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Previous Sittings
Previous Sittings

Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

1st Session, 44th Parliament
Volume 153, Issue 118

Tuesday, May 2, 2023
The Honourable George J. Furey, Speaker


Tuesday, May 2, 2023

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




Science Meets Parliament

Hon. Rosa Galvez: Honourable colleagues, today we welcome to Parliament scientists from across the country through the Science Meets Parliament program. Since 2018, this program has allowed dozens of scientists to meet parliamentarians to raise their awareness of scientific advances in Canada.


Science and technology play a vital role in shaping our society, economy and future. Evidence-based decision making ensures that policies and regulations are informed by the latest scientific advances.

The benefits of science-based policy are clear — they are more effective, as they are more likely to achieve their intended goals and have a positive impact on society. This is because they are grounded in a thorough understanding of the problem being addressed, and they are designed based on what has been shown to work in similar situations. They are less prone to unintended consequences, such as the negative effects on other areas of society. They are also more transparent because they are based on publicly available data and rigorous analysis, which allow for greater transparency and accountability. This enables the public to have greater trust in the decision-making process and the policies that are implemented. They are more adaptable to changing circumstances and new information. This flexibility allows policies to be adjusted as new data becomes available or as the situation on the ground evolves.

As senators, it is our responsibility to ensure that our policy decisions are informed by the best available scientific facts and evidence. This requires continued education and engagement with experts in various fields. We must be proactive in seeking out opportunities to learn about important issues that affect Canadians, and opportunities to stay informed on the latest developments in science and technology.

For that, we need more opportunities to connect decision makers with scientists. Science Meets Parliament is one such opportunity where we can interact with leading researchers and industry professionals and learn about their work. By fostering partnerships between scientists and policy-makers, we can promote evidence-based decision making and improve the quality of our senatorial work.


Colleagues, we need to take every opportunity to learn from experts and scientists; they are the ones who will know how to guide us to a stronger and more resilient Canada.


I invite you all, dear colleagues, to attend the Science Meets Parliament reception tonight at 6 p.m. in room 310 of the Wellington Building. Thank you. Meegwetch.

Distinguished Visitors in the Gallery

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I wish to draw your attention to the presence in the gallery of John Rafferty, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind; our former colleague the Honourable Asha Seth and her spouse, Arun Seth; and Deepak Anand, Member of Provincial Parliament, and his spouse, Aruna Anand. They are the guests of the Honourable Senator Dagenais.

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

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!


National Vision Health Month

Hon. Jean-Guy Dagenais: Honourable senators, I rise today to acknowledge that the month of May is Vision Health Month in Canada.

I’m especially pleased to do so because this designation goes back 10 years and was proposed by my friend, former senator Asha Seth, who is here with us today with representatives from the Canadian National Institute for the Blind and the Canadian Council of the Blind.

Here in this chamber and in her professional life, Dr. Seth has always supported and stood up for the blind and the visually impaired.


Sight loss can impact anyone at any time. According to Statistics Canada, there are 1.5 million Canadians who are blind or partially blind in our country, and over 5.6 million Canadians are living today with a vision-threatening condition.


Vision problems have a serious impact on peoples’ daily lives, which is why it’s important to support any political and medical strategy that will improve the quality of life of those affected.

Esteemed colleagues, Vision Health Month should remind us just how important vision is, and above all, that prevention is important for maintaining our vision health.


Making eye health, vision care and rehabilitation services a population health priority requires meaningful federal support, and I look forward to what we will accomplish in the next 10 years of celebrating Vision Health Month.

This month is also about championing the good work of organizations that help people along in their journey after they have lost their sight.


I would now like to take a moment to point out that the Canadian National Institute for the Blind was founded in Canada 105 years ago now, in 1918, to help our First World War veterans.


The Canadian National Institute for the Blind, or CNIB, started with 27 employees, and now has more than 11,000 professionals and 10,000 volunteers working in many fields within eight operating divisions in our country in order to provide help and services to blind people.


We must thank all these people for their commitment to ease the lives of Canadians with vision problems.


Colleagues, if time permits at the end of the day, you’re all invited to an event in celebration of Vision Health Month, to be held from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the Métropolitain.

Thank you for your attention.


Visitors in the Gallery

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I wish to draw your attention to the presence in the gallery of the Honourable Mr. Justice J. Patrick Moore and the Honourable Madam Justice Tamarin Dunnet, both from the Superior Court of Justice – Ontario. They are the guests of the Honourable Senator Oh.

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

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!

Asian Heritage Month

Hon. Victor Oh: Honourable senators, I rise today in commemoration of Asian Heritage Month.

May is a special month in the Asian Canadian community. This is a time for our country to celebrate the contributions and recognize the sacrifices of Canadians of Asian descent and to reflect on the many challenges faced throughout our nation’s history.

With the one hundredth anniversary of the Chinese head tax and Chinese Exclusion Act this year and the influx of anti-Asian sentiment since the COVID-19 pandemic, this community has not only persevered but thrived and significantly influenced Canada into the prosperous nation it is today.

I was honoured to attend the Association of Chinese Canadian Entrepreneurs’ twenty-sixth awards gala in April. This annual event recognizes the significant contributions of nine forward-thinking pioneers of entrepreneurial spirit who have exemplified business success and contributed enormously to the community in service and philanthropy. As they told of their many hurdles, I felt proud to know that we live in a nation that nurtures the spirit of innovation that contributes to job creation and economic growth.

Colleagues, in my closing, I would like to reiterate that Canada would not be the country it is today without the contributions of the Asian Canadian community. However, I stand here proudly to acknowledge that Canada is a beacon of hope and light on the global stage in such a time of fear and uncertainty. It is a haven of multiculturalism and cultural inclusivity as we all strive to commend the contributions of our diverse citizens.

This Asian Heritage Month, let us honour Asian Canadians’ resilience and celebrate our nation’s multi-ethnic mosaic by participating in and supporting our local Asian heritage celebrations.

Thank you. Xie xie.

Visitors in the Gallery

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I wish to draw your attention to the presence in the gallery of Baroness Margaret de Vos van Steenwijk and Lysbeth van Valkenburg-Lely. Also in the gallery is Nahla Valji, Global Coordinator of the Spotlight Initiative in the Executive Office of the United Nations Secretary-General. They are the guests of the Honourable Senator Jaffer.

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

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!

Red Dress Day

Hon. Brian Francis: Honourable senators, I rise today to mark Red Dress Day, also known as the National Day of Awareness for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and Two-Spirit People, which is observed annually on May 5. Red Dress Day is one of several campaigns started by activists to call attention to the staggering number of Indigenous women, girls and gender-diverse people who are extremely vulnerable to adverse experiences such as abuse, violence and death in Canada. It was inspired by Métis artist Jamie Black’s REDress Project, an art exhibit that continues to see red dresses hung in public places as powerful visual representations of the loved ones who should be wearing them today, as well as of the tremendous pain and trauma survivors and their families and communities grapple with daily.

The day also calls on government, institutions and others to take tangible and immediate action, which is key, given the ongoing failure to fully implement the 231 Calls for Justice identified by the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls in 2019.

These legal imperatives must be fulfilled to protect and save the lives of Indigenous women and girls and gender-diverse people, who deserve to live in a country where they are safe, secure and supported, no matter where they are.

Colleagues, this Friday people of all backgrounds will take part in marches and other events to remember the missing and murdered Indigenous women, girls and gender-diverse people and to stand in solidarity with survivors, families and communities. I will join a walk in Charlottetown, hosted by the Aboriginal Women’s Association of PEI, the Native Council of Prince Edward Island, the Lennox Island First Nation, the Abegweit First Nation and the Mi’kmaq Confederacy of PEI.

I hope you will also find ways to participate in Red Dress Day, including by reflecting on what you can personally do to transform the strained and damaged relationship of Canada with First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. Together we can build a present and future where the power and place of Indigenous women, girls and gender-diverse people is restored.

Let’s stand for, with and by Indigenous leaders and grassroots activists, such as Senator Michèle Audette, who have brought awareness to this national tragedy and continue to demand urgent action and change.

Wela’lin. 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 Pierre Beauregard, Amelia Valdez, Samuel Beauregard and Azfar Adib. They are the guests of the Honourable Senator Miville-Dechêne.

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

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!

Online Access to Sexually Explicit Material

Hon. Julie Miville-Dechêne: I rise today to commend my guests from Quebec, Pierre Beauregard and Azfar Adib, for their dedication.

Mr. Adib is a PhD candidate in computer engineering at Concordia University. His research focuses on online age‑verification technology in order to ensure both the right to privacy and the safety of users, particularly children.

As for Pierre Beauregard, he’s the person who’s been the most involved in my efforts to advance Bill S-210, which seeks to protect children from exposure to pornography. The trials he has faced in his own life are what made him realize how great a risk these free, easily accessible platforms pose to children.

In 2017, well before I met him, Mr. Beauregard presented a petition to the Quebec National Assembly calling on the Government of Quebec to impose age verification. He has made more and more contacts around the world during the course of his research and activities.

For the past three years, he’s been writing me to keep me informed of all of the developments in the area. In my past career, we would have described Mr. Beauregard as a great source. Today, he’s a valuable ally. Thank you, Pierre. The support of citizens, parents and health professionals has been invaluable to me.

As Bill S-210 begins its journey through the House of Commons, there has been a lot of good news.

In Germany, the courts recently ruled in favour of the government and against MindGeek, the owner of Pornhub, to force it to comply with German law, which requires age verification for all users in that country. The fact that MindGeek houses its servers in Cyprus doesn’t mean it can sidestep German law, which aims to protect its children from serious danger.

In the United Kingdom, a sweeping online safety bill, which mandates age verification for access to pornography and other harmful content, will be passed by July.

In the United States, Louisiana recently became the first state to mandate age verification for online pornography. An additional 26 states, including California, New York and Massachusetts, have passed or are considering passing laws to control minors’ access to harmful online content.


The fight is not over, however. In our country and elsewhere, some people continue to resist and oppose common-sense rules whose drawbacks are minor compared to the importance of the objectives pursued.

Finding the right balance isn’t easy. We need to protect minors, but also protect people’s privacy. We need to protect the innocence of our children, but allow what is legal. We need to regulate pornographic content, but promote modern sex education.

In my view, these challenges are no reason to give up.

Thank you.

Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.


Visitors in the Gallery

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I wish to draw your attention to the presence in the gallery of Dr. Christie Newton and Dr. Brady Bouchard. They are the guests of the Honourable Senator Osler.

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

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!

The College of Family Physicians of Canada

Hon. F. Gigi Osler: Honourable senators, it is a pleasure to have representatives of The College of Family Physicians of Canada, or CFPC, join us in the gallery. Here today is their president, Dr. Christie Newton, and their past president, Dr. Brady Bouchard. The College of Family Physicians of Canada represents 42,000 members across the country. They are the voice of family medicine in Canada.

Yesterday was National Physicians’ Day, a day to recognize the work of physicians in caring for patients and building a stronger health care system. This year on National Physicians’ Day, representatives of CFPC travelled to Ottawa to meet with parliamentarians to advocate on behalf of family medicine.

In 2023, the shortage of family physicians across the country suggests that more than 6 million Canadians do not have a family doctor. A study by the Canadian Medical Association shows that, in recent years, the percentage of medical graduates choosing family medicine has fallen from 38.5% to 31.8%.

CFPC has been strongly advocating for actions to improve primary care in Canada. More family physicians are needed to relieve the pressure on those who are currently in practice. There must be consistent, deliberate action to increase supply and enhance capacity, with a focus on underserved areas and populations. This would help relieve the strain on the current health workforce and improve access to care for Canadians. Despite the federal government’s recent federal investment in health, Canada currently funds primary care at about half the level of many other OECD countries.

Family physicians are the backbone of primary care. Many believe that more team-based care, with family physicians partnered with nurse practitioners, physician assistants, social workers and counselors, would improve access to care and better health outcomes. This team-based medicine approach requires governments to rethink health care delivery and further invest in the human health resources needed for comprehensive, high‑quality primary care.

Honourable senators, CFPC is here today to offer solutions they believe will deliver results and improve health. Thank you to my colleagues who have met with them, and thank you to The College of Family Physicians of Canada for your dedication and hard work. Thank you. Meegwetch.



The Estimates, 2022-23

Supplementary Estimates (C)—Tenth Report of National Finance Committee Tabled

Hon. Percy Mockler: As Chair of the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance, I’d like to begin by thanking the honourable senators on the committee and the support staff for all their hard work.

Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the tenth report of the Standing Senate Committee on National Finance entitled Supplementary Estimates (C) for the fiscal year ending March 31, 2023.



Foreign Affairs

Canada-China Relations

Hon. Donald Neil Plett (Leader of the Opposition): My question today is for the leader and member of the Liberal government of Canada. Leader, yesterday The Globe and Mail reported on the contents of a top-secret CSIS report from July 2021. This report claims that Beijing’s interference in our country involves a People’s Republic of China — PRC — diplomat in their Toronto consulate targeting family members of a Canadian member of Parliament “. . . to make an example of this MP and deter others from taking anti-PRC positions.”

