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Previous Sittings
Previous Sittings

Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

1st Session, 44th Parliament
Volume 153, Issue 145

Tuesday, October 3, 2023
The Honourable Raymonde Gagné, Speaker


Tuesday, October 3, 2023

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


Business of the Senate

Motion to Photograph Today’s Proceedings While the Governor General is in Attendance Adopted

Hon. Patti LaBoucane-Benson (Legislative Deputy to the Government Representative in the Senate): Honourable senators, with leave of the Senate, I move:

That, if Her Excellency the Governor General comes to the Senate later today, photographers be allowed in the Senate Chamber to photograph proceedings while Her Excellency is in the Senate, with the least possible disruption to proceedings.

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

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

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

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

(Motion agreed to.)

New Speaker of the House of Commons

Communication from Government House

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I have the honour to inform you that I have received the following communication from Government House, which reads as follows:


October 3, 2023

Madam Speaker:

I have the honour to inform you that Her Excellency the Right Honourable Mary May Simon, Governor General of Canada, will proceed to the Senate Chamber today, the 3rd day of October, 2023, at 2:10 p.m., for the purpose of receiving the newly elected Speaker of the House of Commons.

Yours sincerely,

Maia Welbourne

Acting Secretary to the Governor General

The Honourable

The Speaker of the Senate



The Hon. the Speaker: Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, that the sitting be suspended to await the arrival of Her Excellency the Governor General of Canada?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

(The sitting of the Senate was suspended.)


At 2:10 p.m., Her Excellency the Governor General having come and being seated upon the Throne —

The Hon. the Speaker said:

Usher of the Black Rod,

You will proceed to the House of Commons and acquaint that house that it is the pleasure of Her Excellency the Governor General of Canada that they attend her immediately in the Senate chamber.

The House of Commons being come,

Their Speaker, the Honourable Greg Fergus, said:

May it Please Your Excellency,

The House of Commons has elected me their Speaker, though I am but little able to fulfil the important duties thus assigned to me. If, in the performance of those duties, I should at any time fall into error, I pray that the fault may be imputed to me, and not to the Commons, whose servant I am.

The Hon. the Speaker of the Senate answered:

Mr. Speaker, I am commanded by Her Excellency the Governor General to assure you that your words and actions will constantly receive from her the most favourable construction.



The House of Commons withdrew.

Her Excellency the Governor General was pleased to retire.

(The sitting of the Senate was resumed.)


National Seniors Day

Hon. Judith G. Seidman: Honourable senators, imagine John, Jean or Jeanne, the personal aide who can do everything. Charged on our wireless systems once a week, this robot becomes our personal helper who can hold out a steadying arm as we rise from a chair, power up our driverless car, see us across the street on a green light, prepare and bring us our lunch and remind us of all those small things we might forget. Imagine a chat when we are feeling lonely. “Imagine” is the operative word.

Sunday, October 1, was National Seniors Day and coincided with the International Day of Older Persons. On Sunday, I reflected on the important opportunity we have to transform how seniors’ well-being is supported in the future.

Seniors want to age in their communities. A survey conducted by the Canadian Medical Association and the National Institute on Ageing in late 2020 found that 96% of Canadians want to age at home and live independently for as long as possible, and that they will do everything possible to avoid going into long-term care.

Senators, we can and must make this happen, but it demands policy thinking outside the box. We have to think in a transformative way. We must disrupt the stereotypes. We must focus on aging in place, aging in our communities and aging in our own homes with help from our friends, community services, travelling health teams, age-specific technology like robotics and other devices and aides. We have to be innovative and visionary. It is not just a hope but a necessity now.

Honourable senators, to mark National Seniors Day, I invite all of us to imagine a future in which seniors can age safely, happily and with agency, and to commit to the innovation — the transformation — that aging in place requires. Thank you.

Indigenization on Post-Secondary Campuses

Hon. David Arnot: Honourable senators, I rise today to speak to the fundamental need for Indigenous youth to see themselves reflected in Canadian society. I also speak to the leadership of post-secondary institutions in this regard and notable actions being taken by the University of Saskatchewan.

Colleagues, this past June, Métis youth leader Katherine Merrell-Anderson told the Standing Senate Committee on Indigenous Peoples that she looked for signs of her Métis heritage here in Ottawa, signs of her belonging: either the Métis flag or art or other elements of home. She found none, save those in the committee room in which she was a witness.

Post-secondary institutions are responding to the omission, exclusion and absence of Indigenous identity through advocacy, relationship building and, most importantly, through the Indigenization of their campuses. Indigenization is about the identification, recognition and systemic incorporation of Indigenous worldviews, knowledge and perspectives.

Peter Stoicheff, President of the University of Saskatchewan, identified reconciliation within his institution as a fundamental commitment to be “. . . participants and leaders, not bystanders, in the greatest cultural opportunity this country has ever faced.”

The University of Saskatchewan is leading the way through collaborative policymaking, establishing learning requirements and implementing safeguards for Indigenous identity. Its institution-wide Indigenous strategy was created solely by Indigenous people, including elders, knowledge keepers and staff. Incoming students to the university’s largest college, the College of Arts and Science, now take an Indigenous learning requirement as part of their degree program. Other University of Saskatchewan colleges are preparing their own courses and requirements.

The University of Saskatchewan implemented a policy and framework to “. . . safeguard Indigenous peoples, cultures, values, and languages . . .” through identity verification as a process that fully recognizes the inherent right to self‑determination. Today, the University of Saskatchewan enrolls more than 3,300 Indigenous students — nearly 13% of the student body — a demographic representative of the larger Saskatchewan population.

Colleagues, join me in recognizing the University of Saskatchewan and all those post-secondary institutions in our country that are actively Indigenizing their campuses, as we participate in the greatest cultural opportunity Canada has ever faced. 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 members of Athena Leadership from Winnipeg, Manitoba. 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!

Athena Leadership

Hon. F. Gigi Osler: Honourable senators, I am pleased to welcome a group of inspiring women representing Athena Leadership.

Athena Leadership is a Manitoba-based non-profit organization that is dedicated to empowering and advancing women in leadership. They strive to build personal and professional capacity through mentorship, networking opportunities and peer collaboration. At the community level, Athena has a dedicated scholarship that addresses the urgency in building leadership among women, girls and gender-diverse people. Each year, their Leader of Tomorrow Award recognizes and supports one outstanding young woman who makes a difference in other people’s lives through exceptional community involvement and leadership.


I am especially delighted to welcome them here today as October is Women’s History Month in Canada. I encourage everyone to take the time to explore this year’s theme of “Through Her Lens,” and celebrate the achievements and contributions of women from diverse backgrounds in your own community.

One of Athena’s guiding principles is to provide education in a supportive environment. As a physician, I have seen the benefits of providing science-based information to empower people and improve health. October is Women’s History Month, and this week — October 1 to 7 — is HPV Prevention Week. Did you know that in 2017, Canada was the first country to devote a week to raising awareness about HPV, or human papillomavirus, and the diseases and cancers it can cause? Around the world and in Canada, HPV-associated cancers are on the rise and can affect anyone of any gender. After declining for over 20 years due to decreased tobacco use, cancers of the tongue, mouth and oropharynx have increased sharply due to HPV, which is now associated with 50% to 70% of these cancers.

Whether it is providing information in a health care setting, education in a professional environment or a statement in the Red Chamber, knowledge empowers. Thank you to the women of Athena Leadership for empowering people and enriching lives. Meegwetch.

Visitors in the Gallery

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I wish to draw your attention to the presence in the gallery of former colleagues of Senator Black, who have worked with him to deliver an agricultural program across Canada.

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

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!

A Life in Retrospect

Hon. Mary Jane McCallum: Honourable senators, I would like to thank the Progressive Senate Group for giving me their spot today. I want to share with you a small part of the speech I gave at the Winnipeg Art Gallery on September 30 of this year. It was entitled “A Life in Retrospect: Examining the Seven Generations of My Lived Experience.” I’m sharing the second generation — age one to five — at home on the land before residential school.

My people knew where they belonged: on the land — aski. Aski is where our cultures, communities and etinewak rooted themselves and gave themselves definition. Instead of rooting themselves in one particular place, as we do in cities and towns, they travelled aski to follow the food, accommodating their lifestyle to the environment and seasons, as well as where they lived their everyday lives. Each geographical space we settled in became imbued with meaning. All environments were seen as a living place and the ideal location for living, and we left it virtually untouched. These places were not something that we — humans — made, and these places were influenced by non‑human actors. Our relatives — the birds, animals, insects, fish and ecosystem — occupied aski, and played a huge role in the continual shaping and evolution of our culture. In effect, the land was occupied, but the newcomers didn’t see it that way. They saw it as empty.

Aski is meaningful to me. She gives me life. We cannot bind her nor make borders to own her. As cultural groups, First Nations defined themselves, their governance and their code of ethics from the places they lived out on the land since time immemorial. We carry this notion of home in our collective blood memory — free to live out on the land, educating ourselves as we, the children, watched our parents live out the traditions and life skills so we could become independent, but also interdependent, to take our place and honour our purpose in this earth world. Growth not only involved the physical and mental, but also the intellectual and spiritual. This is how I came to know and understand myself. I was able to exercise the creativity, and the curiosity, I had. There’s no place like home out on the land. I was at home with my people’s history — stories of trapping, and my ancestors living out their lives in their own time, in their own way, in the vast askew.

Thank you. Kinanâskomitin.

Visitors in the Gallery

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I wish to draw your attention to the presence in the gallery of the 1834 Fellowship, an initiative by Operation Black Vote Canada.

They are the guests of the African Canadian Senate Group.

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

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!

1834 Fellowship Project

Hon. Bernadette Clement: Honourable senators, it is a pleasure to rise in recognition of this incredible group of young people who have distinguished themselves already through their contributions to the community and their exemplary leadership.

The folks you see in the gallery are the 2023 cohort of the 1834 Fellowship Project, an initiative led by Velma Morgan and Operation Black Vote Canada.

