselves at risk when they consent to share their stories with us. It is our privilege to hear often intimate and difficult life experiences, especially in the context of our current study on Islamophobia.

Recently we met with students who spoke of their experiences of Islamophobia. There were about 30 students. It took some time for them to be comfortable enough to share their stories, and we gave them the necessary space to feel safe.

Can you imagine if they had heard reports of intimidation of witnesses by parliamentarians? It is essential for us to build trust. These are the Canadians whom we represent.

In order to continue doing our work, we must treat our witnesses with respect and compassion. We must create a safe space where witnesses’ voices will be heard and respected. I worry now that there are accusations of intimidation that it might make it increasingly difficult for us to have witnesses in the future and make the work of our committees very difficult. Thank you.


Hon. Renée Dupuis: Honourable senators, I would like to follow up on something the Chair of the Human Rights Committee said.

You will understand that we didn’t have as much time to prepare as the people who made the proposal, but what strikes me in this case is that, in the documentation that was given to us today, if I’m reading the letter correctly, both the French and English versions read as follows:

The timing and content of an article . . . may constitute intimidation of a witness appearing before a Senate Committee.


The letter is not stating that it is intimidation, just that “it may constitute” intimidation.

Could you help us clarify what the nature of a question of privilege is? If we are citing the publication of an article, I am guessing that your decision will deal with the article, the timing of its publication and its content.

I would like to come back to the minutes of the Transport and Communications Committee. I see nothing in that document that would lead me to agree with what the Chair of the Human Rights Committee stated. In other words, it seems to me that the question of privilege is the responsibility of individual senators, Senate committees and the entire Senate. Therefore, we have the responsibility of ensuring that witnesses can come to a safe space to present their arguments. That is not the experience we have always had at Senate committees or in the Senate of Canada.

The senator who chairs the Human Rights Committee raised an extremely important issue. I would like you to give some thought to this. In this specific case, what measures did the committee, its officials and its members take, if they were that worried about what they consider to be intimidation, to ensure that the witness in question felt completely safe in coming to testify before the Senate committee?

When I read the minutes, I see nothing to suggest that any measures were actively taken to correct what the other place considered to be intimidation or that highlights the fundamental difference between how the two chambers treat witnesses.

I would like you to spend some time reflecting on that, and I would also like you to enlighten us more specifically about what is involved in the requirement for senators on committees to ensure that witnesses who appear before us . . .

As we know, it is extremely difficult. You said it yourself, and I will say it again: It is extremely difficult for witnesses to appear before a Senate committee, because that alone is intimidating. People may not have experience testifying, and even those who do tell us that it’s always a challenge. I think we have an obligation to make sure we create a safe environment for these witnesses. Thank you.


The Hon. the Speaker: Senator Plett, did you wish to speak before Senator Tannas?

Senator Plett: Yes, thank you, Your Honour. I have a simple, brief statement. I do not want to get into a debate here.

However, I do want to briefly address the comments that Senator Gagné made in regard to what the Speaker of the House of Commons had done. I apologize to the senator if I did not understand everything she said because I’m sure that she would never want to leave out any part of the ruling that the Speaker of the House of Commons made. In fact, the first part of the ruling the Speaker of the other place made was very clear that this was in reference to a Senate committee and that he did not have jurisdiction in this place. That was the main reason why the Speaker of the House of Commons ruled against the question of privilege in the other place.

Therefore, Your Honour, I think that you need this information at least — the Speaker in the other place did not rule that this wasn’t a question of privilege. Rather, he ruled it wasn’t a question of privilege over there, and he did not have the right to declare one in this place. Thank you.

Senator Tannas: Your Honour, there are just a few points I wanted to mention as you take this under advisement.

With respect to the timing of this issue, it is the old chestnut of every single question of privilege — that it was not done on time. Frankly, the committee meeting where the witness said they felt intimidated was held on Wednesday evening. In order to present the question of privilege by Thursday, it had to be in by 11 a.m. As Senator Housakos pointed out, there were more documents to come in support of this issue and those did not arrive in time for 11 a.m.

In addition, we did have some time over the weekend and Monday to talk directly to the witness. I think in an investigation that would come, if Your Honour were to so decide to begin one, it would begin by the appropriate committee bringing in witnesses under oath to get to the bottom of it. We could get to the bottom of it without having to have a journalist in. We could ask others the following: Did you send the letter to the journalist? Who sent the letter to the journalist? When did you send the letter to the journalist? All of those things could come out that would actually help those who want to make a recommendation back to us here as to what really happened.

The job today, as I understood it, was to highlight something that might or could have happened. A number of the folks who spoke against Your Honour considering in the affirmative said, “Well, this may have happened” and “This could have happened.” Yes, that’s right. That’s the point of this particular exercise that we are going through right now.

This is a serious matter. This is a matter that we all know will grow and fester if we leave it unchecked. We need to deal with it. Your Honour, I know you will give it the consideration that it deserves. Thank you.

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I want to thank Senator Tannas for raising this very important question, and I want to thank all senators who took the time to participate in the debate. I will take the matter under advisement.

Fisheries and Oceans

Committee Authorized to Study Seal Populations

Hon. Fabian Manning, pursuant to notice of September 29, 2022, moved:

That the Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans be authorized to examine and report on Canada’s seal populations and their effect on Canada’s fisheries, including but not limited to:

(a)how Canada’s seal populations have been managed by the federal government thus far;

(b)the identification of the most appropriate and effective ways of managing seal populations going forward;

(c)how Canada determines research priorities and funding allocations for research related to seals, and any research and/or funding gaps; and

That the committee submit its final report to the Senate no later than December 31, 2023, and that the committee retain all powers necessary to publicize its findings for 180 days after the tabling of the final report.

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

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

(Motion agreed to.)

(At 5:09 p.m., the Senate was continued until tomorrow at 2 p.m.)

Appendix—Senators List

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