The Globe and Mail says the member of Parliament who was targeted was Michael Chong, and it named a specific PRC diplomat who targeted Mr. Chong’s family in Hong Kong. This diplomat was also named earlier this year in another The Globe and Mail report on Beijing’s interference in our democracy.

Leader, why is this diplomat still permitted to be here? Why are his threats against an MP’s family of no concern to your government? Is it because Mr. Chong is a Conservative member of Parliament?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): The answer is no. Thank you for your question. It is outrageous. Attempts to interfere with our democratic process and elected officials are outrageous, regardless of the party. Michael Chong is a respected parliamentarian. He is respected on all sides in the other place and, indeed, in this place.

As honourable senators would know, the Prime Minister and Minister Mendicino have directed the head of CSIS to follow up with Mr. Chong immediately. This is unacceptable.

Senator Plett: My question was why this diplomat is still permitted to be here. You didn’t answer that.

Leader, we are constantly told by the Trudeau government to put our faith in a secret process led by a Trudeau Foundation member and Trudeau family friend to look into what the Prime Minister and his staff knew about Beijing’s interference.

As I asked Minister LeBlanc a week ago, how can someone who was targeted by Beijing send a written submission to a made-up Special Rapporteur? There is no way to contact him — although the minister said the Special Rapporteur met with Trudeau cabinet members, so they certainly know how to reach him. The minister said he would share this information. This was a week ago, leader, and there is still no answer.

We learned yesterday that the family of an MP was targeted and the Trudeau government knew about it for two years, but didn’t tell him and didn’t expel the diplomat. They haven’t expelled anyone, yet you cling to this rapporteur nonsense, leader. There is no credibility to the made-up rapporteur process. There never has been and never will be. Where is the full and open public inquiry that is so desperately needed?

Senator Gold: Thank you for your question. It’s the position of the government that the appointment of the Right Honourable David Johnston as Special Rapporteur is a serious piece of how the government intends to deal with this complicated and important issue in a responsible way.


In that regard, I would again — as I have said before — invite honourable members in this place to be mindful of the language they use to describe both our institutions and respected people who fulfill their functions in those institutions.

Foreign Interference

Hon. Leo Housakos: I would like the government leader to focus on today’s candle, and we’ll worry about Rapporteur Johnston for another time.

Back to MP Michael Chong, he and his family were targeted by the Beijing regime because he moved a motion in the House of Commons recognizing the Uighur genocide. A similar motion, sadly enough — it was a sad day in this institution when Trudeau-appointed senators defeated that motion.

Now, if Prime Minister Trudeau did not take action to protect Michael Chong because he is a Conservative and because of partisan reasons, that’s shameful. If it’s because of utter incompetence — as he hasn’t shown any ability to protect Canadians from foreign interference — that’s just as shameful.

Now that the Prime Minister has been called out by the media with concrete information, what does he do, colleagues? He calls for another investigation where now that everyone has resigned from the Trudeau Foundation, he is running out of people he can appoint to investigate all of his various failures. Who is he going to appoint now to investigate this particular failure? Will it be his mother or his brother? Or maybe, colleagues, he might appoint himself. I can just see it now: What did I know? When did I know it? Who told me? Why didn’t I do something about it?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Well, I didn’t hear a question, but —

Senator Housakos: Will there be any point in investigating?

Senator Gold: First of all, the information that was released was, as you said, a confidential Canadian Security Intelligence Service, or CSIS, document. It’s certainly up to CSIS, and only CSIS, to decide what confidential information should be shared. That’s why the Prime Minister asked David Vigneault, the head of CSIS, to look into this matter.

Once again, these issues are complicated, they are serious and the government is dealing with them in a responsible way.

Senator Housakos: They are very serious and they are endless. It seems like information is rolling out case after case about the Prime Minister himself neglecting to come clean and protect Canadians when it comes to foreign interference.

Contrary, again, to Public Safety Minister Marco Mendicino’s claim that all the illegal Beijing police stations in Canada have been shut down, yesterday we found out that’s not the case. We actually now have emboldened agents on behalf of Beijing who are coming out publicly stating they are still operating right here in our country in Montreal.

My question, Senator Gold, is a very simple one: When will those illegal police stations be shut down? When will the diplomat responsible for targeting Michael Chong and his family be expelled from our country? When will your government agree to a public inquiry when it comes to foreign interference? When will your government allow for a registry to be put in place, once and for all, identifying and registering agents who are interfering in our country? When will your government get serious about foreign interference by protecting Canadians who are being intimidated? When are we going to get action other than just rhetoric?

Senator Gold: The government has taken and is taking action. As the news has reported, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, or RCMP, continues its investigations into the allegations that have been made in the press and will continue to investigate them. Decisions will be taken and will be made public when they are. It is simply not the case that the government is not taking the proper steps to protect us from foreign interference.

I have responded to this question time and time again. They are factual responses, not rhetoric.

Conflict in Sudan

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: My question is again to the Leader of the Government in the Senate.

Senator Gold, I want to congratulate the government in the quick way it has evacuated so many people from Sudan and then asked for help from other countries in the evacuation effort.

Canada has led the way in Sudan with mediation. I know that people will think this time is not the right time to mediate between the warlords, but last time it was even worse. What is Canada doing to bring peace in that area?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Thank you for the question, and thank you for acknowledging the work that the government is doing with our allies in trying to get as many Canadians out as possible. Regrettably, circumstances on the ground have made it too dangerous, but efforts are ongoing. As we know, the minister is in Kenya working with allies.

Our traditions teach us that everything has a season. Right now, the focus of the Canadian government is on securing the safety of Canadians in the area. I will make inquiries as to what longer-range plans may be in place to help bring an end to the violence. It’s not obvious that the moment is ripe right now for those efforts as the fighting rages on, and the focus has to be on the safety and security of Canadians, but thank you.

Senator Jaffer: Thank you, senator. What you said is very true — there is a time and place — but the world is small. We may reach out and get Canadians out, but there are also Sudanese who are suffering terribly, especially women and children.

What humanitarian efforts are Canada making with other countries to help out in this region? We can’t forget the suffering of the Sudanese either.

Senator Gold: Indeed, we can’t, shouldn’t and are not. Minister Joly is in Kenya meeting with humanitarian groups, among others, to see how we can play a role and coordinate with others to alleviate the human suffering that this war and this violence have engendered.

In that regard, Canada remains committed to do what it can with allies and partners in the region in that respect.

Public Safety

Anti-Asian Racism

Hon. Yuen Pau Woo: Senator Gold, you have just heard Senator Housakos make a grave and baseless allegation against Chinese Canadians in Montreal who are associated with certain community organizations. He was referring, of course, to Minister Mendicino’s declaration that all of the so-called Chinese police stations in the country have been shut down, including one alleged to have been located at the Service à la Famille Chinoise du Grand Montréal and another at Centre Sino-Québec de la Rive-Sud in Brossard.

Senator Gold, what evidence did police find to substantiate the claim that there were Chinese police stations in Montreal? What illegal activities have been stopped?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Well, thank you for your question. As I mentioned in my response, Senator Woo, my understanding is that the RCMP is continuing to investigate these matters and, to the best of my knowledge, have not released the findings or the results. Therefore, I’m really not in a position to answer your question.

Senator Woo: That begs the question as to why the minister said all the Chinese police stations have been stopped. In fact, no evidence has been produced to confirm that there were Chinese police stations in Montreal, and no information has been offered to suggest that the two organizations did anything wrong.

However, the naming of these two groups and Minister Mendicino’s breezy declaration that all police stations have been shut down has cast a pall over the organizations for no reason other than fear, stigma and, dare I say it, racism. Funding for the good work of these organizations has been cut, including French‑language classes and settlement services for new immigrants. The 50-year-old Chinese Family Service of Greater Montreal is now on the brink.

Senator Gold, when will the government clarify that the two organizations have done no wrong, and that, in fact, it is the organizations that have been wronged by reckless allegations, including one we heard today in this chamber? How will the government provide compensation for reputational and financial damage?

Senator Gold: Thank you for your question, Senator Woo. As I said, it is my understanding that there are still investigations under way, so I will make inquiries with regard to your questions in an attempt to have an answer as quickly as I can.


Treasury Board Secretariat

Contract Negotiations

Hon. Jean-Guy Dagenais: My question is for the Government Representative in the Senate. The government reached an agreement that put an end to the strike by 120,000 federal public servants that began on April 19.

I would tell you that after dragging its feet in these negotiations, the government is now giving public servants an 11.5% salary increase compared to the 12.6% they asked for and deserved.


As a former union leader, I’ll forever be surprised to see governments drag things out rather than negotiating seriously with unions. Financial considerations aside, this 20-day strike is now causing delays in issuing passports, visas abroad and processing immigration files, as though the situation weren’t devastating enough for people waiting for these services.

Can you explain why the government, which has never shown restraint in public expenditures, delayed for such a long time before giving public servants what they were asking for? Now, it’s congratulating itself on arriving at a fair settlement, but it only did so after a 20-day strike. This delay has had an impact on the lives of Canadians that could have been avoided. Between you and me, what was the logic behind these negotiations?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Thank you for the question, colleague.

The government placed its trust in the collective bargaining process because it is the best way to protect the workers’ interests as well as Canada’s social fabric.

As you know, negotiations take time. There were more than just financial issues at play. There was also the important issue of telework. It took some time for the government to come to a responsible, fiscally prudent position and eventual final offer to avoid a domino effect on the provinces and other talks. It also took some time for the union to realize that the government’s offer was fair. I don’t think it took 20 days, but the process took time.

In the end, we reached a conclusion that is good for Canadians and good for public service workers. The result is also good for Canada, because it gives us a period of stability that I hope will last at least four years.

The government is pleased with the outcome, but also recognizes that strikes are always inconvenient for Canadians.

Senator Dagenais: You talked about telework. As a former union leader, I’d like you to inform the President of the Treasury Board that a letter of understanding on working from home is an integral part of a collective agreement.

This collective agreement represents a $1.3-billion annual wage increase. I’m not opposed to home-based work. However, I’d like to know whether your government knows the real cost of the letter of understanding on working from home. As we’ve come to expect over the past few years, this government continues to sign agreements without considering what it will cost Canadians.

Senator Gold: Thank you for the question. I don’t have the numbers here, and the details aren’t all public, because it’s an agreement in principle, as you know, Senator Dagenais. As soon as the details are clearer and the government has an idea of the cost of telework and that information is made public, I will share it.

My understanding is that the process to address telework issues hasn’t been finalized. There will be a committee to look at the matter, and requests will be dealt with on a case-by-case basis. Having said that, I’ll do my best to get the numbers and provide them to the chamber as soon as possible.


Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship

Visa Applications

Hon. Patricia Bovey: This question is for the Government Representative in the Senate.

Senator Gold, you know that Winnipeg is hosting the 2023 World Police and Fire Games this July and August. Planning is coming along well, the venues are ready and the hotel rooms are booked, as the city is poised to welcome the second largest international sporting event — second only to the Olympic Summer Games. The athletes are professional police, firefighters and paramedics. In other words, Winnipeg is welcoming first responders and their families to these games — it is an important tourist event, and doubly so coming off COVID.

But they have hit a problem.

Many of the athletes from India are being denied visas out of the apparent fear that they will stay in Canada. Senator Gold, these are professionals with professional careers in their home country. India is looking to host these games in several years and will be sending organizers as well as athletes. Of course, we will want our Canadian police and firefighter athletes to go there.

Can you assure the organizers that visas will be accorded to these athletes so that the games can carry on? When will the visas be given? Time is of the essence, as the games open in less than 90 days.

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Thank you for your question, senator.

The government does understand the disappointment and concerns over the delays of the applications and, indeed, the visa refusals to which you referred. The government is working closely with the organizers of this event, as well as all large events and conferences, in order to provide guidance on the processes surrounding the application for visas. The Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship has put into place measures to facilitate the entry of delegates and participants of large events such as this one.

Colleagues, it’s undeniable that the current public service job action has affected the processing capacity of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, or IRCC, over the last few weeks, but — through me — the government is reaffirming its commitment to minimize that impact and to return to service standards.

Concerning the event, and to answer your question more specifically, the government has assured me that they are aware of the issue, and they are looking at ways to be facilitative for the participants of the event — to the fullest extent possible.

Senator Bovey: Thank you for that. I am encouraged, and they will be too. As you know, the federal government is an important funder of this event.

I would like to clarify that all of the participants have received a letter from the games with the registered event number on it. It was sent through the special event program from the IRCC, and was supported by the Canada Border Services Agency, or CBSA.

I understand that India is the only country at this point — out of the more than 50 expected countries — that is experiencing visa denials. Of course, we don’t want an international embarrassment, so I hope that you can assure us that work will be done very quickly to bring these athletes to the same stage of the process that the others are in terms of their ability to come to Canada.

Senator Gold: Thank you for your comment.

Colleagues, it’s important to understand and recognize that Canada is committed — and adheres — to a non-discriminatory and fair application of its immigration law. All applications from around the world are assessed against the very same criteria.

In that regard, I assure you again, senator and the chamber, that the government is aware of this issue, is looking into it and will do its best to address this in a timely fashion.


Cost of Living

Hon. Victor Oh: My question is for the government leader in the Senate.