Let me tell you about the 1834 Fellowship. Named in honour of the year that slavery was abolished in Canada, the 1834 Fellowship seeks out 20 high-potential Black youth every year who wish to enter or increase their capacity for civic leadership roles. The fellowship supports them in their skills and career development.

The selection criteria tells you about the calibre of these young people: maturity, self-awareness, respect for others, leadership, critical thinking and motivation.

This outstanding group of young people are the guests of the African Canadian Senate Group. Tomorrow, we’re going to connect over a meal, and talk about shared experiences and the very specific challenges we face as Black people — as people of African descent — in 2023 and beyond.

To the 2023 fellows, thank you for being here today — on this day when the other place elected the first Black Speaker of the House of Commons ever. Congratulations to Speaker Greg Fergus.

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!

Senator Clement: To the young people, thank you for taking up space in this institution. I can’t wait to see what good you do in this world. Nia:wen.

The Late Walter Ball

Hon. Jim Quinn: Honourable senators, I rise before you today to honour my friend Walter Ball — a well-respected family man, music teacher, city councillor, problem solver and community leader from my city of Saint John, New Brunswick — who passed away on September 23 at the age of 92. Years ago, I was introduced to Walter through my sister Eileen and her friend Tzigane, Walter’s daughter.

Walter was known to welcome many people into his home. He was a genuine and humble man who loved to help others. He was involved with the local YMCA and helped support families while they settled into the community. Walter was part of the homestay program with the university to help house students in his own home — students from as far away as China who attended the University of New Brunswick Saint John — so they would feel more comfortable while studying abroad. He felt that integrating people from other countries was important, and that everyone should be welcomed with open arms.

He was a talented concert pianist who studied at the Toronto Conservatory of Music in the 1950s. He competed in piano concert competitions all over the world, visiting over 40 countries throughout the years. He embraced different cultures and languages all while enjoying his passion for music.

In the 1960s, Walter had his own TV show in Saint John called “Kaleidoscope.” He interviewed people in the arts and was able to incorporate and play music, which was themed to the subject of the interview.

Walter taught music in schools throughout the years. He connected with his students through music, and believed that everyone could perform musically.


He inspired many students, teaching tens of thousands, and formed multiple successful choirs throughout the decades that won many awards. One of his students recalled, “You just wanted to be good for him.”

He founded a steel band and personally built steel drums by hand for his students, as well as developing his own sheet music so everyone in his class could learn to play those drums.

Later, in the mid-1970s, the Lancaster Kiwanis Steel Band evolved as a performance band, once performing for former prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau — on the tarmac of the Saint John Airport — when he visited our city. He continued to perform around the world, touring up until their last performance in France in 1984, and many of the band’s original members continue to play in newly formed bands today. In 1985, he became the executive director of Festival by the Sea, formed in conjunction with the Canada Games when they came to Saint John.

Walter was a builder of not just steel drums but all manner of things. When his granddaughter was 2 years old, he researched plans for and built her a rocking horse, which led him to build 200 more commissioned pieces over the next 15 years.

He later built his home on the Kennebecasis River with his sons, Conrad and Spenser, where he lived with his wife of 60 years, Suzanne, and continued to play piano until his recent passing.

Rest easy, my friend, and may you continue to shine with style with your many berets and capes from above. Thank you, meegwetch.



Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration

Ninth Report of Committee Tabled

Hon. Lucie Moncion: Honourable senators, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the ninth report of the Standing Committee on Internal Economy, Budgets and Administration entitled Annual Report on Parliamentary Associations’ Activities and Expenditures for 2022-23.



Global Affairs

Canada-India Relations

Hon. Donald Neil Plett (Leader of the Opposition): Senator Gold, the Financial Times reported that the government of India told the Trudeau government that 41 Canadian diplomats have been given a week to leave India. If true, this is a much greater deterioration in relations between our two countries. India has warned its citizens against travelling to Canada. It has stopped visa services with Canada, and trade negotiations have been suspended.

Leader, Canada is home to one of the world’s largest communities of people of Indian origin. Could you confirm that the Financial Times story is correct? Does your government have a plan to manage this worsening situation?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Thank you for your question. I don’t have any knowledge that the story is not correct, senator. That’s probably the most accurate way to put it.

But, as the Prime Minister has said, Canada stands firm in asserting that no country has a right — if these allegations prove to be true — to come to our country and take the lives of Canadian citizens.

At the same time, Canada will continue to collaborate with India on matters of shared priorities, and maintain the strong people-to-people ties which exist in this country — between people from India and Canadian communities and institutions — as well as bilateral economic cooperation. Canada will remain engaged with India and hopes it will cooperate in the investigation of this very tragic incident.

Senator Plett: Leader, two weeks ago, the Leader of the Official Opposition, Pierre Poilievre, asked the Prime Minister to provide more facts about the serious allegations he made in the House of Commons against the government of India. Mr. Poilievre said we need to have all the evidence possible so Canadians can make judgments on that allegation.

I agree — given the severe and widespread ramifications of the Prime Minister’s claims — this is a reasonable request, Senator Gold. Yet the Prime Minister and his government have not told Canadians any more than he did in the other place on September 18. Why is that, leader?

Senator Gold: Thank you for the question. The information that came to the Prime Minister came from our security services and from those of other Five Eyes member countries. It is not appropriate to share those publicly or at large. They can be shared only with those who have security clearance, as some leaders of the opposition — but not all — have chosen to have.


Public Safety

Royal Canadian Mounted Police—Official Languages

Hon. Claude Carignan: Leader, Radio-Canada published an article today revealing that several senior officers at RCMP headquarters occupy bilingual positions even though they don’t speak French and aren’t on language training.

Despite bilingualism requirements, about a half-dozen senior RCMP officers in Ottawa can neither speak nor understand French. What about RCMP recruits? Here’s what the RCMP spokesperson said, according to Radio-Canada:

Only francophone RCMP recruits currently take second language courses during their training in Saskatchewan. Anglophone recruits do not currently take French classes . . . .

Leader, how can your government claim to respect both official languages? How can it tolerate such appalling complacency within the RCMP?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Thank you for the question. Bilingualism is fundamental to our country’s identity. I understand that the RCMP is negotiating contracts to offer French classes and launch a pilot project for in-house language training. The Government of Canada expects the RCMP, like all federal agencies, to meet its obligations under the Official Languages Act.

Senator Carignan: Your government has been in power for eight years, but your answer to me today is that the RCMP is calling for bids for language classes. Are you kidding me?

Senator Gold: The information I was given is that the Government of Canada expects the RCMP to take responsibility and meet its obligations under the Official Languages Act. That is what the government expects, and those are the RCMP’s obligations.


Employment, Workforce Development and Labour

Canada Disability Benefit

Hon. Brent Cotter: My question is for the Government Representative in the Senate. It concerns Bill C-22, the Canada Disability Benefit Act.

Senator Gold, you’ll recall that in June there was unanimous and enthusiastic adoption in the Senate and in the other place of Bill C-22. Part of that enthusiasm was associated with the message from Minister Qualtrough that the benefit would be in place for working-age Canadians with disabilities in approximately one year.

Recent communications from the government indicate that, relying on a Senate amendment to the bill that gives the government up to two years for implementation, the benefit will not become available until sometime in 2025 — perhaps as late as June 2025 — leaving thousands of our neediest citizens with disabilities without this benefit for up to two years after the bill received Royal Assent.

Can you advise whether this very unfortunate delay is indeed the case?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Thank you for the question, senator. I was not made aware of the time frame for the implementation or distribution of those benefits, and I will certainly make inquiries.

Senator Cotter: Given the urgency for so many people, I hope that inquiry is an urgent one, Senator Gold.


I have a brief supplementary question. Part of the government commitment was that the regulations to give effect to that benefit would be developed in a deeply collaborative process with the disability community. The leadership in the disability community advised that, despite earlier commitments to this richly collaborative process, which is unique to this benefits development, the government approach is neither unique nor richly collaborative. It’s more of the same old thing. Can you inform us on this?

Senator Gold: Thank you again for the question. Again, regretfully, I don’t know. I have no information about the state of the collaborations and consultations. Again, I will certainly look into the matter.

Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship

Commission of Inquiry on War Criminals in Canada

Hon. Paula Simons: My question is for the Government Representative. Since 2009, Canada has been a member of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. Members of the alliance are required by terms of the Stockholm Declaration to take all necessary steps to open their archives to researchers who are studying the history of the Holocaust. Canada, however, has not yet done so, despite repeated requests from B’nai Brith Canada and others. Indeed, some of these records are not just inaccessible; they remain confidential.

Given that we have all been freshly reminded of the need to remember the history of the Holocaust, will your government commit to amending the Access to Information Act to mandate the disclosure of all Holocaust-related records in its possession?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Thank you for the question and for underlining the importance of access to the full picture of what happened. I’m not in a position to make that commitment, senator, but I’ll certainly pass on the concern and make inquiries to the appropriate minister.

Senator Simons: I have a supplementary question. In 1986, the Commission of Inquiry on War Criminals in Canada, known to most as The Deschênes Commission, released a two-part report that examined allegations that post-war Canadian governments had permitted and indeed even welcomed known Nazi war criminals into Canada. The report had two parts, one of which has never yet been made public. While I understand and support the need to respect the privacy rights of those who were accused but not charged with war crimes and to respect the dignity and reputation of Canada’s wonderful Ukrainian community, it is now 37 years since the Deschênes report was written. At what point can Canadians expect its findings to be made public?

Senator Gold: Thank you for the question. The report by the late and honourable Jules Deschênes was an important one that did shed light on many things. It is my understanding that some of it was public, but there were parts that were redacted for reasons that undoubtedly include those to which you referred. I’m not aware of what the status is of the reflection and the calls that have been made publicly — as you’re aware — recently for the release of the redacted portions. I will add that to the inquiries I will make.

National Defence

Defence Budget

Hon. Rebecca Patterson: This is a question for the Government Representative, Senator Gold.