Senator Gold, a recent report from the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada details the struggles that many Canadians are facing just to pay for their daily life. Their report entitled Consumer Vulnerability: Evidence from the Monthly COVID-19 Financial Well-being Survey shows that 38% of Canadians say they have to borrow money to cover their daily expenses — up from 26% in 2020.

The use of online moneylenders or payday loans by Canadians to manage daily expenses has more than tripled, and almost a third of Canadians reported that they are short on money at the end of the month. Leader, recent immigrants, Indigenous people and women were particularly vulnerable in each of these findings.

In light of this report, why did the Trudeau government believe that this was a good time to increase taxes?


Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Thank you for your question and, again, for underlining the fact that so many Canadians are still experiencing difficulty with the basic necessities of life.

Yes, it’s true that inflation is continuing to fall, but not at the grocery store to the same extent, and not in other areas. But the Government of Canada has been and continues to be there to provide assistance to Canadians in this regard. We are in second‑reading debate on Bill C-46, which will continue this week, which will provide 11 million Canadians with assistance with putting food on their table. The budget implementation act and previous economic statements have also provided a suite of measures to assist Canadians.

It’s also the case that the government continues to move forward, and does so unapologetically, with measures in place to put a price on pollution to make sure that we strike the right balance between providing assistance to those Canadians most in need now and making sure that we do the right thing for their children, their grandchildren and, indeed, for this planet.

Foreign Affairs

Foreign Interference

Hon. Donald Neil Plett (Leader of the Opposition): Leader, it’s clear that the $200,000 gift the Trudeau Foundation received from the Communist regime in Beijing was part of their plan to influence Trudeau and to interfere with our democracy.

On Friday, Pascale Fournier, the former president of the Trudeau Foundation, told a House committee that her predecessor, Morris Rosenberg, misled Canadians when he said Beijing’s $200,000 gift to the foundation was Canadian money and not foreign money. Ms. Fournier says there are emails and receipts that reveal the truth: that an association tied to Beijing dictated the terms for transferring those funds.

Leader, in light of Ms. Fournier’s testimony last week, does your government still stand by its choice of Mr. Rosenberg to write the report on foreign interference in the 2021 election, when he, in fact, misled the people on where the money was coming from?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Morris Rosenberg was a distinguished public servant who served the country well and whose report and the conclusions of the report were accepted across all quarters.

I am not aware of what was known at the time and what was communicated to him or others at the time that the donation was made. We now understand and know much more than may have been known at the time. Just because someone uses the term “misled,” which I have heard in this chamber directed at me, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s true.

Prime Minister’s Office

Pierre Elliott Trudeau Foundation

Hon. Donald Neil Plett (Leader of the Opposition): You know, leader, every time we raise something, you question our integrity instead of questioning the integrity of the people who broke laws and who are lying.

Before the House committee on Friday, the former president of the Trudeau Foundation said its board members attacked her for her wanting to look into the truth behind Beijing’s $200,000 gift. You say Mr. Rosenberg is a respected person. He misled. He misled when he said something that was not true.

Government leader, it’s ridiculous for you to keep saying the Prime Minister has no links to the foundation.

On April 11, 2016, a meeting took place, leader, between deputy ministers from five departments and the Trudeau Foundation. This meeting was held, Mr. Leader, down the street, on the fourth floor of the Prime Minister’s Office building. It took place six months after Justin Trudeau became the Prime Minister and three years after he claimed he no longer was involved in the foundation.

There are dozens of boardrooms throughout Ottawa where that meeting could have taken place, but it wasn’t held in any of them. The reason why it was held at the Prime Minister’s Office, leader, is obvious to everybody, even to you, leader. How can you defend that? I have some very simple questions, leader, and please answer them. Don’t tell me how respectable everybody is.

Leader, it shouldn’t take you very long to find these answers. Was this the only meeting with the Trudeau Foundation and the Prime Minister’s Office, or have there been others? If not, how many were there? When? And why did they take place in the Prime Minister’s Office?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): As I have answered to you, honourable colleague, previously, the meetings took place in the Langevin Block, not in the Prime Minister’s Office. Let’s be clear because — it’s the office building in which the Prime Minister’s — the meetings were with public officials. There was no evidence in the Prime Minister’s itinerary that there was such a meeting. The Prime Minister has said that he was not aware of such a meeting, and others who have attended such meetings in Langevin have also testified to the fact, or spoken publicly to the fact, that it is not necessarily the case at all that the Prime Minister would be aware of every meeting that takes place in that building.



Speaker’s Ruling

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I am prepared to rule on the point of order raised by Senator Downe after Question Period on March 30, as well as a subsequent point of order raised by Senator Housakos on April 25.

In terms of the point of order of March 30, the remarks made during Question Period, which gave rise to the concerns, alleged that a member of the other place, holding a key position in public office, had misled Canadians. Then a very strong term, best avoided in parliamentary business, was used. Following a request from a senator, several other senators offered input on this matter on April 19.

Rule 6-13(1) deals with the language used in debate. It states that “[a]ll personal, sharp or taxing speeches are unparliamentary and are out of order.” As indicated at page 85 of Senate Procedure in Practice:

There is no definitive list of words or expressions that are deemed unparliamentary. Determination of what constitutes unparliamentary language is left primarily to the judgment of the Speaker and the sense of the Senate. The circumstances and tone of the debate in question play important roles in this determination.

This is, of course, not the first time such issues have been raised. I note, in particular, a similar point of order raised on December 3, 2020, concerning remarks made during debate on a motion to authorize a committee to study a government contract.

I once again urge honourable senators to be mindful of the need for caution when participating in proceedings. In particular, parliamentary practice holds that “[d]isrespectful reflections on Parliament as a whole, or on the House [of Commons] and the Senate individually are not permitted.” This is at page 620 of the third edition of House of Commons Procedure and Practice, which then goes on to emphasize that “Members of the House and the Senate are also protected by this rule.” In speaking of our colleagues, whether in the Senate or the other place, we should therefore be guided by the need to show respect and to avoid intemperate personalized attacks, including impugning motives.

Senator Housakos’ related point of order of April 25, dealt with remarks and actions that took place between senators following an exchange in the Senate. He argued that a particular senator had been “maligned and injured” and made reference to rule 2-9(2), which states that “[s]enators who consider themselves to have been offended or injured in the Senate Chamber … may appeal to the Senate for redress.” On the other hand, some colleagues claimed that the language and actions at issue were not excessive and not without precedent in the Senate.

Honourable senators, with the privilege of sitting in this house comes responsibility. We all work together for the good of our country. We can certainly disagree, and can even disagree strongly. Indeed, the exchange of conflicting ideas is vital to the health of our parliamentary system. We should, however, always act with civility and respect towards our fellow parliamentarians, and all persons we deal with or mention. All of us are responsible for ensuring the proper functioning of this institution, and we must avoid undermining it or each other.

Language and actions are powerful. Parliament should provide an example of productive and respectful debate, of a type that we do not always see elsewhere in society. We have a role to be leaders and must choose our words wisely. More practically, I am concerned about how such issues could harm the culture of the Senate and risk having deleterious effects on our work.

In light of all this, I am sure that honourable senators will understand the concerns that have been raised. Senators could have shown their strong views in ways that were less inflammatory. I strongly urge moderation and restraint by senators so that we can best fulfil our work on behalf of all Canadians. Collaboration from all colleagues is essential; the Senate must remain a forum for respectful debate while also retaining its characteristic as a body where each of us assumes responsibility for maintaining order and decorum.

In these specific cases, I must find that the events of which Senators Downe and Housakos complained did go beyond the limits of proper parliamentary behaviour. I ask colleagues to be mindful of these factors in the future. Specific actions relating to these cases would, however, require a decision from the Senate, in keeping with our collective responsibility for how our Senate functions.



Criminal Code

Second Reading—Debate Continued

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Kutcher, seconded by the Honourable Senator Boehm, for the second reading of Bill S-251, An Act to repeal section 43 of the Criminal Code (Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s call to action number 6).

Hon. Pierre J. Dalphond: Honourable senators, I rise to support Bill S-251, Senator Kutcher’s bill proposing to repeal section 43 of the Criminal Code. This provision authorizes schoolteachers and parents — and persons standing in the place of parents — to use reasonable force by way of correction.

The bill before us continues long and determined efforts to achieve this reform. Over the past 30 years, there have been 17 previous bills, in both houses, aimed at repealing or amending section 43, including one by our former colleague Senator Hervieux-Payette.

Why should this attempt succeed when so many have failed? I will suggest five reasons.

First, repealing section 43 is no longer just a question of children’s rights. As the bill before us recognizes, repealing section 43 is a necessary step in meeting Canada’s commitment to reconciliation, as recommended by Call to Action 6 of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Second, in doing so, Canada will join an ever-increasing number of states. In 2004, the Supreme Court of Canada released its landmark decision on section 43 in Canadian Foundation for Children, Youth and the Law v. Attorney General in Right of Canada. At the time, 15 states prohibited all forms of corporal punishment of children. Today, that number exceeds 65, and an additional 27 states have:

. . . publicly committed to enacting legislation to explicitly prohibit all forms of corporal punishment of children, however light, in all settings including the home, without delay.

Third, repealing section 43 is a necessary step to place Canada in compliance with its international obligations. It is true, as the Supreme Court majority observed in 2004 in Canadian Foundation, that the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child does not “explicitly require state parties to ban all corporal punishment of children.”

However, it is also true that, two years later, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child clarified that the convention requires states to remove all provisions that allow some degree of violence against children, whether in their homes, their families or in any other setting.

Indeed, the committee specifically referred to the example of provisions for “reasonable correction” as a type of provision that should be removed — which is precisely what section 43 of our Criminal Code does. As the committee explained, the convention, “like all human rights instruments, must be regarded as a living instrument, whose interpretation develops over time.”

Fourth, and perhaps most importantly, the evidence around the efficacy of corporal punishment — or, rather, inefficacy — is clear and compelling. The corporal punishment of children and youth “plays no useful role in their upbringing and poses only risks to their development,” as mentioned by previous speakers on this bill. Indeed, the wealth of research around the “adverse lifespan consequences for children and the societal harm associated with physical punishment” should give us pause.

This brings me to my fifth and final reason why this attempt to repeal section 43 must succeed. It is the fact that public acceptance of section 43 is heading in only one direction: downwards.

Since 2004, 673 organizations from coast to coast to coast have signed the Joint Statement on Physical Punishment of Children and Youth. This statement, developed by “a national coalition of organizations facilitated by the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario,” recommends various actions, including “provision of the same protection of children from physical assault as is given to Canadian adults . . . .”

This means repealing section 43, which denies children — and only children — equal protection vis-à-vis the assault provisions of the criminal law.


At this juncture, it is perhaps helpful to spend a moment reflecting on the history of section 43 to understand that its sources are no longer relevant and by far obsolete.

Section 43’s immediate antecedents lie in the Parliament of Canada’s original codification of the Criminal Code in 1892, slightly after Confederation. At the time, section 55 was the codification of the common law rule that recognized the concept of “reasonable correction” as being part of the English common law. However, “reasonable correction” is far from a Canadian invention. As I said, it was a common law principle.

This principle was established in a case rendered in 1860 called R. v. Hopley. That decision dealt with the manslaughter charge against a teacher who, in the course of administering corporal punishment, beat a teenage pupil to death.

Although the teacher was convicted, the Hopley case endorsed the permissibility of inflicting “. . . moderate and reasonable corporal punishment . . .” for the purposes of “. . . correcting what is evil in the child . . . .”

It is interesting to note that Hopley’s reasoning rests on Roman principles, including the principle of patria potestas, whereunder fathers held the power of life and death over their children.

William Blackstone’s Commentaries on the Laws of England stated:

The ancient Roman laws gave the father a power of life and death over his children; upon this principle, that he who gave had also the power of taking away . . . .

The power of a parent by our English laws is much more moderate; but still sufficient to keep the child in order and obedience. He may lawfully correct his child being under age, in a reasonable manner; for this is for the benefit of his education . . . . He may also delegate part of his parental authority, during his life, to the tutor or schoolmaster of his child; who is then in loco parentis, and has such a portion of the power of the parent committed to his charge, viz. that of restraint and correction . . . .

Of course, the range of conduct defensible under section 43 since the 2004 judgment of the Supreme Court is much more curtailed than what was once allowed in the name of “reasonable correction.” However, the source of that principle goes back to the Roman Empire and 2,000 years ago when we could say that a man was the owner of his house, of his wife, of his children and had ultimate power to correct because education was done through correction. Fortunately, school teachers are no longer of that class of people, as my fearless leader knows.

However, as we consider section 43’s future, it is important, I believe, not to lose sight of the past. The raison d’être of section 43 is, and has always been, about one thing and one thing only: allowing the corporal punishment of children to correct them.

I would like to conclude by addressing the apprehension around the consequences that might flow from section 43’s repeal — namely, as Justice Arbour framed it in 2004 — and she was dissenting — the concern that:

Striking down s. 43 will not expose parents and persons standing in the place of parents to the blunt instrument of the criminal law for every minor instance of technical assault. . . .

Of course, she was making fun of the threat.

To borrow one example from debate, I think we can all agree, colleagues, that no parent should face criminal sanctions for forcing a reluctant child into a car seat. However, I would also hope we can all agree that no parent should enjoy permission to give their child a whack after getting them into the car seat.

Likewise, I think we can all agree that no teacher should face criminal sanctions for intervening to stop a fight or requiring a disruptive student to leave the classroom.

That happened to me in the past. I was asked to go into the corridor a few times. I am much better now.

However, I would also hope we can all agree that no teacher should enjoy permission to whip out the ruler — or worse — as was commonplace not so long ago.

I do remember the nuns using the ruler in the classroom. They asked you to come forward, to put your hand out and then they slapped it.

Interacting with children, whether as parents or teachers, engages a range of physical contact that falls far short of the conduct that comes to mind when we think of corporal punishment. That is undeniable. The question then becomes whether the criminal law and criminal process, as currently structured, could be used to charge these people who are just preventing something from happening.

A precise answer to this question is perhaps best left to the committee in its study. However, I would like to point out that the words of the Supreme Court, as well as the experience of other countries that have done away with provisions similar to section 43, have not shown that kind of odd consequence.

In 2004, when the Supreme Court majority upheld section 43’s constitutionality, three of the nine justices disagreed. Justice Arbour, in particular, took great effort to address the question of how parents and teachers would be protected despite the removal of section 43 considering the state of the law in Canada.

She concluded that “The common law defences of necessity and de minimis adequately protect parents and teachers from excusable and/or trivial conduct. . . .”

We would also be remiss to ignore the important — and effective — role of prosecutorial discretion in weeding out trivial and insignificant cases.

Likewise, section 34 of the Criminal Code contemplates the defence of oneself or others: You intervene to protect yourself or to protect somebody. That is a defence. In the case of a teacher who intervenes between fighting students, for instance, it is difficult to imagine what protection, if any, section 43 adds to the protection already available under section 34 of the Criminal Code.

In the international context, a recent experience in New Zealand, where they got rid of a similar provision, has shown that teachers have not been sued by the Crown for having separated children that were fighting. In fact, in 2007, New Zealand went further. It amended the Crimes Act to explicitly prohibit all corporal punishment of children, including in their home. That was targeted to parents.

Similarly, in 2000, the Supreme Court of Israel did away with the defence of reasonable correction, which, until then, found expression in the country’s common law source. They said that, as for “. . . insignificant cases that do not justify enforcement within the framework of the criminal law,” the court raised the mechanisms of prosecutorial discretion, and the principles of de minimis and necessity.

In conclusion, I think our Legal and Constitutional Affairs Committee could look carefully at the bill and dispel the concerns raised by some teachers’ associations, try to put everything in context and remind the public that section 43 can go away and a disaster will not occur afterwards.

Colleagues, I think it’s time to send Canadians the message that the power to impose physical correction is not the right way to educate children. That’s not the way we educate our children nowadays. Maybe the Romans thought that was the way to go, but I think we should depart from these old sources. Thank you very much. Meegwetch.

(On motion of Senator Martin, debate adjourned.)


National Framework on Cancers Linked to Firefighting Bill

Second Reading—Debate Continued

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Yussuff, seconded by the Honourable Senator Loffreda, for the second reading of Bill C-224, An Act to establish a national framework for the prevention and treatment of cancers linked to firefighting.

Hon. Hassan Yussuff: Honourable senators, I rise today to speak to Bill C-224, the national framework on cancers linked to firefighting act. It is my honour to be the sponsor in the Senate, and I thank you for giving me the time and the opportunity to explain the importance of this bill, as well as why we need to refer it to committee for further study without delay.

Senators, workers don’t go to work expecting to die, but that’s exactly what is happening to our firefighters — at an alarming rate — in every community across this country because of the consistent exposure to high levels of carcinogens that may lead to cancers. Bill C-224 is a positive step to help address this issue, and it includes two key measures to support our firefighters in their fight against cancer.

First, it promotes education and awareness about cancers linked to firefighting by designating January as a national firefighter cancer awareness month.

The second and most crucial measure in the legislation is the establishment of a national framework to study these cancers. Without research, current data and information sharing between jurisdictions, firefighters will keep going in blind when it comes to protecting themselves on the job. Senators, I want to talk to you today about what this bill concerns, and how it can help the men and women of the fire service who risk their lives to save ours.

I would say that many of us in this chamber would not sign up for a job that requires running headfirst into danger. Our odds of signing up for that job would be even less upon learning that it would leave us with a four-times-higher risk of developing cancer. This is why we are senators and not firefighters.

What I just described is a job for the estimated 126,000 firefighters working in some 3,200 fire departments across this country. These brave men and women show up to work knowing that 85% of fatal workplace claims in their profession are attributed to occupational cancers.

For decades, we have used a patchwork approach to address the issue of cancers linked to firefighting. While some provinces and territories have recognized as many as 20 different types of cancers linked to firefighting, others have recognized only 9. This is unacceptable for firefighters and their families. The ability of workers to receive workers’ compensation because their job made them sick should not be dependent on the province or the territory they happen to live in — period.

Bill C-224 addresses this problem by providing for the development of a national framework that examines the link between firefighting and cancer, and by identifying gaps in training and education for firefighters and health care professionals around cancer prevention and treatment.

The framework will also provide for recommendations respecting regular screenings for cancers linked to firefighting. It will encourage knowledge sharing in relation to the prevention and treatment of cancers linked to firefighting. This bill goes a long way toward helping Canadian firefighters focus on one thing: doing their job.

Senators, it is true that firefighters, like all first responders, sign up for a certain degree of risk. They sign up to show up for their neighbours on the worst days of their lives, to run into buildings when everyone is running out and, increasingly, to respond to medical calls. But they do not sign up to die — no worker in this country does.

Today, we are asking our firefighters to assume a level of risk above and beyond the call of duty, and a level of risk above what any reasonable person should expect of them. Families should not be forced to bear the burden of watching their loved ones get sick, and face losing them to occupational cancers.

I recently had the honour to speak with Craig and Alisen Bowman of Welland, Ontario. Craig is 47 years old, a proud husband to Alisen and a proud father to Lexi and Colin. He was a professional firefighter for over 20 years with the City of Welland. He was diagnosed with stage 4 esophageal cancer in May of last year.

Craig, as you can imagine, was fit and healthy prior to his diagnosis. He had no family history of cancer, and his doctors attribute his diagnosis to his work as a firefighter. To compound the stress that his family is going through, Craig is not eligible for workers’ compensation. He is two years short of the 25-year service requirement for esophageal cancer.

Colleagues, Craig’s fight was preventable; we know this now. We are now learning that in addition to the damage inflicted by the actual fires, the gear that they wear to protect themselves from those fires could be making them sick, too.

This is compounded by the fact that they often don’t have the proper decontamination facilities or protocols to mitigate the impact of carcinogens lingering on their gear. We need this national framework to better understand the short-term and long-term health impacts of these realities.

None of this is news to firefighters. For years, they have been sounding the alarm about high rates of cancer among their colleagues, and they were right. According to the International Association of Fire Fighters, 95% of firefighters’ line-of-duty deaths are linked to occupational cancer.

The World Health Organization recently designated firefighting as a Group 1 carcinogenic profession — reinforcing its status among the most dangerous jobs in the world.

Senators, Bill C-224 is designed to provide real information, solutions and accountability to firefighters facing the ongoing threat of occupational cancer. The accountability piece of this bill is crucial.

Within a year of the bill becoming law, the minister responsible must table a report setting out the national framework for the prevention and treatment of cancers linked to firefighting.

Within five years of this report being tabled, the minister must report back to Parliament on the effectiveness of the national framework, as well as report back on the state of the prevention and treatment of cancers linked to firefighting.

Various provinces and territories have been involved with this issue for years. Bill C-224 will hopefully encourage their continued collaboration, and help municipal, provincial and federal governments make better decisions for our firefighters.

Before I conclude, I want to thank, of course, my colleague in the other place MP Sherry Romanado for her advocacy on behalf of firefighters. As you know, it takes skill to manœuvre a private member’s bill through the process in the other place, let alone to get it passed with unanimous support from all parties. Members of that chamber recognize that these are the people who protect our families and ensure the safety of our communities.

I also want to thank the International Association of Fire Fighters and the Canadian Association of Fire Chiefs for their efforts to fight for their members and workers. Many of the firefighters fighting for the changes inspired by Bill C-224 will not live to see the benefits, and yet they are relentless in their pursuit of a safer workplace for the next generation.


Colleagues, there is no downside to passing this bill. It passed unanimously in the other place because members recognized that time is of the essence, and firefighters need our protection and support. We need research and data to help protect our firefighters so they can better protect us.

Bill C-224 offers us a tremendous opportunity to do right by them. So let’s pass this bill now and refer it to committee for further study. Firefighters and their families can’t wait. I believe this bill will be a tremendous good for our country and for the men and women who do so much good on behalf of all of us. Thank you so much.

Hon. Andrew Cardozo: Senator Yussuff, thank you for your speech and for taking leadership on this, and also thank you to Sherry Romanado in the House.

It is, of course, unfathomable that firefighters have uniforms designed to keep them safe from fire in the workplace that are, in fact, dangerous because they carry carcinogens and put firefighters in fatal danger. Is this going to be a straightforward implementation of the standards, or will the federal government have to negotiate with provincial governments? Is this going to be a drawn-out process once we pass it?

I want to add that I certainly will be pleased to support the bill.

Senator Yussuff: Thank you very kindly for the question. I believe, of course, as you know, the majority of the regulations in regard to occupational health and safety reside in the provincial and territorial governments. It’s there where we need the greatest action in the context of what some provinces and territories are already doing. Of course, the challenge is we don’t have uniformity of application across the country of how we treat cancer, much less how we can prevent firefighters from being exposed to the carcinogens they are dealing with when they go in to fight a fire.

I am hopeful that with the federal government taking the lead, should this bill pass, it will help coordinate that effort and bring into context a national approach of how we can better protect firefighters doing their job and, more importantly, ensuring that they have the right application. In addition to that, of course, there can be a national coordinated effort of how we can study the impact of these carcinogens and the impact on firefighters and, of course, their illnesses on a day-to-day basis.

More importantly, the gear that firefighters use to help protect them when they go in to fight a fire should not make them sick, so we need to do a better job of determining how to decontaminate the protective equipment that they use on a day‑to-day basis. Right now, there is no uniformity as to how we approach that issue across the country.

In addition to that, research can bring about a better way to help these firefighters protect themselves after they fight a fire in our communities and across this country.

Hon. Pat Duncan: I would also like to thank the senator for the sponsorship of this bill and to indicate that I am also prepared to support it. I apologize for not giving you advance notice of this question. I would like to build upon Senator Cardozo’s question.

As you’re aware, I have been involved in adjudicating workers’ compensation as well as having served as a workers’ advocate. This is, as you noted, an issue that is a complete patchwork across the country, and it is in much need of reform.

I am wondering if, in addressing this bill in the House of Commons, you and others involved in this bill have contemplated any sort of an amendment or methodology by which we might persuade, amicably, the workers’ compensation boards across the country to adopt a standard or a regulation such as you’ve proposed.

Senator Yussuff: Thank you very kindly for your question. I think you address one of the most fundamental challenges that firefighters, and their families, face when they get ill as a result of their work. Because, of course, the provinces, to a large extent, establish workers’ compensation systems, it is for them to adapt their system to recognize these carcinogens have a critical impact on the lives of these workers when they go to work. Of course, we don’t have consistency across the country.

It is mind-boggling today that in some jurisdictions, 29 of the carcinogens are recognized for what they are. In other places, it’s 9 or 16 or fewer than that.

So the reality is, of course, that the firefighters who are lucky enough to live where an enlightened province or territory has taken the decision to add more carcinogens to the list of carcinogens that workers can be impacted by in terms of their work will get workers’ compensation benefits should they get sick, but in many places, they fall between the cracks.

Within the federal jurisdiction, as you know, there is no workers’ compensation system. I would say it would be unwise to put an amendment in the bill and somehow think that will motivate the provinces. It would be critical for the federal government to try to bring the provinces and the territories together, for one, to show what some of the provinces and territories are doing, which is very positive and enlightening, but also to recognize that other provinces should acknowledge that this is the direction they need to go in.

I know in your own territory, you have done the most in regard to recognizing carcinogens, and that is a result of enlightened political leadership. In some provinces, we have a distance to go.

Many firefighters who are dying as a result of these carcinogen-related cancers are hopeful that in the near future all provinces and territories will adopt a common standard of how they treat workers when they get ill and, more importantly, of course, provide them the compensation they need, recognizing that giving compensation does not resolve the issue of dying from a carcinogen, which is a bigger challenge we have to face. How do we prevent those carcinogens from getting into our society? More importantly, how do we ensure the equipment these workers are using when they go into buildings and homes to fight fires is not making them sick when they come home to their families?

Senator Duncan: Thank you very much for that response. Is there perhaps a greater window, then, if we were to focus the energies of the bill and the regulation on the equipment? As I understand it, that is a key presentation that has been made.

Also, the workers’ compensation boards meet at least every year. There is a meeting of all of the boards across the country. Perhaps there could be a recommendation to the minister responsible in the bill that he or she be in attendance and attempt to work with the provinces and territories on this very important issue.

Senator Yussuff: Again, thank you for the supplementary question. I think the suit that firefighters use when fighting fires certainly is problematic in the context of how it protects them from fire, but it doesn’t protect them from carcinogens.