Senator, the Minister of National Defence, Bill Blair, has announced a $1-billion cut to Canada’s defence budget. The minister assures Canadians that the cut will impact the bureaucracy and not hit the Canadian Armed Forces’ capabilities. Yet, on September 28 in a committee in the other place, the Chief of the Defence Staff and the Deputy Minister of National Defence stated that a cut of this magnitude will impact operational capability.

To be clear, capability is more than just a frigate, a fighter jet or an armoured personnel carrier. Capabilities include the well‑trained people of Canada’s military, the programs that support them, their families and the places they work and live and, of course, our participation in international alliances like the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO, and the North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD. All those who serve have faith not just in the equipment but also in the support from their government. The bottom line up front is that you cannot seek peace by neglecting the first line of defence against a threat.

My question is as follows: What bureaucracy is the government going to cut? Will it be programs that support Canadian Armed Forces member training, health and welfare, programs for their families, our international alliances and partnerships such as NORAD and NATO or our commitment to Latvia and Ukraine?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Thank you for your question. The minister indicated — as a prudent minister would — that:

The fiscal environment in Canada right now requires that when we are spending Canadian taxpayer dollars that we do it carefully and thoughtfully.

The government will approach this announced spending cut thoughtfully and prudently.

The global situation has changed so rapidly. Canada is constantly re-evaluating its responsibilities in that regard. I think it is premature to assume that the government knows exactly where that $1-billion cut may come from, but I have every confidence that it will be done both with the needs of the military and the security not only of Canadians but of the world, of which we are an important part, top of mind.

Crown-Indigenous Relations

Île-à-la-Crosse Residential School

Hon. Brian Francis: My question is for the Government Representative in the Senate.

The Île-à-la-Crosse residential school in Saskatchewan operated from 1860 to 1976 and was attended largely by Métis students. However, this institution was excluded from both the Indian Residential Schools Settlement Agreement and the day school settlement agreement. As a result, survivors from the Île‑à-la-Crosse residential school have yet to receive acknowledgement or compensation for the harms and abuses they endured. After many years of failed attempts to negotiate a resolution, proposed class action has been brought forward against the governments of Canada and Saskatchewan, which funded the institution at different points. In the aftermath of the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation, I ask: What is the Government of Canada doing to ensure that the survivors of the Île-à-la-Crosse residential school finally receive recognition and compensation?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Thank you for your question and, on this day, for underlining how much work still needs to be done to provide justice to those who suffered under the oppressive regime to which you referred.

I have every confidence that Minister Anandasangaree and the department are working in good faith to address the many challenges. It’s regrettable that attempts to negotiate a settlement were not fruitful. That is a preferred approach rather than forcing folks to litigate. If there is litigation going on, you’ll understand that I cannot comment on it.

This government remains committed to doing what it can to provide justice to those — and their families and communities — who suffered the indignity and the wrongdoing that the residential schools imposed upon them.

Senator Francis: Thank you, Senator Gold. I do not have to remind you or the relevant ministers that time is of the essence. Every single day, we are losing survivors, and they, along with their families and communities, deserve justice as soon as possible.

Senator Gold: I could not agree with you more.


Public Accounts

Hon. Elizabeth Marshall: My question is also for the Leader of the Government in the Senate.

Senator Gold, at the Finance Committee this morning, we had witnesses from Finance Canada and the Office of the Auditor General. I didn’t get any answers from the Finance Canada people, but officials from the Auditor General’s office told us that the Auditor General signed off on the 2023 public accounts last month. So they’re signed and ready to go. We’re still working with the 2022 public accounts, so that data is more than 18 months old. Even the most recent copy of The Fiscal Monitor is only for July. We still don’t have August.

Since the Auditor General has signed off on the 2023 public accounts, will you once again raise this issue with the government and impress upon them to release the 2023 public accounts? When are they going to release the 2023 public accounts?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Let me answer the first part of your question because it’s easier for me to answer. Yes, I will raise it with the government again. I confess that I don’t know the internal processes. In that regard — to the second part of your question, Senator Marshall — I’m just not able to give you a date. However, I will certainly raise it again, as you’ve requested.

Prime Minister’s Office

Address to Parliament

Hon. Yonah Martin (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Senator Gold, my question concerns the aftermath of the serious and embarrassing incident that took place in the House of Commons during the visit of Ukrainian President Zelenskyy, who is leading his country through war. The Royal Canadian Legion said last week that it expects to see measures put into place to ensure that a shocking scenario like this does not occur again.


Leader, have any measures been taken? If so, what are they? Why haven’t Canadians been informed what those measures are? And if no measures have been put into place, isn’t that yet another great failure of leadership and responsibility on the part of the Prime Minister?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Thank you for the question. I’m not aware of what other measures may have been put in place. Respectfully, let me remind this chamber of how things work in matters of protocol and security for events such as what occurred last week. Here I can do no better than quoting from the former Chief of Protocol, Mr. Roy Norton, who was talking about the event and its immediate aftermath — a most unfortunate, embarrassing event.

Let me quote for the record. I’m giving information based upon a former chief of protocol:

This event is happening in Parliament because the Speaker has agreed on behalf of parliamentarians to let it proceed. Parliamentary protocol, who report to the two Speakers — both the Speaker of the House and the Senate — would determine who was going to be invited.

. . . the government would have had zero role in inviting Mr. Hunka or, for that matter, most of the people who sat in the gallery.

So I raise that for the benefit of this chamber to advise you that whatever steps are being taken will involve in some cases the Speaker, whether of the other place or here, and I’m not aware at this juncture of what changes, if any, are being contemplated.

Senator Martin: It’s shocking to hear that there would be no communication whatsoever. Protocol would have communication with the Prime Minister’s Office. The Prime Minister is the leader of our nation.

Senator Gold, the Prime Minister’s apology last week was several days late and he took no personal responsibility. I also note that he did not apologize to Canada’s veterans, especially those who served in World War II. Leader, could you tell us why our veterans were not mentioned? As well, given that the Prime Minister and his government refused to take any direct responsibility for this embarrassing and hurtful incident, aren’t they conceding that something like this could happen again?

Senator Gold: No, I’m afraid I cannot accept some of the premises, senator, of your question. First of all, the independent Office of Protocol, in response to my inquiry last week, responded, “The Chief of Protocol does not report to the Prime Minister’s Office.” It is simply incorrect to continue to insist that somehow the terribly unfortunate incident was the responsibility of the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister apologized on behalf of Parliament to Canada, and my understanding is that communications have taken place and continue to take place with the Government of Ukraine, of which we are a proud and staunch supporter.

Privy Council Office

Governor-in-Council Appointments

Hon. Donald Neil Plett (Leader of the Opposition): Senator Gold, two years ago the people of Alberta elected three people to be their nominees for appointment to the Senate: Pam Davidson, Erika Barootes and Mykhailo Martyniouk. Over a million Albertans voted. This is truly an independent advisory board. There are currently two Senate vacancies from Alberta.

Senator Gold, when will the Prime Minister appoint two of the elected nominees to the Senate and respect the democratic will of Alberta?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Thank you for your question. The process for appointing senators is one which is in the prerogative of the Prime Minister. This Prime Minister, as we all know, has taken a particular approach to Senate appointments and to the project of the Senate becoming more modern and less partisan so that it truly adds value to the legislative process rather than being an echo chamber of the other place, where talking points are transmitted from one caucus to another.

I choose not to comment on who will be appointed from Alberta or indeed from any other province. I think all of us are eager and anxious to see the vacancies filled. When they are filled, I have every confidence they will be exemplary Canadians, such as all of us honourable senators who sit in this place.

Senator Plett: You actually said that with a straight face. The Prime Minister — and you, Senator Gold — talk a good game about the independence of the Senate, but this Liberal Prime Minister has appointed 70 so-called independents, and none of them have joined the Conservative caucus. What a coincidence. What a surprise. It seems the only criteria needed to be appointed as a senator is not to be a Conservative.

However, Albertans elected three Conservatives to represent them in the Senate. Justin Trudeau does not tolerate opposition. We’ve seen that with his refusal to name a Conservative senator to the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians, or NSICOP, and we see it again here. Leader, is that why the people of Alberta will be snubbed again by Justin Trudeau because they dared to elect Conservatives?

Senator Gold: I’m timing myself because I really could go on at length. You’ve really tossed a nice softball. First of all, my honourable colleague to my right was an honourable member of the Conservative Party in Alberta and is now sitting in my office. Second — and here I’m going to be careful — when senators are appointed to this place in the current regime, they are told — I was told because I don’t know what everybody else was told — to exercise an independent judgment, and that includes what group to associate with or indeed whether to choose to sit, as several of our honourable colleagues do, without affiliation with an organized group. Each group should look at themselves and ask why they are attractive to incoming new senators or why perhaps they haven’t attracted members. That is probably a more fruitful line of inquiry than the question that you posed.

Employment and Social Development

Workplace Harassment and Violence

Hon. Marilou McPhedran: I’m returning to the question that I asked of you, Senator Gold, back in June — a long way back. My question referenced how in 2018 Bill C-65 brought in new reporting requirements in the Canada Labour Code, such as tracking occurrences of sexual harassment in federally regulated workplaces, including this place, for the first time. I noted the dearth of Canadian data on workplace harassment and violence and the severe impact on affected workers — disproportionately women, members of racialized minorities, persons with disabilities and gender-diverse folks — and I noted how annual employer monitoring and reporting was delayed nearly three years after Bill C-65 became law.

My question today is on the Labour Code requirement that the minister review the violence and harassment provisions of Bill C-65 every five years, relying on annual reporting and monitoring by employers.

Senator Gold, does the government intend to launch this process in time, as mandated, for the law’s five-year anniversary, and how does it intend to measure the effectiveness of these provisions given the delayed employer-reported data?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Thank you for the question and for reminding me of the question that you asked, senator. Without data, we really can’t tell how well we’re doing, so you’re quite right to underline that point.

I will certainly raise this with the relevant minister, and I hope to have more information the next time you ask me the question.

Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation

Federal Lands Initiative for Affordable Housing

Hon. Donald Neil Plett (Leader of the Opposition): Leader, during the 2015 federal election campaign, the Prime Minister promised that his Liberal government would:

Inventory all available federal lands and buildings to see what could be repurposed, and make it available at low cost for affordable housing in communities where there is a pressing need . . . .


Last month, a response to a written question tabled in the House of Commons revealed how many houses have been built through this initiative. The answer, Senator Gold, was 12. That’s it — 12 houses built in eight long years. With a track record like that, it’s no wonder the Trudeau government is unable to fix Canada’s housing crisis.

Leader, how can you honestly continue to say your government is showing any type of leadership on housing?

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Well, the housing crisis that is affecting Canadians is a matter with which all levels of government are seized. This government along with provincial governments and territorial governments and municipal governments, in partnership with the development community and others, all have a part to play. This government is taking an important step forward in the measures that have been announced more recently. Further measures are under review.

In this regard, the government is not making an idle claim — and it never did claim — that it can solve the problem, nor does this government accept the proposition that it is responsible for the problem. But it is seized with it and it is addressing it responsibly, along with its partners at all levels of government and the private sector.

Senator Plett: In 2019, the Trudeau government ended the previous federal surplus property program and, instead, created its own Federal Lands Initiative. The website for the Federal Lands Initiative says it’s “. . . a $200-million fund that supports the transfer of surplus federal lands and buildings to eligible proponents” at discounted cost or even at no cost to be developed for use as affordable housing.

If you were to look at this website right now, Senator Gold, you would see that it says in big, bold letters, “There are currently no properties available.”

Leader, how is that possible? The CBC alone owns over $400 million worth of property. How can a $200-million fund not find even one federal property to be turned into housing?

Senator Gold: The availability of properties, whether federally owned or otherwise, is only one element in the process which is sometimes complicated to bring a project to light. I can speak with some experience, having worked for 20 years, in part, in this space.

With regard to your question, again, the federal government is doing its part. More can be done by all levels of government. All levels of government should continue to work together to address this very important crisis and challenge for all Canadians.


The Senate

Motion to Affect Question Period for the Remainder of Current Session—Debate

Hon. Patti LaBoucane-Benson (Legislative Deputy to the Government Representative in the Senate), pursuant to notice of September 26, 2023, moved:

That, notwithstanding any provision of the Rules, previous order or usual practice, for the remainder of the current session:

1.during Question Period with any minister of the Crown as provided for in the order of December 7, 2021, in addition to the times provided for in that order, senators have up to 45 seconds to ask a supplementary question and ministers have up to 45 seconds to respond to this supplementary question; and

2.during any other Question Period, main questions and responses be limited to one minute each, followed by a maximum of one supplementary question per main question, with these supplementary questions and responses being limited to a maximum of 30 seconds each.

Motion in Amendment Adopted

Hon. Marc Gold (Government Representative in the Senate): Honourable senators, in amendment, I move:

That the motion be not now adopted, but that it be amended by replacing the words “December 7, 2021,” by the following:

“December 7, 2021:

(a)the duration of Question Period be extended from 60 to 64 minutes; and


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

Hon. Senators: Question.

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

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

(Motion in amendment of the Honourable Senator Gold agreed to.)

Motion, as Amended, to Affect Question Period for the Remainder of Current Session Adopted

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion, as amended, of the Honourable Senator LaBoucane-Benson, seconded by the Honourable Senator Gold, P.C.:

That, notwithstanding any provision of the Rules, previous order or usual practice, for the remainder of the current session:

1.during Question Period with any minister of the Crown as provided for in the order of December 7, 2021:

(a)the duration of Question Period be extended from 60 to 64 minutes; and

(b)in addition to the times provided for in that order, senators have up to 45 seconds to ask a supplementary question and ministers have up to 45 seconds to respond to this supplementary question; and

2.during any other Question Period, main questions and responses be limited to one minute each, followed by a maximum of one supplementary question per main question, with these supplementary questions and responses being limited to a maximum of 30 seconds each.

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

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

(Motion agreed to, as amended.)

Health-Centred Approach to Substance Use Bill

Bill to Amend—Second Reading—Debate Continued

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Boniface, seconded by the Honourable Senator Hartling, for the second reading of Bill S-232, An Act respecting the development of a national strategy for the decriminalization of illegal substances, to amend the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts.

Hon. Yuen Pau Woo: Honourable senators, I’m pleased to lend my voice in support of Bill S-232. I want to start by reminding honourable colleagues about a public health emergency that has been with us for seven years and which shows no sign of abating. I am referring to the public health emergency on toxic drugs declared by British Columbia in 2016, a year in which there were 19,275 overdose or poisoning calls in my province.

Sadly, the declaration of a public health emergency was prescient. The number of overdose/poisoning calls went up to 23,441 in 2017, to 23,662 in 2018, to 24,166 in 2019 and, just to skip a few years, to 33,654 in 2022. There was a 5% drop in overdose/poisoning calls between 2021 and 2022, but I think you will agree that having over 30,000 such incidents in a year is shocking and unacceptable.

At the start of this year, Health Canada granted an exemption under the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act to the Province of B.C. from January 31, 2023, to January 31, 2026, for adults in the province to not be subject to criminal charges for the personal possession of small amounts of certain illegal drugs. According to the British Columbian government, decriminalization is not associated with increased rates of substance use. It is, however, expected to help reduce the barriers and stigma that prevent people from accessing life-saving supports and services.

The Minister of Mental Health and Addictions in B.C. has said that there is no evidence suggesting decriminalization of possession of up to 2.5 grams of illicit drugs for adults 18 or older has led to an increase of the consumption of illicit drugs in public spaces.

As I mentioned earlier, this exemption came into effect at the end of January this year and will last for three years. It is this example from my province of British Columbia that persuades me to support Senator Boniface’s bill on a framework for decriminalization of certain illegal substances. But I would stress that the decriminalization of such substances cannot be undertaken in isolation. It has to be accompanied by support structures as well as a safe supply of drugs so that those who use them are not left hanging.


Much has been said about how severe this crisis is, not only in my home province of British Columbia and in the major cities of this country — particularly Vancouver and Toronto — but, as Senator Boniface has reminded us, also in small towns across the country and, indeed, all regions of Canada. I would just underscore that substance use disorder is a public health issue. It is not a criminal justice issue.

The Expert Task Force on Substance Use has unanimously recommended an end to criminal sanctions related to simple possession of controlled substances. We should build on this expert recommendation to encourage the government to further develop this framework. There is evidence — as was found in British Columbia — that decriminalization for simple possession is an effective way to reduce the public health and public safety harms associated with substance use.

There is, however, a need for alternatives to criminal sanctions, which require integrated partnerships and access to diversion measures. Diversion approaches:

. . . provide opportunities to make positive community impacts, including reducing recidivism, reducing ancillary crimes and improving health and safety outcomes for individuals who use illegal substances . . .

What I’ve just recited is the preamble to Senator Boniface’s bill, and I agree wholeheartedly with all of these propositions.

We’ve had this bill on our Order Paper since 2021. There have been four or five speakers already. It is high time that we send this to committee for detailed study.

Colleagues, there is a public health emergency in our country right now. It is not going away and will not be wished away. We need to take concrete actions that allow us to come up with new approaches to addressing this diabolical problem.

With that, Your Honour, I conclude my short speech and encourage us all to consider sending this to committee as soon as possible. Thank you.

(On motion of Senator Martin, debate adjourned.)

Director of Public Prosecutions Act

Bill to Amend—Second Reading—Debate Adjourned

Hon. Mary Jane McCallum moved second reading of Bill S-272, An Act to amend the Director of Public Prosecutions Act.

She said: Honourable senators, I am pleased to rise today to give second reading to Bill S-272, An Act to amend the Director of Public Prosecutions Act. I wish to acknowledge that both Bill S-272 and Bill S-271 were the work of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak, or MKO, in close collaboration with the Lands Advisory Board, or LAB. I had the privilege of working with MKO and LAB and bring these to the Senate floor on their behalf.

Bill S-272 is important legislation that is necessary to clarify and conclusively confirm that the Public Prosecution Service of Canada, or PPSC, has the jurisdiction and mandate to initiate and conduct prosecutions of summary conviction offences under First Nation laws — as well as any appeal or other proceeding related to such a prosecution — on behalf of the First Nation that made or enacted the First Nation law.

Bill S-272 will amend the Director of Public Prosecutions Act to include the following definition of First Nation law:

First Nation law means

(a) a bylaw made under the Indian Act;

(b) a First Nation law as defined in subsection 2(1) of the Framework Agreement on First Nation Land Management Act; or

(c) a law enacted by a council, government or other entity that is authorized to act on behalf of a First Nation under a self-government agreement implemented by an Act of Parliament. . . .

Honourable senators, Parliament intended to create new and enhanced law-making authorities to support the self‑determination of First Nations through Bill C-49, the First Nations Land Management Act, in 1999, and Bill C-428, the Indian Act Amendment and Replacement Act, in 2014.

One published official summary of Bill C-49 says that:

Bill C-49 would expand the range of powers that First Nations could exercise and no longer leave them at the discretion of the Governor in Council or Minister.

A departmental summary states that Bill C-428:

. . . eliminates the Minister’s oversight in regards to the submission, coming into force and disallowance of by-laws and gives First Nations the autonomy and responsibility over the development, enactment and coming into force of by-laws. . . .

Despite the intent of Parliament to enhance the self-determining law-making powers of First Nations, Bill C-49 and Bill C-428 have created “stranded regimes” of First Nation laws that are not enforced by the RCMP and have not been subject to prosecution by the Public Prosecution Service of Canada.

In the June 2021 report of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs, or INAN, entitled Collaborative Approaches to Enforcement of Laws in Indigenous Communities, the committee heard that since amendments to the Indian Act removed the minister’s power to disallow a bylaw in 2014, there is no mandatory departmental review of bylaws. While the Public Prosecution Service of Canada only prosecutes bylaws that have been reviewed, Indigenous Services Canada, or ISC, now reviews draft bylaws for comment only. Why was this not addressed immediately in 2014? Why didn’t the Attorney General, PPSC and ISC raise this issue in 2014 with the federal government, as — by practising what amounts to supervised neglect by leaving the First Nations in a vulnerable position on many levels — they are culpable? Why have the Attorney General, PPSC and ISC been allowed to disregard their responsibility to seek out and ensure a resolution?