Of course, I’m sure we will develop better suits as time goes on, but in the meantime, we need to figure out how those suits can be decontaminated after a firefighter comes back from fighting a fire.

Again, while the bill does not spell out which minister will be responsible for taking this bill up should it become law, in my humble opinion, it will be both the Minister of Labour and the Minister of Health because there are two aspects to the bill. Both ministers will have to collaborate on how they will engage their colleagues at the provincial and territorial level to ensure some of the requirements of the bill are met, but equally to address some of the issues that you have raised. For instance, the Minister of Labour can certainly speak to his counterparts about the need to have uniformity across the country as to how firefighter cancers are treated in regard to the workers’ compensation systems.

At the same time, given the provincial health and safety laws address the safety of equipment that you use — and that is in the context of the suit that they use — there could be a uniformed approach as to how those suits could be decontaminated if equipment should exist that can do so in other jurisdictions.


It would be equally important for these two ministers to collaborate but, equally, to ensure every aspect that the bill attempts to address will be accomplished in the context of that collaboration, recognizing that the system across the country — which is a patchwork — will require provinces and territories wanting to change that. Hopefully, moral persuasion and political efforts can make a difference at the end of the day.

As you know, the men and women who go out to do this job don’t question it. They understand there is risk, as I did speaking to Craig’s family. What was very hard, I didn’t have an answer in regard to why the workers’ compensation system in Ontario is denying them benefits and why, at the time when it’s most needed in their family, they have to ponder what would happen should they not get that workers’ compensation.

For his two children and his wife, while he is receiving treatment, something should happen. I think it’s terrible. Firefighters, of course, as you know, recognize that what they are doing is dangerous. At the same time, they sign up for it. We, as a society, recognize we need firefighters. In the absence of them, who will show up to fight the fires and help us with these challenges?

Yet, within the law, there are challenges that these workers face. I do believe with this bill, should it pass in the Senate and become law, we can certainly accelerate the efforts of the federal government in playing a leading role in bringing all of the elements and provincial and territorial governments together to carry out the objective of the bill.

Thank you.

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Honourable senators, I rise to speak in support of Bill C-224. I want to thank Senator Yussuff for sponsoring the bill and for your helpful and fulsome remarks.

Across this country, 32,000 firefighters and 100,000 volunteer firefighters play a critical role in keeping us and our communities safe. Canadians respect firefighters. We appreciate the work they do, work that is both essential and dangerous.

When firefighters respond to a call, they know they can face immediate dangers. They know there can be physical hazards each and every time they enter a burning building. A roof can fall down, a floor might give away and so on.

There are also a number of other less immediate dangers that firefighters face when they respond to a fire. As Senator Yussuff told us, and as we know, some household products become very dangerous when they burn. That means that firefighters can be exposed to toxic substances, such as potentially harmful flame retardants in upholstered furniture, mattresses or electronic devices, whenever they respond to a fire.

We know that chemical flame retardants can save lives by slowing the ignition and the spread of fire, but they might and do also cause harmful health effects, such as cancer, when they are burned and inhaled.

While this exposure tends to be rare or limited for most citizens, they can become more prevalent among firefighters. The reality is that firefighters are more likely to develop cancer and, sadly, to die from cancer as a result of these exposures. This is true for almost all types of cancers, colleagues, but it is particularly so for digestive, oral, respiratory and urinary cancers.

There is also emerging research that shows that women and racialized firefighters suffer an even higher risk of cancer incidence and cancer mortality.

Colleagues, cancer represents 86% of occupational fatality claims among firefighters in Canada. These unfortunate statistics do not only apply to firefighters in Canada. Allusion was made by Senator Yussuff to the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer. Last July, the International Agency for Research on Cancer, which is the specialized cancer agency of the World Health Organization, classified the occupational exposure that firefighters experience as carcinogenic to humans. In recognition of these realities, the International Association of Fire Fighters has designated the month of January as Fire Fighter Cancer Awareness Month.

The Government of Canada is committed to protecting firefighters and has put into place several measures to support our firefighters across this country. For firefighters and other first responders who have died because of their job-related duties, the Government of Canada supports their families through the Memorial Grant Program. Through this program, their families receive a federal tax-free payment of up to $300,000.

The government also developed a federal action plan to protect firefighters from harmful chemicals that are released during household fires. Announced in 2021, the action plan focuses on chemical flame retardants found, as I mentioned a moment ago, in many household items, including upholstered furniture and electronics, to name but two.

Significant progress is being made to address harmful chemical flame retardants and to support the development and the use of safer alternatives.

As well, the Government of Canada makes significant investments in cancer prevention and research, and this includes research on firefighting and its links to cancer. Between 2015 and 2020, the government invested approximately $927 million in cancer research through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research.

The Government of Canada also supports the Canadian Partnership Against Cancer and CARcinogen EXposure Canada, an institute that tracks occupational and environmental carcinogen exposure in the workplace.

Colleagues, Bill C-224 calls on the Minister of Health to develop a national framework that raises awareness of cancers linked to firefighting and supports improved access for firefighters to cancer prevention and treatment.

As Senator Yussuff outlines, the bill before us today essentially has three parts: First, supporting improved access for firefighters to cancer prevention and treatment; second, designating the month of January as Fire Fighter Cancer Awareness Month; and, finally, setting out new reporting requirements on the effectiveness of the framework, including a report to be tabled in Parliament.

This bill will set out a common framework to guide future government actions building on the work already under way. The framework will be based on engagement and it will serve as an opportunity to exchange information and best practices between stakeholders and the many jurisdictions implicated in this issue.

Through these actions, the Government of Canada aims to raise awareness and share best practices between stakeholders and jurisdictions to ensure that Canadian firefighters, regardless of where they live or their postal code, receive the very best prevention and treatment possible.

The Government of Canada fully supports Bill C-224 so that we can respect and continue to foster our relationships with the provinces and the territories while strengthening the work we do to protect our firefighters.

Through a national framework, the Government of Canada will continue to take action on firefighters and cancer, with the goal of improving access for firefighters to cancer prevention and treatment, as well as explaining and supporting research on the link between firefighting and certain types of cancer. That includes promoting data collection on the prevention and treatment of cancers linked to firefighting, promoting information and knowledge sharing, including training, education and guidance needs across Canada, making recommendations for regular cancer screening for firefighters in Canada and preparing a summary of standards that recognize cancers linked to firefighting as occupational diseases.

The government will also designate and promote January as Fire Fighter Cancer Awareness Month. Colleagues, awareness is a key tool that we need to leverage to all stakeholders — from firefighters themselves to health care professionals in Canada — so that all are more aware of this important issue.


In closing, I’d like to once again thank Senator Yussuff, who sponsored this bill, and Senator Wells, the bill’s critic.

Through a national framework, the Government of Canada will improve our understanding of the link between firefighting and cancer and will adopt a more proactive approach to preventing cancer among firefighters.

This government will work closely with the provinces, territories, Indigenous groups, scientists, health care professionals and the firefighting community to shape this framework and develop an approach that meets the needs of firefighters across the country.

The government will continue its efforts with all of its partners to better protect firefighters against toxic chemicals and reduce the risk of cancer related to occupational exposure. Canadian firefighters deserve nothing less.

(On motion of Senator Martin, debate adjourned.)



Foreign Affairs and International Trade

Budget—Study on the Canadian Foreign Service and Elements of the Foreign Policy Machinery within Global Affairs—Ninth Report of Committee Adopted

The Senate proceeded to consideration of the ninth report of the Standing Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade (Budget—study on the Canadian foreign service and elements of the foreign policy machinery within Global Affairs Canada), presented in the Senate on April 25, 2023.

Hon. Peter M. Boehm moved the adoption of the report.

Hon. Yonah Martin (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): I have a question for Senator Boehm.

I notice that this is a report related to a budget. I wanted to ask for the sake of others in the chamber — and similar to what Senator Lankin asked on a previous report — what the nature of the trip is. As well, what are some outcomes that you expect from the trip? Maybe you could elaborate on the budget. Thank you.

Senator Boehm: Well, thank you very much, Senator Martin. It is, in fact, for a trip, and it’s a trip that was planned to take place earlier and features a revised budget — a lower budget — that was sent to the Subcommittee on Senate Estimates and Committee Budgets, or SEBS, and then to the Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration, or CIBA, for approval afterwards.

It’s in support of the long study that the committee has undertaken on the fit-for-purpose nature of Global Affairs Canada. It is supplementary to a trip that the committee took to Washington in December of last year. This one will take the committee — in a reduced number, I should add, because what was approved was the chair plus six members of the committee — to London, Oslo and Berlin.

In terms of why there, it’s because these particular countries have a similar system to ours in the way they conduct their foreign policy. They have recently integrated their aid and development function. In the case of the U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Office, or FCO, it’s now the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office, or FCDO, and the Norwegians have done the same thing, as did the Germans, because they are like-minded.

We will be looking at conditions of foreign service — this is not a foreign policy review per se — how people are recruited and how they are supported. This trip is planned for a non-sitting week — the week before we return in September — and it is basically the last element of this study that we have been working on since last April.

I hope that helps a little.

Hon. Percy E. Downe: I have a question as well.

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: Senator Boehm, will you take more questions?

Senator Boehm: Yes, of course.

Senator Downe: I was concerned with your comments that the full committee is not participating. It has been a long-time tradition in the Senate that, assuming senators participated in committee meetings here in the chamber and committee rooms, they would all participate on the complete study. Are there some senators who haven’t participated in the Senate? Is that why they are not going? Are there some who do not want to go? Have there been restrictions imposed?

Senator Boehm: Thank you, Senator Downe. One of the recommendations that had been made at the first pass that we made, both to SEBS and then to CIBA, was that we should perhaps look at reducing the number of senators.

In practice, what happened on the Washington trip was that only half the committee attended, and I suspect — as is often the case, whether because someone is ill or has a timing conflict — we will be looking at reduced numbers. But the idea, when making a second attempt at this, was that we would look at a reduced number.

In my view, we should budget for the complete committee to go because every senator — every member — is equal. However, in practice, this has not always been the outcome.

Senator Downe: Obviously, the policy has changed. Years ago, when I was on CIBA, the position was quite clear. Senators participated, and, as you stated, there are always reasons some people can’t go. There was never a full allocation. However, I can’t understand how the committee can write the report when some of the committee members participated in all the meetings, and others did not. Notwithstanding they may read the transcript or look at it on Zoom, there are nuances that are missed. How do you intend to square that when you write your final report?

Senator Boehm: Well, thank you Senator Downe. This study has been going on for some time — since April of last year. In my view, all committee members have had a pretty good exposure to various witnesses. I don’t have the data in front of me in terms of how many witnesses we have seen and heard, but I do think that writing the report with all the data and information we have received will not be that onerous and that senators will be prepared.

Also, on the trip that I had mentioned, we are not looking at substitute senators either. So everyone has been exposed to this one way or the other.

Senator Downe: This is my last question. I would urge caution here. The Senate’s foundation, reputation, is on the great work the committees have done, all the way back to the various reports done over the years — former Senator Croll’s report on poverty, for example. They travelled extensively outside of Ottawa and made a tremendous impact on changing poverty levels in Canada when the recommendations were adopted by various governments over the next number of years.

I guess the question is — and Senator Kutcher would know if this is still politically correct or not to say — if we are throwing the baby out with the bath water. In my opinion, we have to be excessively cautious here that we are not reducing cost at the very foundation of the Senate. Are you concerned that in future studies all committee members should travel?

Senator Boehm: I agree with you, Senator Downe.

Hon. Denise Batters: Thank you. Senator Boehm, you alluded to budget in one of the answers you gave to Senator Downe. However, I didn’t hear you say what the actual budgeted amount is. Of course, we’re dealing here with a trip that is not within Canada, as perhaps that poverty trip was. We’re dealing with a trip to different European capitals, which can be quite costly. Can you please tell us what the amount is?

Thank you.

Senator Boehm: I believe it’s around $275,000, Senator Batters. We dropped it from the original cost, which was over $100,000 above that. I don’t have the exact figure in front of me.


Hon. Raymonde Saint-Germain: Senator Boehm, I’d like to know if you think a study on international diplomacy and the effectiveness of our foreign service should include municipalities inside Canada?

Senator Boehm: Thank you for the question, senator. We plan to travel outside Canada only.

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

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

(Motion agreed to and report adopted.)

The Senate

Motion to Call Upon the Government to Implement the Eighth Recommendation of the First Report of the Special Senate Committee on the Charitable Sector—Debate Continued

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Omidvar, seconded by the Honourable Senator Dasko:

That the Senate call upon the Government of Canada to implement the eighth recommendation of the first report of the Special Senate Committee on the Charitable Sector, entitled Catalyst for Change: A Roadmap to a Stronger Charitable Sector, adopted by the Senate on November 3, 2020, during the Second Session of the Forty-third Parliament, which proposed that the Canada Revenue Agency include questions on both the T3010 (for registered charities) and the T1044 (for federally incorporated not-for-profit corporations) on diversity representation on boards of directors based on existing employment equity guidelines.