In testimony to INAN on May 6, 2021, Jeff Richstone, Director General and Senior General Counsel of the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, stated:

There has existed for many years a gap with respect to the prosecution of Indigenous Community laws. Those laws are enacted by communities under a number of law-making authorities, but the common theme is the nation-to-nation relationship that Indigenous Communities share with Canada.

The prosecution of these laws is not part of PPSC’s mandate. . . .


Mr. Jeff Richstone, along with Mr. Stephen Harapiak, Legal Counsel, Legal Services, Department of Justice, explained:

We’ve been reviewing some of the draft bylaws at the request of [F]irst [N]ations, to provide them some guidance and to assist. Those would be the bylaws that are being enforced. Without the power of disapproval, some of the problems that can come up are whether a bylaw is within the scope of the authority of the Indian Act, or whether it is charter-compliant, as required since 2011.

Honourable senators, my question is this: Why was the power of disapproval removed if there wasn’t a transformative process put in its place to ensure the effective recognition, respect, enforcement and prosecution of First Nations laws? More importantly, why has the government placed First Nations in a position that won’t allow First Nations to do the work they need to do? The process of disapproval by a minister is itself a colonial act, and why did a federal action of removing disapproval then become, in itself, a barrier to self-determination and self-governance?

Jeff Richstone explained that:

Despite our limited statutory role, PPSC is committed to working with partners to explore options and develop long‑term solutions. To that end, prior to the pandemic, PPSC was in the early stages of initiating discussions with other stakeholders to see how to bring this issue to the forefront, in the hope of identifying solutions to fit the needs of Indigenous Communities.

The report continues that:

PPSC has entered into protocol agreements with some First Nations to prosecute Indian Act by-laws made to address the COVID-19 pandemic. The committee was told that only by‑laws that have been reviewed for compliance with the Indian Act and the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms can be prosecuted, understanding that not all sections of the Indian Act itself are compliant with the Charter.

Is that not a paradox in and of itself? Did they identify what sections of the Indian Act are not compliant with the Charter and what would take precedence? And the limitation of review is, again, a major barrier.

In the INAN committee report, it states:

Self-governing First Nations can make laws in relation to the law-making authority that is set out in their self-government agreement or their modern treaty. In addition, First Nations that have adopted a land code, pursuant to the Framework Agreement on First Nations Land Management (brought into force by the First Nations Land Management Act) can make laws in relation to their lands, including development, protection and possession. These laws enable First Nations to opt-out of the relevant Indian Act land management provisions. The Framework Agreement includes provisions relating to enforcement of land codes and First Nations laws. However, this does not mean that laws made under land codes are enforced. As the Lands Advisory Board explains in its brief,

Unfortunately, there has been chronic under-enforcement of Indian Act by-laws. Much of the difficulty in building effective enforcement of First Nation laws under the Framework Agreement can be traced back to difficulties in overcoming the legacy of failure under the Indian Act.

Honourable senators, as part of our consideration of Bill C-32 in December of 2022, Grand Chief Garrison Settee of Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak Inc., or MKO, provided our Standing Senate Committee on Indigenous Peoples and our Standing Senate Committee on National Finance with a clear written explanation of why Part 4, Division 3 of Bill C-32 should have been amended to ensure clarity on the enforcement and prosecution of First Nations laws enacted pursuant to the Framework Agreement on First Nation Land Management.

Although MKO was not invited to appear before either the Indigenous Peoples Committee or the National Finance Committee regarding Bill C-32, several honourable senators rose in the chamber and joined me in expressing support for MKO’s request to appear before the National Finance Committee.

I also rose in the chamber to support and draw attention to the importance of the amendments then being proposed by MKO. In addition, Senator Loffreda posed a question in committee to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, saying:

. . . MKO made a submission to our Indigenous Peoples Committee, voicing some concerns with this section of the bill and calling for consequential amendments to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police Act and the Director of Public Prosecutions Act.

I would appreciate your comments and opinion on these claims and concerns.

The Minister of Finance’s response was:

That is a very broad set of issues that you have raised. It is beyond the few minutes that Senator Mockler is going to give us for me to address all of them. Let me just say: duly noted.

I am confident that reconciliation and a nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous people in Canada really are one of the most important issues for our government. That sort of permeates the work across all departments. It is an issue we take seriously. The comments that you make are duly noted by me and by Mr. Jovanovic.

The MKO submission quoted the May 25, 2021, statement of Chief Heidi Cook of the Misipawistik Cree Nation. Chief Cook recounted to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs the community’s experiences during an outbreak of COVID-19 in the winter of 2020-21:

During that time, it was expressed by the members of our pandemic emergency response team, our health team and our enforcement team that we felt abandoned. We were struggling to control the spread. Our second wave reached 155 cases and close to 300 contacts. We all suffered personal fallout. I feel that we all have PTSD from the situation we found ourselves in.

We have not enacted any laws after the expiry of our emergency law. The decision was, basically, what good is the law if it’s not enforceable? As a result, we haven’t done anything since then.

The MKO submission on Bill C-32 also referenced the statement made on May 25, 2021, by Lands Advisory Board Chairman Robert Louie to the INAN committee:

Many land code First Nations have faced refusal from police forces when they ask for help, with police forces expressing concerns regarding the validity of land code laws, concerns about potential liability of police officers, and uncertainty regarding who will prosecute laws if charges are laid. It has been difficult to this point to reach agreement with either federal or provincial prosecutors to tackle First Nation laws under the Framework Agreement.

On November 22, 2022, Lands Advisory Board Chairman Robert Louie advised our Indigenous Peoples committee during its consideration of Bill C-32:

We have come to find out over the last 20-plus years that Canada and the RCMP are not readily backing and enforcing the First Nation laws that First Nations have passed. It’s an issue that is bubbling. It’s something that we didn’t quite expect at the outset, but we’re working now with Canada and with provinces and with Attorneys General both at the Canadian and provincial levels to deal with this issue.

The RCMP Commissioner Brenda Lucki’s February 17, 2020, letter to MKO Grand Chief Settee provides an earlier confirmation of Lands Advisory Board Chairman Robert Louie’s statements that land code First Nations faced a “refusal from police forces” and that “. . . the RCMP are not readily backing and enforcing the First Nation laws that First Nations have passed.”


The RCMP commissioner advised Grand Chief Settee:

The RCMP recognizes First Nations’ authority under the FNLMA. However, there are concerns as to whether the FNLMA Land Codes provide the legal authority to enact COVID-19 related laws. Pending further direction, the RCMP will continue to follow the processes in place with respect to the enforcement of COVID-related bylaws passed under the Indian Act, as well as enforcing applicable provincial laws.

On March 15, 2021, Dr. Kelley Blanchette, Assistant Deputy Minister, Lands and Economic Development of Indigenous Services Canada wrote to LAB chairman Robert Louie:

I appreciate the frustration felt by First Nations who have taken on such fundamental aspects of their governance through the enactment of a Land Code, only to be forced to rely on Indian Act authorities to address the current COVID-19 pandemic.

While more analysis will need to be done, I have instructed my team to collaborate with you on options to expand and clarify authorities through the next amendments to the Framework Agreement.

Honourable senators, Bill C-32 represented the next amendments to the framework agreement referred to by Dr. Kelley Blanchette. Honourable senators will recall that amendments to address effective enforcement and prosecution of Land Code laws were not a part of Bill C-32.

On May 31, 2023, Mr. Michael Foote, Chief Federal Prosecutor for Manitoba, speaking to MKO leadership and representatives during a two-day MKO and RCMP symposium that was organized by MKO, stated:

I have been a prosecutor for twenty-five years at the federal level and another three years at the provincial level. And I know in all of that time we have not done any prosecutions. So, it certainly predates my tenure as even the most junior prosecutor. I think Michael Anderson referred us back to a case from 1996 where it was the Department of Justice that was responsible for doing it at the time that prosecuted a case. And it’s never been done since, as I alluded to in my presentation.

When responding on June 1, 2023, to a question from the Chief Hubert Watt of the God’s Lake First Nation on the second day of the MKO and RCMP symposium, the Chief Federal Prosecutor for Manitoba also said:

With respect to your question, with respect to specifically the issue of the Indian Act bylaws, it’s always been the position of the Federal Prosecution Service that we don’t prosecute those bylaws. So, I take it that the RCMP, once they get that message from us, they take the position that if the Crown’s not going to prosecute, we’re (RCMP) not going to lay charges.

However, RCMP Inspector Jeff Preston, Officer in Charge for the Campbell River, British Columbia, detachment told the Standing Committee on Indigenous and Northern Affairs — INAN — in the other place on May 6, 2021 that:

Generally speaking, band bylaws are treated as federal laws that are enforceable by the RCMP, the police of jurisdiction or the band bylaw enforcement officers.

In a May 11, 2021, statement to the INAN committee in the other place, RCMP Staff Sergeant Ryan Howe of Meadow Lake Detachment, RCMP F Division, Saskatchewan, told the INAN committee that enforcement of First Nation laws by RCMP in northern Saskatchewan stopped after 2014.

As part of an exchange of communications between Michael Anderson, MKO’s Policing and Public Safety Adviser, following up on Staff Sergeant Howe’s statement to the INAN committee, Staff Sergeant Howe wrote on May 6, 2021, and advised MKO:

After the changes to legislation made in December 2014, the direction and guidance to RCMP serving First Nations in Northern Saskatchewan was that without prosecution, the police would no longer arrest or lay a charge.