Hon. Marilou McPhedran: As a senator for Manitoba, I acknowledge that I live on Treaty 1 territory, the traditional lands of the Anishinaabe, Cree, Oji-Cree, Dakota and Dene, and the homeland of the Métis Nation.

I acknowledge that the Parliament of Canada is situated on unceded and unsurrendered Algonquin Anishinaabe territory.


Honourable senators, I rise today to speak to Senator Omidvar’s Motion No. 3, which asks us to adopt Recommendation 8 of the 2019 report of the Special Senate Committee on the Charitable Sector, chaired by former senator Terry Mercer, with Senator Ratna Omidvar as deputy chair.

Specifically, Recommendation 8 is simple and achievable, requiring the Canada Revenue Agency to include questions on tax forms for registered charities and federally incorporated not-for-profit corporations on diversity representation on boards of directors. I applaud Senator Omidvar for bringing this motion forward. Too often, excellent Senate reports with sensible, needed change strategies are not pursued in such a practical manner.


The non-profit sector is an economic driver and influencer in this country. Canada has over 170,000 charitable and non-profit organizations that are largely governed by boards of directors that often do not represent the diversity of the communities they serve and Canada as a whole. In supporting this motion, I do not wish to take away from the work these organizations are doing, but to highlight that a lack of diversity and representation saps legitimacy, limits voices and ideas and sows disconnect between groups and the communities that these boards serve.

Efficacy in the charitable sector is undermined where there are perceptions of bias, exclusion or mistrust. Further, when boards do not address diversity, a disconnect with the communities they serve will inevitably occur, resulting in limited networks, limited funding sources and difficulty in developing new ideas. The lack of diversity can create a conformity bias or groupthink mentality, which can lead to making the wrong decisions at a strategic level for effectiveness.

Senator Omidvar has detailed how Canada’s charitable sector lacks diversity, particularly in management positions, sometimes called “snow capping.” Snow capping occurs when racialized workers appear on the front lines while top positions are maintained by non-marginalized individuals. Another unintended consequence is the “cloning effect,” which refers to the bias, unconscious or otherwise, that sometimes occurs when, in recruiting new board members, trustees tend to seek out those from their immediate circles of influence, almost cloning themselves with look-alike and think-alike individuals who experience life much like they do, creating a homogeneous board that risks being disconnected from the communities in need.

Boards of directors who are not representative of their communities underserve their populations and create barriers for equity-deserving groups to advance to positions of authority. Conversely, a diverse board of directors can bring a realistic view of the community, strengthen the organization’s connections and credibility to its constituency, improve fundraising and assist with targeted, effective policy creation and implementation. In essence, it makes a board more effective at carrying out its mission.

Notably, Canada lacks comprehensive reporting mechanisms and statistics on diversity in its charitable sector. In 2021, Statistics Canada launched its first voluntary questionnaire to gather information on diversity among Canada’s charities and non-profit boards of directors. While the data was not collected using probability-based sampling, the results demonstrate the lack of equity in Canada’s charitable sector. Over 40% of respondents indicated that their organization does not even have a diversity policy. Conversely, organizations that did report a written diversity policy indicated they had higher proportions of diverse representation among their boards, including individuals living with a disability, First Nations, Métis, Inuit, visible minorities and LGBTQ+ individuals.

Recent developments in Canada’s corporate sector indicate that increased diversity reporting requirements can result in concrete diversity advancement for boards of directors. Since amendments were made to the Canada Business Corporations Act in 2020, requiring publicly traded organizations to disclose information on the diversity of their boards of directors and information related to their written policies concerning diversity, there have been substantive, measurable and positive developments. The amendments likely assisted in spurring a normative change, wherein boards of directors saw increases in the representation of minorities, women and Indigenous peoples.

The starting point for good policy and reform begins with transparency and data and leads to accountability. Motion No. 3 would galvanize necessary reporting requirements on board diversity within Canada’s charitable sector and lay the foundation for more targeted reform based on information and data collected. It may also spur a normative change within the sector by requiring organizations to consider and reflect upon the composition of their boards of directors and their diversity policies or lack thereof.

I commend Senator Omidvar for her long and dedicated leadership in the non-profit sector. This motion builds on the crucial work of civil society by shining a spotlight on where further study, data collection and inquiry are essential to building paths for growth and change that are necessary for a more just and effective Canada with a more inclusive economy and, in turn, a stronger democracy.

Thank you, meegwetch.

(On motion of Senator Seidman, debate adjourned.)


Motion to Call on the Government to Adopt Anti-racism as the Sixth Pillar of the Canada Health Act—Debate Continued

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator McCallum, seconded by the Honourable Senator LaBoucane-Benson:

That the Senate of Canada call on the federal government to adopt anti-racism as the sixth pillar of the Canada Health Act, prohibiting discrimination based on race and affording everyone the equal right to the protection and benefit of the law.

(On motion of Senator Petitclerc, debate adjourned.)

Motion to Call Upon the Government to Immediately Designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a Terrorist Entity—Debate Continued

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Omidvar, seconded by the Honourable Senator Dean:

That, given reports of human rights abuses, repression and executions of its citizens, particularly women, in Iran by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the Senate call upon the government to immediately designate the IRGC as a terrorist entity.

Hon. Julie Miville-Dechêne: I rise today to support Senator Ratna Omidvar’s motion calling on the government to designate the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or IRGC, as a terrorist entity. I want to begin by saying that, last week, Senator Omidvar gave a very intelligent and heartfelt speech about this regime and about Iran, where she used to live. I share her opinion.

Given the human and women’s rights violations and the crackdowns on protesters, the Canadian government should use this terrorist entity designation to increase pressure on the Iranian regime.

The IRGC was established in the aftermath of the 1979 Islamic revolution. It is one of the most powerful paramilitary organizations in the Middle East. It exerts an influence over nearly 50% of the Iranian economy and is making headway into Europe and the United States.

In 2020, the Tony Blair Institute in Great Britain exposed the training manuals used by the IRGC to indoctrinate recruits. They promote a violent and extremist ideology and describe the regime’s political opponents as apostates.

To date, only the United States has designated the IRGC as a terrorist entity, but parliamentarians in Europe and Great Britain are also exerting political pressure in that regard.

For its part, Canada opted for a strategy of gradual sanctions, instead of putting the entire Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps on the blacklist. Since October, the government has banned nearly 1,000 senior Iranian officials from entering the country. Other sanctions followed, but it stopped short of invoking section 83.05 of the Criminal Code, which allows a judge to order that the entity be listed as a terrorist group.


More than 70 organizations are currently designated as terrorist entities under this provision, which allows the courts to order the seizure or restraint of certain assets. One such designated entity is the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force, a clandestine unit that has been providing arms and funding to extremist groups for the past 10 years.

To justify Canada’s policy, Justice Minister David Lametti explained that the IRGC is part of the armed forces in a country where military service is mandatory. He expressed concern that section 83.05 of the Criminal Code could be used unfairly, since Canada could target opponents of the Iranian regime who have taken refuge in Canada and would have been ordinary conscripts.

In practice, however, the designation would primarily affect senior officers who have assets, who may interfere in Canada or try to cross our border.

The House of Commons passed a motion on this in 2018, but unfortunately no action has been taken.

It is time that the Senate voted on this as well, in the hope that Parliament will speak with one voice and call on the government to recognize the IRGC for what it is, namely a terrorist entity, and treat it as such. Thank you.

Some Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.

(On motion of Senator Martin, debate adjourned.)


Social Affairs, Science and Technology

Motion to Authorize Committee to Study Negative Impact of Health Disinformation and Misinformation on Society and Effective Measures to Counter the Impact—Debate Continued

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Kutcher, seconded by the Honourable Senator Cormier:

That the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology be authorized to examine and report on the negative impact of health disinformation and misinformation on Canadian society and what effective measures can be implemented to counter this impact; and

That the committee submit its final report on this study to the Senate no later than May 31, 2024, and that the committee retain all powers necessary to publicize its findings for 180 days after the tabling of the final report.

Hon. Stan Kutcher: Honourable senators, today I rise to speak to Motion No. 113 for a Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, or SOCI, study on health misinformation, its impacts on Canadians and potential remedies.

In April of this year, the Food and Drug Administration’s Commissioner of Food and Drugs, Robert Califf, reported that the recent rapid drop in life expectancy in the United States of America was in great part due to increased health misinformation.

The Council of Canadian Academies’ January 2023 Fault Lines report determined that, between March and November of 2021 alone, at least 2,800 Canadian lives lost to COVID-19 could have been spared, over 10,000 hospitalizations could have been prevented and $300 million in hospital costs may have been saved if not for disinformation impacting health behaviours of Canadians. Vaccine disinformation alone is in large part responsible for these negative findings.

In a study published in the journal The Lancet on June 23, 2022, Dr. Oliver Watson and colleagues used excess death analysis to determine that vaccinations prevented 19.8 million deaths globally during the first year of COVID-19 vaccination.

In December of 2022, the C.D. Howe Institute report Damage Averted: Estimating the Effects of Covid-19 Vaccines on Hospitalizations, Mortality and Costs in Canada noted that between January 2021 and May 2022, vaccines were highly effective at reducing COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths: 21% fewer cases, 37% fewer hospitalizations and 34,900 fewer deaths. Its economic modelling reported an estimated net cost/benefit of between $0.4 billion and $2.1 billion in cost savings alone, and when the statistical value of life analysis was applied, these savings added an additional $27.6 billion.

Yet, this vaccine disinformation continues to expand, reaching countless Canadians through social media and “alternative news” channels that promote and distribute many different kinds of disinformation; belief in health disinformation is also linked to beliefs in various types of conspiracy theories. Put together, these forces contribute to what scholars such as Kathleen Higgins and Ralph Keyes have called a “post-truth era,” with its attendant social polarizations.

Recently, this chamber initiated legislation calling for improved national action on addressing the needs of people and families living with autism, a very important step forward, indeed. Autism has been a health disinformation battleground for some time now, ranging from the completely false and fully discredited assertions that routine vaccinations cause autism, to the endorsement and, I might add, highly profitable sales of so‑called alternative treatments that have no scientifically valid evidence of positive effect but that in some cases could cause great harm — so-called treatments such as craniosacral manipulation, iron chelation therapy, and daily use — by drinking, bathing or enemas — of chlorine dioxide, which is also known as Miracle Mineral Solution or Master Mineral Solution or, more commonly, bleach.

The widespread concern about health misinformation is summed up in the preamble to the Council of Canadian Academies report:

Misinformation can cause significant harm to individuals, communities, and societies. Because it’s designed to appeal to our emotions and exploit our cognitive shortcuts, everyone is susceptible to it. We are particularly vulnerable to misinformation in times of crisis when the consequences are most acute. Science and health misinformation damages our community well-being through otherwise preventable illnesses, deaths, and economic losses, and our social well-being through polarization and the erosion of public trust. These harms often fall most heavily on the most vulnerable.

A 2020 U.S. Surgeon General report titled Confronting Health Misinformation similarly noted this negative impact and called for immediate and effective action to deal with health misinformation:

Health misinformation is a serious threat to public health. It can cause confusion, sow mistrust, harm people’s health, and undermine public health efforts. Limiting the spread of health misinformation is a moral and civic imperative that will require a whole-of-society effort.

Sadly, there is little that we in Canada can point to in the way of federal-government-supported, coordinated and effective action to address health misinformation. There are some interventions under way, such as the ScienceUpFirst initiative, that — in the interest of full disclosure — I, along with Professor Timothy Caulfield, catalyzed during the first pandemic year. There are several other government-funded activities under way, through the federal Digital Citizen Initiative, the Encouraging vaccine confidence in Canada fund, the Vaccine Community Innovation Challenge and a few others.

There is a government website that provides information on disinformation and how to spot it. In an unscientific straw poll of senators and staff that I recently conducted, only 2 of 48 people even knew it existed, and only one had actually bothered to look — not very effective.

The Government of Canada also commissioned a number of reports on this topic, such as Misinformation in Canada: Research and Policy Options, from Evidence for Democracy; Science Disinformation in a Time of Pandemic, from the Public Policy Forum; and Vulnerable Connections and Fault Lines from the Council of Canadian Academies.

Yet, only the minority of Canadians are up to date in their vaccinations, and health disinformation continues to proliferate. Just two weeks ago, UNICEF Canada reported that the proportion of Canadians who believe childhood immunizations are important has decreased by 8% since the onset of the pandemic. Should this trend continue, we can expect the return of a myriad of deadly infectious diseases, including measles, polio and even smallpox. As well, health disinformation is increasingly being used to sell unregulated and possibly harmful so-called cures or treatments for COVID-19 or other diseases to people online.

The reports that I identified earlier included a number of recommendations for citizens, governments and social media platforms that they felt are necessary to effectively combat disinformation. These included dealing with social media companies in their role as enablers or purveyors of disinformation and the development and delivery of effective public education campaigns to counter the health and social harms of disinformation, all things that could be looked at further in committee study.

Colleagues, action is needed, and our work in the Senate through a SOCI study can be an important part of countering the negative impacts of the many-headed hydra of health disinformation.


As we are aware, health disinformation has always been with us, but, in recent years, it has become a substantial and growing concern with well-established negative impacts on the health of individuals and populations. It has also negatively impacted our trust in public health and in health providers, as well as our economic and civic well-being. It has integrated itself into a social framework that rejects expertise, confuses science with information and encourages verbal — and even physical — attacks on scientists and health providers alike.

Indeed, the World Health Organization, or WHO, has called this growing pernicious threat an “infodemic” that has spread deeply into every part of the globe, and for which our societies have yet to find a fulsome, effective and durable response.

The Senate of Canada is known for the solid studies that its committees conduct. I am hopeful that the Social Affairs Committee will be able to delve into the complex and challenging aspects of health disinformation as it affects Canadians, as well as identify some effective remedies that could be applied.

Today, I would like to suggest some directions that the committee could consider in its work. I will start by addressing what is meant by the terms “disinformation” and “misinformation.”

Generally, disinformation refers to false or inaccurate information that has been deliberately created to deceive. It is created by unique actors, both organizations and individuals, and spread for various purposes. These actors can be outside or inside of Canada; they can include foreign governments whose use of disinformation is designed to create internal division and civil strife in our country, as well as organizations or individuals whose purpose is mercenary or ideological, or both.

Some examples of this include the attempts of the Russian state to sow civil discord in Canada by spreading anti-vaccination messaging through various sources, as well as the self‑proclaimed health experts who spread anti-vaccination information as a vehicle for selling their so-called health products — Mercola Market is a good example of this.

Misinformation also refers to false information, but it is often applied to identify the process by which disinformation is spread — which is frequently by individuals or groups who do not take the time to critically evaluate what they are spreading, or who do so because of emotional investment in the message that they are spreading.

For the sake of brevity, I will use the word “disinformation” to include both the deliberate and inadvertent spread of false or inaccurate information intended to deceive. The outcome is similar.

Sadly, colleagues, health disinformation is also a yellow brick road into conspiracy theories and anti-civil society institutions. Robust research demonstrates that once an individual has gone down the rabbit hole of health disinformation, they are much more likely to become involved in one or more conspiracy theories. Once a person becomes involved in one conspiracy theory, they are more likely to embrace many.

Some classic health misinformation-driven health conspiracy theories pertaining to vaccines are the following: COVID-19 vaccines are a bioweapon for population elimination; COVID-19 vaccines contain microchips to be used by Bill Gates, the World Economic Forum, or WEF, and the WHO for population control; the vaccine alters a person’s DNA; the vaccine is the cause of COVID-19 variants; and vaccines cause large numbers of sudden deaths.

All of those are conspiracy theories that grow out of, use and amplify health disinformation.

The concern is that these health disinformation conspiracy theories are becoming increasingly linked to other conspiracy theories, such as the Great Reset — and that the WEF and the WHO are taking over the governance of sovereign states.

Often, these conspiracy theories spread through algorithms within social media channels and through alternative news sources, such as BitChute, Rumble, Infowars, the Gateway Pundit, the Last Line of Defense, Natural News and The Unhived Mind newsletter, just to mention a few.

Once an individual — who is caught up in health disinformation — links to those sources, other types of conspiracy theories on numerous other topics can become part of their belief system.

In Canada, EKOS Politics has created a disinformation index made up, in large part, of belief in health disinformation.

Canadians who score high on the index, meaning that they believe health disinformation — which is about 15% of Canadians — are much more likely to distrust and not follow public health advice, much more likely to dismiss the importance of Indigenous concerns and much more likely to dismiss the importance of climate change.

Furthermore, data from EKOS polling shows that Canadians who score high on this disinformation index tend to support Russia in its war against Ukraine.

This fits with the alarms sounded by many, including Marcus Kolga, of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, who has clearly demonstrated the role of Russia in spreading health disinformation in Canada. Other scholars have noted that China has also been actively engaged in spreading health disinformation.

One other issue that has received scant media attention is the impact of belief in health disinformation and conspiracy theories on families. As some of us know from personal experience, adherence to health disinformation and conspiracy theories can pull otherwise cohesive families apart. If that can be the impact of health disinformation on families, just think of what it can do to communities or civil society.

Indeed, some scholars have already noted the relationship between health disinformation and social and civic polarization.

Colleagues, there are numerous remedies that have been proposed to help counter health disinformation, and a thorough Social Affairs Committee study should critically assess these remedies, as well as provide direction on how those that are effective can be best applied. Those remedies might require numerous concurrent interventions and will need to be well supported, established outside of government and sustainable — because we are in this for the long haul.

Colleagues, the Senate is known for its good committee work in helping Canadians journey through complex issues and difficult topics. Health disinformation and its negative impacts, as well as the potential effective remedies and how to apply them, are some of the wicked, complex issues facing Canadian society. Indeed, health disinformation might be one of the most important issues that not only Canadians, but also global citizens, have ever faced.

I look forward to further debate on this motion and to its rapid passage so that the Social Affairs Committee can get to work on this challenging opportunity.

Thank you. Wela’lioq.

The Hon. the Speaker pro tempore: I’m sorry, colleagues, but there is no more time for debate, unless Senator Kutcher wants to seek leave for five additional minutes.

Senator Kutcher: If that’s the will of the Senate.

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

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

Hon. Mary Coyle: Senator Kutcher, this seems like an important motion that you have put forward. I just want to understand the scope of what you are recommending to the Social Affairs Committee in terms of examining and reporting on the negative impacts of health disinformation on Canadian society, and what effective measures can be implemented to counter that impact.

You’ve spoken about the yellow brick road; you’ve spoken about the rabbit holes and the other issues. Do you see this particular study as being focused exclusively on health disinformation, or do you see health disinformation as a Trojan Horse that could bring in other areas of disinformation that the committee would also want to study?

I’m just curious how far beyond health disinformation you are expecting the scope of the study to go, if at all.

Senator Kutcher: Thank you for that question. It is an important issue.

My intention is to bring the issue of health disinformation to committee study. I don’t think it would be appropriate for me to tell the committee what the limits of the study should be, or in what direction the committee should choose to study it. Committees are the masters of their own fates, and it would behoove the committee to make those decisions.

We have an incredibly excellent group of people on that committee, as all Senate committees do, and we want to ensure that those committee members and the steering committee — under the able leadership of Senator Omidvar — would make decisions regarding what the parameters of the study would be.

I want to remind the chamber that Senate committees have engaged in studies that have lasted for years, and that have made major impacts on improving Canadian society. My purpose here is to start with health disinformation — and should the committee wish to take it further, that would be the purview of the committee.

Hon. Marty Deacon: The timing is interesting on this. Yesterday, the National Security and Defence Committee took a look at disinformation as it relates to national security. But the conversation about health and health-related issues — for example, COVID — was not off the table. It’s certainly part of it. There is no question this is as complex as the day is long.


I don’t think this is a scope question, but I’m wondering from you, Senator Kutcher, if you were sitting at the Social Affairs Committee table looking at this, what expertise beyond the health sector — I was going to ask you what your dream solution was, but that’s such a complex issue. What expertise would you like to have at the table for this conversation?

Senator Kutcher: Thank you very much for that question, Senator Deacon. Certainly, I think that the expertise that needs to be at that table would depend on where the committee wants to go with the study.

The first tranche of expertise has to be in what health disinformation is. What impact has health disinformation had on the health of Canadians? What impact has it had on the economy of Canadians? What impact has it had on the way that we structure our institutions and relate to our health care providers? In other words, there was violence against health care providers because of disinformation. Are there specific communities in Canada that are more susceptible to disinformation? How can we then make sure those communities are treated equitably? That’s where I would start.

You can already see there are going to be quite a number of witnesses who have incredible expertise in these very different areas, and there will be more than I was able to mention off the top of my head.

I have been following this issue for a couple of years now, and I am really encouraged by the amount of really robust research on these topics and the amount of incredible work. There are some Canadian experts who are seen globally as having expertise in the health disinformation era. There are also some outstanding experts in the United States, in the U.K. and at the World Health Organization itself. I would hope that the committee will see fit to call on the expertise of these other people who can help us understand not just in the Canadian context but in a wider global context what that impact might also be.

(On motion of Senator Martin, debate adjourned.)

Banking, Commerce and the Economy

Committee Authorized to Extend Date of Final Report on Study of Matters Relating to Banking, Trade and Commerce Generally

Hon. Pamela Wallin, pursuant to notice of April 25, 2023, moved:

That, notwithstanding the order of the Senate adopted on Thursday, December 16, 2021, the date for the final report of the Standing Senate Committee on Banking, Commerce and the Economy in relation to its study on matters relating to banking, trade, commerce and the economy generally, as described in rule 12-7(10), be extended from June 30, 2023, to December 31, 2025.

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

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

(Motion agreed to.)

Business and Economic Contributions Made by Indigenous Businesses to Canada’s Economy

Inquiry—Debate Adjourned

Hon. Marty Klyne rose pursuant to notice of March 28, 2023:

That he will call the attention of the Senate to the ongoing business and economic contributions made by Indigenous businesses to Canada’s economy.

He said: Honourable senators, I am pleased to commence this inquiry recognizing Indigenous-owned and controlled businesses in Canada. Indigenous entrepreneurs and businesses are essential to Indigenous independence, wealth creation and self‑determination. Stories shared through this inquiry will illustrate the tremendous successes of Indigenous businesses and, importantly, the valued contributions made to our nation’s economy, not to mention the engagement of untapped productivity, innovation and idle resources.

In addition, I submit for your consideration that it is of vital importance that we also consider what we can do to knock down barriers and clear a pathway to access continued education, training, capital and therefore further our nation’s economy.

I’m proud to stand in this chamber and begin sharing these stories, and look forward to other senators’ contributions to this conversation in the weeks and months ahead.

Colleagues, we speak a lot about reconciliation, particularly about upholding rights and addressing injustices. Economic reconciliation is a related topic that requires our full attention. We can move forward as a country faster and further if all people in Canada can access equitable opportunities to prosper and contribute to our shared wealth.

This was a theme of the Senate Prosperity Action Group’s 2021 report. With that in mind, let’s acknowledge and celebrate the excellent Indigenous businesses and economic development organizations in Canada that are creating wealth, independence, self-determination and, most of all, hope.

For decades, a narrative has existed around Indigenous businesses that suggests such businesses are few and far between, largely dependent on government support and making an insignificant contribution to our GDP and the social fabric and well-being of Canada. The truth is, well, quite the opposite. According to the National Indigenous Economic Development Board, there are more than 50,000 Indigenous-owned businesses in Canada that together contribute $31 billion to Canada’s gross domestic product annually.

In addition, in the aforementioned Prosperity Action Group’s 2021 report, Indigenous economic development leaders cited Indigenous-owned businesses in Canada contributing $100 billion to the GDP in the next few years.

There are over 50 Aboriginal Financial Institutions, or AFIs, in this country from coast to coast to coast providing financing for the start-up, expansion and acquisition of Indigenous-owned and controlled businesses. Many of these developmental lenders, which were initially capitalized with $5 million, lent that capital out to start businesses. They got the money back with interest and lent it out again and again, leveraging it multiple times and creating thousands of jobs. As developmental lenders, these AFIs would lend money and subordinate their positions to mainstream banks and credit unions to bring that mainstream financing to the table. In essence, they would lend $1 to leverage $3 to $4.

They also provided business planning and business advisory services. At the end of the day, the cost of creating a job was far below any government programs — by far — not to mention the building of capacity and creating of wealth at the same time. I add that the loan loss provisions of these AFIs were extremely favourable largely because there is peer and community oversight in an informal manner.

I’ll share an example of an organization from my home province of Saskatchewan that will demonstrate what modern Indigenous organizations look like in Canada. I begin with the story of Whitecap Dakota First Nation and the inspiring economic success they have achieved over the past three decades. Whitecap Dakota’s origins date back to time immemorial. Their history is rich, colourful and serves as a narrative of finding success through innovation and hard work, despite the odds being stacked against them.

For generations, the Dakota maintained friendship and partnership with the British Crown, and they later settled in an area known as Moose Woods, located not far from Saskatoon. As the years went by and Canada became a country, many non-Indigenous people prospered. Sadly and unjustly, generations of the Dakota could not access and share in that same level of wealth creation and prosperity. Colonial policies, including rights violations and the traumas inflicted by the residential school system, didn’t just have a negative social and cultural impact on the Dakota. It also tragically affected their economic capacity, resulting in years of high unemployment and extremely limited opportunities. Those missed opportunities didn’t just cost the Whitecap Dakota, they cost everyone — Indigenous and non‑Indigenous alike.


For the Whitecap, it became clear that the need to create and drive the conditions for prosperity would have to come from within. In the 1990s, under the leadership of band council — and, notably, under the leadership of Chief Darcy Bear — Whitecap Dakota First Nation decided to take control of their own destiny. As a nation with courage and conviction, they leaped into action to pursue development opportunities and to provide a better future for their people. With perseverance, they methodically sought investment and they delivered results. To date, Whitecap Dakota has attracted over $160 million in capital investment in economic development and tourism, and they’re just getting started.

Some of Whitecap’s most notable successes have come through the Whitecap Development Corporation. Economic development organizations can play a huge role in attracting investment and opportunities, and Whitecap is a prime example. They boast some incredible businesses, such as the Dakota Dunes Golf Links — a renowned golf course. The course features sand dunes, wild roses and tremendous natural beauty. It is ranked the number one public golf course in Saskatchewan — and we have a great number of highly rated golf courses in my province.