On May 27, 2021, MKO filed a formal access to information request to request a copy of this guidance to RCMP to cease enforcement of First Nation laws after December 2014 without prosecution. More than two years later, MKO continues to pursue a response from RCMP to MKO’s ATIP — Access to Information and Privacy — request for this RCMP guidance. At a request from my office in the Senate for this response, which included a consent from MKO, my office was informed that it would take a further 1.5 years to get the information, and I have been told that that is deemed a refusal.

Honourable senators, First Nations from coast to coast to coast are experiencing a crisis in public safety and well-being, largely driven by an epidemic of addictions driven by virtually uncontrolled drug dealing and bootlegging, and the complex of community harms that is the result. The failure and refusal of RCMP to enforce and the Public Prosecution Service to prosecute First Nations laws, including intoxicants, prohibitions, trespass and curfew laws, is directly contributing to this national crisis.

The final four words that each of the provisions prohibiting intoxicants in each of Treaties 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 are “. . . shall be strictly enforced.”

The responsibility to uphold the Crown’s treaty promise and commitment to strictly enforce First Nation laws prohibiting intoxicants and to prosecute offences pursuant to these First Nation laws is clearly under the jurisdiction and responsibility of the Attorney General of Canada. The refusal and failure of RCMP to strictly enforce First Nation laws prohibiting intoxicants and the failure of the Public Prosecution Service to prosecute offences on behalf of the Attorney General are breaches of Canada’s treaty promise and commitment. These historic and ongoing breaches of the treaty promise and commitment have materially contributed to the national crisis of health and public safety in First Nations.

Honourable senators, Chief Robert Louie of the Westbank First Nation, acting in his capacity as chairman of the Lands Advisory Board, wrote to MKO Grand Chief Settee on April 5, 2023, to endorse the type of amendments to the Director of Public Prosecutions Act that were pursued in MKO’s submission on Bill C-32. These amendments now appear in Bill S-272 with the endorsement of the Lands Advisory Board.

Acting in his capacity as Chief of the Westbank First Nation, Chief Louie also wrote MKO Grand Chief Settee with a request:

I would like to see any change to federal law encompass Indian Act by-laws, the Framework Agreement and other self-government agreements such as the Westbank Self‑Government Agreement.

Colleagues, therefore, in addition to addressing the currently “stranded regimes” of Indian Act bylaws and Land Code laws, the enactment of Bill S-272 into law is intended to address and clarify with conclusive certainty that the Public Prosecution Service of Canada has a duty to prosecute offences under:

. . . a law enacted by a council, government or other entity that is authorized to act on behalf of a First Nation under a self-government agreement implemented by an Act of Parliament. . . .


Bill S-272 also provides that PPSC will not initiate or pursue a prosecution:

. . . if the First Nation that made or enacted the First Nation law has appointed or retained a prosecutor or entered into an agreement with a provincial or territorial government for the prosecution of summary conviction offences created by its First Nation laws.

The enactment of Bill S-272 into law will clarify with conclusive certainty that it is the will of Parliament that offences pursuant to all duly enacted First Nation laws are to be effectively prosecuted by PPSC on behalf of the Attorney General of Canada unless a First Nation has expressly made other arrangements to pursue prosecution.

Honourable senators, I am honoured to share with you that I had the privilege of closely collaborating with representatives from Manitoba Keewatinowi Okimakanak, or MKO, and the Lands Advisory Board, or LAB, and that they played a major role in developing the version of Bill S-272 that was submitted to our legislative council. This represents a concrete example of co‑development in action of proposed legislation affecting First Nations. Such legislative co-development reflects and is consistent with Articles 19 and 38 of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and, therefore, with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples Act.

MKO stated that this co-development by a senator with First Nations is consistent with the call for the actions of the government to be on a nation-to-nation basis and consistent with the principles of reconciliation, as emphasized in the Deputy Prime Minister’s response on December 7, 2022, to the question by Senator Loffreda in committee on Bill C-32.

MKO has also recently engaged in a legislative co‑development exercise with Manitoba’s Minister of Justice to secure the introduction, consideration and passage — on May 30, 2023 — of amendments to Manitoba’s Provincial Offences Act, which will, for the first time in Manitoba, create a ticketing regime for First Nation laws. Similar provincial laws to create a ticketing regime for First Nation laws were pursued by First Nations, and were passed into law by Alberta on December 9, 2020, and by Saskatchewan on May 11, 2023.

Together with the enactment of the amendments to the Director of Public Prosecutions Act set out in Bill S-272, these provincial ticketing regimes for First Nation laws will significantly enhance the ability of the Public Prosecution Service of Canada to potentially prosecute offences under First Nation laws in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

As a key part of the ongoing efforts of MKO Grand Chief Settee to secure the effective recognition, respect, enforcement and prosecution of First Nation laws, MKO has successfully pursued the agreement of the Director of Public Prosecutions and the Commanding Officer of RCMP “D” Division in Manitoba to enter into a protocol relating to the enforcement and prosecution of bylaws adopted pursuant to section 81 and section 85.1 of the Indian Act.

The renewed protocol is effective as of June 30, 2023, as a two-year pilot project proposed by the Director of Public Prosecutions in a March 9, 2023, letter to Grand Chief Settee:

I further propose that my officials work with your organization and other key stakeholders during these three months to discuss the possibility of developing a broader pilot program for the enforcement and prosecution of Indian Act bylaws beyond those related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

This kind of pilot would not be a permanent solution, but rather a joint opportunity to expand on the work done to date beyond the crisis posed by the pandemic.

In addition, it would be an opportunity to gather evidence and experience that can then inform the development of solutions to better serve your communities in the long term.

It is MKO’s understanding that the two-year pilot project — of PPSC, RCMP and MKO — for the enforcement and prosecution of Indian Act bylaws through the protocol is unique in Canada, and applies only to those of the 23 law-making MKO First Nations which elect to participate. As there are 634 First Nations in Canada, this means that just 3.6% of First Nations in Canada have the opportunity to see the potential enforcement by RCMP and prosecution of offences by PPSC pursuant to their Indian Act bylaws through a similar protocol process.

As well, the protocol does not deal with all First Nation laws and, therefore, does not address the enforcement and prosecution of a First Nation law enacted pursuant to a land code, or a First Nation law enacted by a First Nation which has entered into a self-government agreement.

First Nations have fought to change the story that Canada has proclaimed for them. The deleterious effect of removing self‑determination, and the horrible consequences, is a story of an environment that was made vulnerable — not that First Nations were broken. In the article entitled “Indian Act Colonialism: A Century of Dishonour, 1869-1969,” author John Milloy states:

. . . in 1836, the Upper Canadian Attorney General, R. amieson, gave evidence of the continuation of [the constitutional norm of the Proclamation of 1763]. First Nations, he wrote, “have within their own communities governed themselves by their own laws and customs.” In short, First Nations were self-governing within their recognized jurisdictions including all internal affairs. They remained so until the Indian Act of 1869. . . . [when] First Nations’ self-government, was sacrificed to Macdonald’s proclaimed assimilative duty.

In 1867, with the passage of the British North America Act . . . the Imperial Crown gave way to the Federal, the colonies became provinces and the self-governing First Nations remained, for a brief period, a third order of government. . . . the 1869 . . . Act — an “Act for the Gradual Enfranchisement of Indians, the Better Management of Indian Affairs,” indicated its dedication to assimilation. . . . the Act abolished traditional forms of government and replaced them with a male-only elective system largely under the control of the local Indian agent. . . . the powers of the council to make laws for communities were limited to such a degree that they were no longer in any meaningful way self-governing.

In the early 1980s, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms had a section providing constitutional protection for treaty and Aboriginal rights. In November 1983, the House of Commons Special Committee on Indian Self-Government presented its findings, and urged expanded powers for First Nations governments, which, in some instances, would go beyond the traditional municipal model.

In the 1990s, Indian Affairs announced a policy on the inherent right of self-government. In 2023, we have the First Nations Land Management Act. It is time to end the 247 years of formal Indian administration which is still grappling with an Indian question that they created and supported, and, in the end, it was a racist act.


I call upon all honourable senators to fully support the self‑determination and enhanced law-making powers of all First Nations in Canada that are intended by Parliament through Bill C-428, and for those First Nations that choose to exercise the law-making authority intended by Bill C-49, as well as by a First Nation under a self-government agreement entered into between a First Nation and Canada.

I call upon my honourable colleagues to fully support, endorse and pass Bill S-272, which will enact amendments to the Director of Public Prosecutions Act that will clarify and confirm with conclusive certainty the jurisdiction of the Public Prosecution Service of Canada to potentially prosecute offences under First Nation laws on behalf of the Attorney General of Canada.

Sending Bill S-271 and Bill S-272 to committee as quickly as possible to investigate this quagmire that continues to increase uncertainty in First Nations lives would be a step toward restoring what should never have been taken away.

Kinanâskomitin, meegwetch, mahsi’cho, thank you.

(On motion of Senator McPhedran, debate adjourned.)

Chignecto Isthmus Dykeland System Bill

Second Reading—Debate Adjourned

Hon. Jim Quinn moved second reading of Bill S-273, An Act to declare the Chignecto Isthmus Dykeland System and related works to be for the general advantage of Canada.

He said: Honourable senators, I rise before you today to discuss Bill S-273, An Act to declare the Chignecto Isthmus Dykeland system and related works to be for the general advantage of Canada.

The general advantage of Canada is certainly a foundational principle for works that are indeed in the national interest. Regarding the Chignecto Isthmus Dykeland System that holds back the waters of the Bay of Fundy, this is a work that is clearly in the national interest and for the general advantage of Canada, both due to it being critical infrastructure but also because of the urgent need to adapt to rising sea levels and increased frequency of severe storms due to climate change.

For those in this chamber who are unaware of where the Chignecto Isthmus is located, it is the narrow strip of land predominantly along the Missaguash River, forming the boundary between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. The isthmus itself is a vital trade corridor that represents $35 billion in trade, 15,000 vehicle transits per day and hundreds of thousands of people every year. The trade corridor is a choke point for a single national railway, the Trans-Canada Highway and fibre-optic lines that link transatlantic cables.