Whitecap has other ventures too, including the Dakota Dunes Resort and Dakota Dunes Casino, which create a high-end resort that not only features incredible amenities but also ties in the rich history and culture of the Dakota in a true and authentic manner. The golf course, hotel and casino aren’t just luxury accommodations — they are important economic drivers that have helped boost employment and given young people opportunities that did not exist a generation or two ago.

Today, Whitecap offers health care services and a child care centre that are available to both band members and non-band members.

Were there bumps along the way? You bet. In fact, one of the lessons learned for many Indigenous economic development corporations came through the COVID-19 pandemic, which brought to light that the majority of investments were in the tourism industry — which, as we know, was negatively impacted by COVID-19 — and highlighted the importance of diversifying business portfolios to help manage uncertainty.

Like many entrepreneurial Indigenous communities across Canada, Whitecap found opportunity in a place where few might have thought that opportunity would exist. This perspective changed lives. What began as an economically isolated reserve is now an important economic driver for our province. Their story is one that inspires.

Whitecap has flipped the script, and they now serve as a model to Canada of what can happen when Indigenous peoples empower themselves to take charge of their own destiny. That journey — that unwavering faith in their own potential — is what has driven Dakota Whitecap, and it is what drives so many other Indigenous businesses in Canada.

When I spoke with Chief Bear a few months ago about Whitecap’s success, he spoke about the importance of bringing employment to the reserve and what that has meant to their people. He told me that unemployment has dropped significantly and that young people have more role models and better opportunities. Most importantly, their young people have hope. If you ever wonder why there is a high incidence of suicide on some reserves, it is largely due to desperation and a bleak future ahead.

Chief Bear’s accomplishments speak for themselves. He has received both the Order of Canada and the Saskatchewan Order of Merit. In 2012, he received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal.

His business credentials are also evident. He is chairperson of SaskPower, he was listed as one of the “Ten Most Influential People” by Saskatchewan Business Magazine, and he received CANDO’s “Economic Developer of the Year” title in 2006. More recently, in 2016, he received the Aboriginal Business Hall of Fame Lifetime Achievement Award from the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business.

I’m also happy to share that Whitecap Dakota is making history as they are set to become the first self-governing First Nation in Saskatchewan following a historic vote of its membership this past October. It is an important milestone and one that helps solidify their efforts to achieve even greater financial autonomy and self-determination in our nation of nations.

Historically, Indigenous peoples were the first business leaders on this land, with continental trade thriving before European settlement. When settlers arrived, our people shared what they had, including essential local knowledge and resources, forming the early basis for our country’s commerce system. The fur trade is one example. However, as we all know, that early spirit of mutual respect and partnership went another way.

With acceptance of the truth of history, reconciliation aims to rekindle the spirit of equal respect and mutual benefit, including in economic ventures on these shared lands and waters. This includes resource development, such as critical minerals, and in all the areas of business growth that accompany successful projects.

Indigenous business surrounds us. These businesses are active everywhere across Canada — from urban cores to rural towns, in markets from coast to coast to coast — and, yes, both on-reserve and off-reserve. Indigenous companies often operate in areas where non-Indigenous companies don’t see the market opportunities. Indigenous businesses take the lead to ensure those underserved communities have access to non-discretionary goods and services. After all, you aren’t likely to find a Shoppers Drug Mart or Walmart on a reserve that can only be reached by an airplane.

A 2016 study by the Canadian Council for Aboriginal Business found that Indigenous businesses tend to focus on serving local markets, but many are now expanding their customer base beyond their traditional areas of support. It is in these areas that Indigenous businesses are filling gaps, serving customers and creating jobs and prosperity.

This topic is personal for me. Prior to becoming a senator, I worked in mainstream business heading up large, medium and small businesses — including an Aboriginal capital corporation that funded the start-up of hundreds of Indigenous-owned and Indigenous-controlled businesses which employed thousands of Indigenous and non-Indigenous people living in remote, rural and urban communities throughout Saskatchewan.

For decades, I have been an advocate for the education of Indigenous youth and young adults, and for creating wealth and hope through Indigenous business ownership. Through this inquiry, I hope that we can change the narrative and stereotypes, and help encourage even more young Indigenous peoples to explore commerce. I hope we can shine a light on the amazing stories happening across the country, thereby enriching our knowledge through exploring the unique challenges and features associated with starting and running Indigenous businesses, as well as through witnessing the building of capacity — creating wealth and independence for generations to come.

As senators, we are in a strong position to tell those stories using our national platform. This is a topic that does not run along partisan or ideological lines. Every person in this chamber should want Indigenous businesses and peoples to succeed and prosper to the benefit of our entire society.

Indeed, enhanced economic prosperity for Indigenous peoples means greater prosperity for everyone. A recent report from RBC noted that if Indigenous workers were empowered to participate in our economy at the same level as non-Indigenous workers, Canada would see an additional $67 billion in GDP. That is an opportunity that we cannot afford to miss. I’m thrilled to see growing Indigenous representation at economic conferences and summits, including at the recent North American Leaders’ Summit.

While much work remains, progress is being made. Another example of innovation from Saskatchewan can be found in the Treaty Land Sharing Network. Founded in the wake of the death of Colten Boushie, the network was created as a means of connecting farmers and rural landowners with First Nations and Métis peoples.

Participating members in the network place signs on their land informing traditional land users that they can gather, hunt, hold ceremonies and exercise their treaty rights in a safe space. Not only has this network helped to create a safe space, but it has also led to new friendships, helped to promote knowledge transfer and fostered a renewed commitment to community. It is an important initiative and one that illustrates the shared prosperity that is found when we work together.

Colleagues, economic reconciliation sometimes gets lost in the broader discussion of recognizing rights and addressing past injustices. That is something we need to change. Empowering Indigenous peoples to take full ownership of their economic potential is something Canada must do if we are to progress towards a more equitable future. We need to do more to encourage Indigenous-owned and Indigenous-controlled businesses in Canada and to support economic capacity as an aspect of self-determination. The results are clear — just look at what is happening at Whitecap Dakota or in places like Osoyoos Indian Band or Membertou First Nation. I know that Senator Busson will have more to say about Osoyoos.

Honourable senators, it is my hope that this inquiry can shine a light on some of the greatest economic success stories of Indigenous peoples. We can provide a platform and give a voice to Indigenous business leaders and the entrepreneurs of tomorrow. Everyone stands to benefit from economic reconciliation. For too long, this country has been divided across social and economic lines that should never have come to exist. Everyone deserves a fair chance to participate in wealth creation and to build prosperity for their community.


I hope you’ll join me in this effort, and I hope that everyone in this chamber will consider lending their support — and their voice — to this inquiry.

If you are interested in profiling Indigenous business success in your region, call my office; we’d be happy to assist.

Thank you. Hiy kitatamîhin.

Hon. Bev Busson: Honourable senators, I am rising to support and expound on Senator Klyne’s important inquiry calling the attention of Senate to the ongoing contributions made by Indigenous businesses to Canada’s economy. I’m excited and honoured to seize the opportunity, as a senator from British Columbia, to highlight some of the outstanding entrepreneurship of Indigenous nations in my province.

In the midst of the pain and generational trauma of residential schools and the Sixties Scoop, these communities have utilized traditional leadership and determination that come from overcoming difficult challenges to achieve amazing results through the communities and for Canada. There are many examples in British Columbia to choose from and I cannot list them all, but I will give you a taste of the achievements of the many communities in British Columbia that are moving forward.

In the north of my province, I would recognize the Nisga’a Nation, which, in 1999, signed the first modern-day, comprehensive treaty in British Columbia since the Douglas Treaties of 1854, thereby gaining control over their land, including forestry, fishing and mining resources for over 2,000 square kilometres of land in the Nass Valley. They are the first Indigenous government to provide for unrestricted, fee simple ownership of residentially zoned areas in the Nisga’a land, allowing its citizens to buy and sell their land and to use it to raise capital. By unlocking this important resource for supporting investment and economic growth, a new door to prosperity is thus opened.

Moreover, in 2014, the Nisga’a Nation became the primary property taxation authority to levy and collect property taxes from entities beyond Nisga’a citizens, including companies that operate installations such as pipelines and other industries. Their focus on the resources of their region is an example of innovation and entrepreneurship for all to see, creating a legacy for future generations.

The Shuswap or Secwepemc people are situated near my home. They also have a number of economic ventures that I want to talk to you about. They are particularly proud of their five-star lakefront resort called Quaaout Lodge and Talking Rock Golf Course. The top-20 PGA-rated course has become a very successful destination where there is something for everyone, supported and run by the Shuswap First Nation through the Skwlax Resource Management Group. Despite a recent fire, the community prospers because of the entrepreneurial spirit and vision and the leadership of those who have shown the way, inspired and managed by the Shuswap Band Council.

The Haida people of Haida Gwaii are another example of the many success stories of my province. Their unique governance and co-management model supports the tremendous growth and remarkable resilience flourishing in this beautiful archipelago off the coast of the mainland of British Columbia.

From economic development to education projects and engagement in entrepreneurial partnership, Haida Indigenous businesses are growing and contributing not only value to their own communities but to a wider Canadian economy.

In the southern part of my region, known as the Thompson-Okanagan, I want to shine a light on a truly outstanding entrepreneurial accomplishment. The Osoyoos Indian Band, as my friend mentioned, a part of the Okanagan Indian Band, has its traditional territory in the Okanagan Valley, from the north end of Okanagan Lake to the international border with Washington state.

Indeed, the band’s historical and traditional territory, occupied by them for thousands of years, extends deep into the United States but was politically severed when the forty-ninth parallel became a reality in the colonial division of North America.

The Osoyoos Indian Band, led since 1984 by Chief Clarence Louie, has shown great leadership in building and supporting entrepreneurial opportunities for its people and other communities in the area. Chief Louie is a recipient of many awards, including the Order of British Columbia and the Order of Canada. He is particularly proud that, in 2019, he was the first Indigenous person inducted into the Canadian Business Hall of Fame. In 2021, he received an honourary degree from the University of British Columbia, among many other honours.

I had the privilege of speaking with him recently and learned a great deal. He freely admits that he might have taken a different path had it not been for his quest for knowledge that led him in his early years to pursue Native American studies at the Saskatchewan Indian Federated College and later at the University of Lethbridge.

Returning to his home community, he brought a vision focused on traditional values and linked to his outstanding leadership skills.

Over the past 36 years, the Okanagan Indian Band has evolved from a poor and struggling reserve to a multimillion-dollar business where revenues this year are expected to reach over $36 million.

In his highly respected book, Rez Rules, he clearly talks about his ventures. He details his guiding principles to achieve cultural resilience and economic independence. He takes great pride in pointing out how his Indigenous ancestors provided for themselves.

He says:

They were the first entrepreneurs in Canada. They built it, they hunted it, they manufactured it. They survived by relying on their own resilience and self-reliance with no one else to lean on.

That philosophy has been his mantra and guiding principle throughout his life. In his own words, he says:

Success never sleeps. It takes an everyday commitment to hard work, but it also takes the determination to keep pushing and innovating.

His emphasis on economic development has motivated the vision and the means to improve his people’s standard of living and pathway to achieving self-sufficiency, while maintaining the Okanagan language and culture in all aspects of the band’s activities.

As a measure of success, the Okanagan Indian Band has virtually no unemployment and, in fact, brings in workers from other reserves in British Columbia and elsewhere to work there.

The Okanagan Indian Band economic development corporation owns a number of enterprises. The lynchpin is the Nk’Mip Desert Cultural Centre, consisting of indoor and outdoor galleries with an interactive learning environment, including hands-on media learning theatres on a 1,600-acre desert conservation area where people can learn from and share in the rich heritage, traditions and culture of the Okanagan people.

Another enterprise is the Nk’Mip Canyon Desert Golf Course, a destination championship golf course that has grown into a world-class facility. The designers, with the advice of elders and others, listened to the wild symmetry of the land, the canyons and the wind to create a striking vision of its natural beauty.

Added to these enterprises is the Nk’Mip Cellars, a vineyard and winery, which is a compelling part of the reserve. The cellars were the first fully Indigenous-owned winery in North America, and they have produced many internationally recognized and award-winning wines under the direction of its Indigenous winemaker, who was sponsored by the band to go to California to learn how to become an outstanding vintner. Details from the cellars themselves to the bottle art are distinctly Indigenous in nature.

These are the accomplishments of only a few of the many businesses and projects supported by the people of the Okanagan Indian Band. Others are focused on technology, education, health and infrastructure. They have earned both the band and the surrounding area the financial independence and the path to prosperity for future generations.

From the vision and the persistence of the Okanagan Indian Band inspired by the beauty of the land to the vision of the Shuswap people and beyond, the strength of the Nisga’a people of the Nass Valley and other groups and communities in British Columbia, there are so many shining lights and amazing accomplishments of Indigenous businesses that I cannot describe them all.

Not only do these enterprises serve their reserves but also the province and the country as a whole. I look forward to hearing from my colleagues telling their stories of the contributions of Indigenous entrepreneurs in other parts of this great country. Limlemt. Thank you. Meegwetch.

(On motion of Senator Clement, debate adjourned.)

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

Appendix—Senators List

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