All those assets that support Canada’s economic prosperity, interprovincial and international trade and communications are at risk due to flooding, were it not for the Chignecto Isthmus Dykeland System. Perhaps of greatest importance, the dikes protect the tens of thousands of Canadians who live and work in and around the isthmus. The dikes further protect farmlands that are essential to food security, and we have heard several times in this chamber the importance of food security in the face of Canada’s disappearing farms and farmlands.

The Chignecto Isthmus is an area that is shaped by history and the national interest. In the 1600s, the Acadians created one of the first pieces of critical infrastructure in Canada. Constructing the first series of dikes was to help tame the mighty tides of the Bay of Fundy, which, in the area, rise and fall over 50 feet twice every day. These dikes are also key to protecting and improving the agricultural production in the area.

The isthmus is integral to the foundation of Canada. The Fathers of Confederation from Nova Scotia and New Brunswick entered into Confederation in part because section 145 of the Constitution Act, 1867, which obligated the federal government to complete an intercolonial railway linking Nova Scotia with Quebec.

Senators, the same Fathers of Confederation thought it proper to give Parliament the declaratory power to assist in determining which works are in the national interest by transferring jurisdiction.

This is an understandable question to raise: Why use the declaratory power now for this project when it has not been necessary in the past? The answer, colleagues, is unfortunately straightforward: Maritimers and other Canadians who live near coastal waters face the sobering reality that we are no longer in a situation to prevent climate change but, rather, we must adapt to it. The Fathers of Confederation would have been aware of the 1869 “Saxby Gale” that generated the largest historically documented storm surge, which was above the twice-daily high water I referred to earlier by five to seven feet. It devastated Nova Scotia and New Brunswick, particularly the Chignecto Isthmus. The storm caused the 25-foot dikes to fail, destroying croplands, livestock and resulting in the deaths of Canadians who lived in the isthmus.

Senators, that rare occurrence is now projected to be all too common. A 2020 report commissioned by the New Brunswick government indicated that coastal flooding will become more frequent due to sea-level rise, because, in the future, even weaker storm systems will produce flooding impacts like the most extreme storms of the past.

In the region of Chignecto Isthmus, the sea level is rising rapidly. From my experience as CEO of Port Saint John, I can tell you that, when I began that job in 2010, it was unusual to see water on the docks. By the time I left 11 years later, it was not an unusual occurrence.

Further action must be taken now by the federal government. The provinces of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island are not arguing that all climate change adaptation measures must fall under federal jurisdiction. The Chignecto Isthmus Dykeland System is a distinct and invisible series of works that must be looked at further than simply by the sum of its parts.

The governments of the Atlantic provinces routinely cooperate, because this is a reflection of our shared history and culture. We primarily concern ourselves with doing the right thing rather than whether it’s our responsibility to do so. We do not like to think of a situation where the Atlantic provinces would not get along. However, what if New Brunswick disagreed with prioritizing the upgrades of the dikes in Chignecto? There would be a direct impact on Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador, along with the rest of Canada, that rely on that vital trade corridor.

This highlights the necessity of the Chignecto Isthmus being in the federal interest.

I would add that, in the case of Newfoundland, one must remember that cargo goes to Newfoundland largely by marine mode, and that marine mode crosses the isthmus with the goods needed for all of the island of Newfoundland.

As I mentioned in this chamber last June, the Council of Atlantic Premiers issued a communiqué calling upon the Government of Canada to create a new infrastructure program to address the impacts of climate change and build infrastructure that supports economic growth. The premiers noted in their communiqué that the Chignecto Isthmus is a vital corridor that is at risk due to rising sea levels, and reiterated that the federal government has a constitutional responsibility to maintain links between provinces and must fully fund this project.

The Fathers of Confederation, in their wisdom, gave Parliament, via section 92(10)(c) of the Constitution Act, 1867, a separate, quasi-judicial power to make a policy — dare I say a political judgment — to both reinforce and transfer jurisdiction from the provinces over works to the federal government. The question before us today in the Senate is whether the Chignecto Isthmus Dykeland System is for the general advantage of Canada. In other words, is this proposed project so important to the national interest that it warrants jurisdiction being transferred to the federal government for the purposes of rehabilitating the dykeland system? The answer, honourable senators, is “yes.”

Senators, I will be clear that Bill S-273 is not a money bill and does not compel the Government of Canada to spend money. The call by the Atlantic premiers for the Government of Canada to fully fund any program to remediate the Chignecto Isthmus is a policy decision.

Presently, the Government of Canada is offering 50% funding via the Disaster Mitigation and Adaptation Fund, where the total cost for remediating the dikes is projected at $650 million. I argue that 50% funding is insufficient for something that is in the national interest. Further, the practical reality of the project is that, under the current infrastructure program, New Brunswick will spend disproportionately more money on repairing dikes located in New Brunswick that are more to the benefit of the other Atlantic provinces. Therefore, again, this warrants Parliament invoking the declaratory power.

Colleagues, the use of the declaratory power is helpful to the federal government overall, because it allows them to create the policy exception for 50% funding. We are often told — and I can attest to this from my prior experience as a chief financial officer in the Government of Canada — that jurisdiction is the first line of defence as to why a government should not involve itself in any given matter, especially in the complex world of federal, provincial and territorial relations.

However, colleagues, if there is a trade corridor that is so important to the economic security of Canada, exceptions should be made. In this case, there is the precedent of the Champlain Bridge, where Parliament has already invoked the declaratory power.


Colleagues, in 2014, Parliament passed the New Bridge for the St. Lawrence Act, which declares that the Champlain Bridge and related works are to be for the general advantage of Canada. The new Champlain Bridge connects the Island of Montreal with the south shore of the St. Lawrence River. The bridge is a vital economic corridor with 50 million cars, buses and trucks crossing yearly, which is integral to interprovincial trade and commerce with an estimated value of $20 billion every year. This is of vital importance to the movement of goods and people and to the overall Canadian economy. This same logic is also true for the Chignecto Isthmus Dykeland System. It is a single point of failure.

I will remind honourable senators that the cost of the new Champlain Bridge was $4.2 billion to be paid exclusively by the federal Government of Canada. In addition, and as Senator Downe is aware, the current government’s decision to remove tolls has also resulted in a revenue loss of at least $3 billion over the first 30 years. That revenue would have accrued to the Province of Quebec. That is being covered by the Government of Canada.

Critically, the Government of Quebec did not contribute on a 50% basis because the Parliament of Canada, via the declaratory power, declared this trade corridor to be in the national interest and gave the legal policy authority for the federal government to assume 100% of the costs. It is fair and reasonable to offer similar agreements to all parts of our federation when there is a national interest at stake.

Honourable senators, Bill S-273 serves a dual purpose: to raise awareness here in our Parliament but also to offer a clear path forward. Atlantic Canadians are all too familiar that our small population translates into fewer seats in the House of Commons. Far too often, our challenges are not well heard.

Due to the Great Depression and the Second World War, the Chignecto Dykeland system began to fall into disrepair, resulting in minor breaches of the dykes. The director of the Dominion Experimental Farms and Nova Scotian E.S. Archibald wrote in 1943 to senior officials within the federal government to take action as part of a wartime emergency:

These breaks in the dykes are jeopardizing the highways and railroads in many sections. Should high tides carry away portions of our railroad or highway it might very well cause a serious setback to the movement of our troops and war material.

Honourable senators, how can one argue that the Chignecto Isthmus, vital to Canada’s war efforts in Europe, is not in the national interest? Mr. Archibald’s request was met initially by only one-third funding. However, in their continual advocacy for regional fairness, Maritimers noted that the federal government already passed the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Act to deal with environmental threats to agricultural production in Western Canada.

Maritime members of Parliament and senators championed the idea that this program should be expanded nationwide but also include flood mitigation. These efforts resulted in the passing of the 1948 Maritime Marshland Rehabilitation Act. In this act, the federal government provided 100% of the funding for the Chignecto Isthmus dykes to hold back the Bay of Fundy. Colleagues, it is therefore with great irony that the federal government today is only offering 50-cent dollars for the structures that they fully paid for in the 1940s and 1950s.

In providing a historical overview in a 1951 paper, the head of the federal Maritime Marshland Rehabilitation Administration noted that, in addition to provided protection for agriculture, the dykes protected the “town or village services, railroads and highways, all of which makes them essential,” again noting the national interest.

Much like the constitutional commitment of the Government of Canada to build the Intercolonial Railway was instrumental in having Nova Scotia and New Brunswick join Confederation, the creation of the Senate was also key to having the Maritimes enter the larger union.

This chamber serves as a voice of the regions. I am not alone in asking for your support to send this bill to committee. The Provinces of Newfoundland and Labrador, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia are asking for the national government to take notice of the vulnerability of the Chignecto Isthmus and to provide additional funding. Bill S-273 serves this goal by removing policy barriers.

For those in this chamber who have concerns about invoking the declaratory power at this stage, replace your concern with curiosity. Again, my only ask is that you support me in referring the bill to committee at the earliest opportunity so that we, as senators, have the ability to study this issue in more detail.

Atlantic Canada is an equal partner in Confederation. Issues affecting Atlantic Canadians are, indeed, in the national interest. I call on all colleagues in this national Parliament to support sending Bill S-273 to committee.

Thank you.

The Hon. the Speaker: It was moved by the Honourable Senator MacDonald, seconded by the Honourable Senator Housakos, that further debate be adjourned until the next sitting of the Senate.

Is it your pleasure, honourable senators, to adopt the motion?

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

(On motion of Senator MacDonald, debate adjourned.)

Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament

Fifth Report of Committee—Debate Adjourned

The Senate proceeded to consideration of the fifth report (interim) of the Standing Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament, entitled Equity between recognized parties and recognized parliamentary groups, tabled in the Senate on March 9, 2023.

Hon. Yuen Pau Woo: Honourable senators, I would like to speak to the fifth report of the Standing Senate Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament. It has been adjourned in the name of our chair, Senator Bellemare. She has kindly agreed for me to speak today, following which, I believe, she will take the adjournment and reset the clock.

I would like to offer some reflections on this fifth report of the Standing Senate Committee on Rules, Procedures and the Rights of Parliament. The report is compact, coming in at less than one page, not including appendices. Brevity, however, does not always translate into clarity, which is why I want to take a few minutes to highlight what I consider to be the most important finding of the report.

First, let me share a little context.

The object of our study was the rule changes needed for equity between recognized parties and recognized parliamentary groups. I had tabled a motion in February 2020 proposing a set of changes of the Rules for this purpose, which Senator Tannas amended slightly in June. The motion died on the Order Paper with the conclusion of the Forty-third Parliament.

The so-called Woo-Tannas motion provided a starting point for our study, since it identified a wide range of Senate Rules that do not reflect equity among groups and caucuses. For example, the Government Representative in the Senate and the Leader of the Opposition have unlimited speaking time in debate, whereas the leaders and facilitators of other groups are restricted to just 15 minutes.

On standing votes in the chamber, only the Government Representative Office, or GRO, and the opposition have a say on the duration of bells or on the possibility of a deferred vote, to the exclusion of other recognized parliamentary groups.

When it comes to committees looking to meet on days that the Senate is adjourned, including the first Monday after a break, only the government and the opposition have the power to give consent for such. How many times have we encountered a situation where committee members are ready and willing to meet, only to be thwarted by an opposition veto?

I don’t need to remind all of us here that the sum total of GRO and Conservative Party senators is less than 20% of the Senate membership, and yet their leaderships have the power to make decisions that affect us all.

The vast majority of senators in today’s upper house are non-partisan. We are dispersed among three different groups, with some sitting as non-affiliated members. We are not part of the government. Rather, we are part of what has traditionally been described by this institution as the “opposition.”

There are, however, those who would deny us the ability to fully exercise our equal rights as senators who are not part of the government. They would have us as second-class senators who are allowed, from time to time, to sit in the front of the bus, but only with their consent. The modest changes to the Rules of the Senate and to the Parliament of Canada Act to date have been offered grudgingly and with the condescension of noblesse oblige. We are constantly reminded of how grateful we should be for what we have already been granted and why we should not expect full equality.


Such is the case with the fifth report of the Rules Committee. It is, in many respects, a “non-report” because it offers no solution to the manifest inequality in the Rules of the Senate. Mind you, there was no disagreement in the committee over which rules entrench the unequal treatment of Senate groups. You can see this for yourself in Appendix 2 of the report. A majority of members would have supported changes to those rules, but the committee as a whole was unable to proceed with those changes because of one group’s insistence on maintaining its privileged position in the Senate.

To quote the report:

. . . the Opposition in the Senate considers that its role as opposition comes with certain rights in the Senate’s operating rules and procedures;

Whereas other recognized parliamentary groups consider that they should have the same rights as the Opposition in the Senate’s operating rules and procedures . . .

To paraphrase, one group of senators thinks it should have powers that other groups don’t have.

I’m, of course, referring to the Conservative caucus, which styles itself as the official opposition in the Senate, even though there is no such term in our rules or in the Parliament of Canada Act. The Speaker confirmed as much in her recent response to my point of order. Yet some Conservative senators continue to use the term — indeed, the very senators who claim to be arch‑defenders of parliamentary tradition.

There is a certain desperation in this deliberate distortion of our nomenclature, but it is made worse by the underlying premise that the way the Conservatives carry out the work of opposing in the Senate is superior to the way non-partisan senators do. And what is that allegedly superior style of opposition? Let me quote Senator Plett, who, in response to my question on a speech he made on the Income Tax Act — a speech full of internal contradictions and non sequiturs — had this to say:

I am making a speech that is contrary to what the government is doing, and I don’t need to defend that. . . .

Well, Senator Plett is correct that he doesn’t need to defend a speech that is contrarian for the sake of being contrarian, but, colleagues, that is not what is meant by “sober second thought” and that surely is not the form of opposition that should be privileged by our institution.

The Conservatives pretend to be the true opposition in the Senate, but their goal in doing so is to become the government after the next election. That is the prerogative of political partisans, but it is not reflective of today’s Senate of Canada, which consists overwhelmingly of non-partisan members. Whereas Conservative senators are opposition members for as long as their party is not in power, the rest of us will remain independent of the government — whichever party is in charge. How can we take seriously the claim that the real opposition in the Senate is the group that will ditch that title as soon as it has the opportunity?

Honourable colleagues, we can, of course, have different views on the definition of “opposition,” but I am convinced that senators who remain independent through changes of government reflect a more principled and consistent understanding of what it means to be the opposition in an unelected upper house.

To conclude, allow me to recall how we got into this situation and explain why we have to find a way out. In the discussions surrounding the so-called Woo-Tannas motion, some senators said the proposed rule changes should be first considered by the Rules Committee before coming to the chamber for a decision. Well, the Woo-Tannas motion was studied by the Rules Committee for many months and it failed to come up with a path forward — not because most senators could not agree on the changes that needed to be made, but because one group of senators representing less than 15% of members does not believe in equity among all Senate groups. That is what it boils down to, and that is what I ask all senators to reflect on as we ponder next steps for bringing about a fairer distribution of powers among Senate groups. Thank you.

Hon. Leo Housakos: Would Senator Woo take a question?

Senator Woo: Yes.

Senator Housakos: Senator Woo, I have two short questions. First, how could you profess that the government — that is, the elected Prime Minister who appoints in this parliamentary chamber and simultaneously appoints the government senators who will also serve in the opposition — could appoint government representatives and opposition representatives simultaneously?

Second, how could this chamber, despite being an appointed body — and there are few left in our modern parliamentary democracies — completely ignore the will of the democratic choice in the other house in choosing the government on one side of this chamber and the opposition on the other, as has been the tradition since 1867?

Senator Woo: Thank you, Senator Housakos, for your questions. To the second question first — we are not elected. The will of the public is not reflected in the composition of this chamber. Therefore, your point about neglecting the will in the other house is irrelevant.

With respect to your question about appointing both — and it wasn’t quite clear how your question as constructed makes sense — insofar as you’re asking how the Government Representative Office, or GRO, can be appointed, I will leave the GRO to explain for itself. I will speak for myself and for the 80 other senators who sit as non-partisans that we are clearly not part of the government. For you and your colleagues to claim repeatedly that we’re part of the government is an insult to us because it goes against what we believe ourselves to be. We don’t need to explain further why we’re not part of the government because it says clearly in the rolls of the Senate that we sit as independents in three different groups that are non-partisan.

Senator Housakos: Senator Woo, there’s something in the Westminster system called parliamentary responsibility and accountability. You cannot say the elected house in our parliamentary system is irrelevant. Nobody will accept that. Your accountability, and mine, and that of everybody in this chamber comes through that elected house. At the end of the day, as we’ve always said, for this place to function, and as it has functioned, the opposition, as chosen by the people in an election, determines the party members in this chamber who represent the opposition; and the government’s side is chosen by the people in a general election who choose the governing side, including all of their appointees.

Again, the important question here is this: If you’re not accountable through a democratic process in the other chamber, to whom are you accountable?

Senator Woo: We are accountable to the oath that we took when we became senators.

With respect to the point about the House having a bearing on whether we are with the government or not, it does not. Clearly, we are here as unelected members. Those of us who are independents do not belong to the government or to a political party.

You make endless references to the Westminster system as if there is just one version of Westminster. In fact, our own chamber, through the Special Senate Committee on Senate Modernization in its study of Westminster systems, has determined that there are multiple styles of Westminster parliamentary democracy, and asserted clearly that our Senate is a unique form of Westminster parliamentary democracy, and that our upper house has the power to determine its style of Westminster parliamentary democracy. For you to somehow deny that is the case — when we have endorsed that report, we have said that to be true, we have taken decisions in this chamber that give us a different way of operating — is disrespectful to our institution.


Hon. Ratna Omidvar: Senator Woo, your remarks about gratitude versus equity evoked a real response in me. When I became a Canadian citizen in 1985, I was told by many to be grateful. It is a poor replacement for equity.

I connect my remarks to your comments on the report by the Rules Committee. I am a member of the Rules Committee, but the study that you spoke about took place before I became a member.

In this chamber and in other committees — Legal, Social, Internal Economy — all committees do important work. In my experience in the Senate, committees vote when a decision has to be made. So I am to understand from your speech that while the majority of the members of the Rules Committee agreed with the motion, because it was not unanimous, the majority was disregarded.

How does the Rules Committee understand consensus? Is it simply that everybody has to agree and therefore it is the lowest common denominator?

Senator Woo: Thank you, Senator Omidvar, for the question. The definition of consensus is a general agreement. It is not unanimous agreement. If it were, there wouldn’t be the word “consensus.”

Now, the way in which consensus can be reached —

The Hon. the Speaker: Senator Woo, your time has expired. Do you wish to finish your answer?

Senator Woo: I would like to if colleagues agree to grant me more time.

The Hon. the Speaker: Is leave granted?

Some Hon. Senators: Agreed.

Some Hon. Senators: No.

The Hon. the Speaker: I hear a “no.”

(On motion of Senator Bellemare, debate adjourned.)


The Senate

Motion to Urge Government to Accelerate the Implementation of Digital Solutions that Transform the Public Service Delivery Experience of Canadians—Debate Continued

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Deacon (Nova Scotia), seconded by the Honourable Senator Smith:

That the Senate call on the Government of Canada to replace its outdated program delivery and information technology systems by urgently accelerating the implementation of user-friendly, digital solutions that transform the public service delivery experience of Canadians, and ultimately reduce the cost of program delivery.

Hon. Julie Miville-Dechêne: I rise today to speak to Motion No. 107, which was brought forward by our colleague, Senator Deacon. Even though my level of interest and expertise in all things digital are far from rivalling his own, I support his efforts to make the delivery of public services more efficient and accessible.


I must begin by confessing that when I first saw Senator Deacon’s motion, my immediate reaction was to think, “Finally, a chance to rant against government websites.” But then I thought that would not be very constructive in light of what the motion seeks to do.

Still, I would say that we are presented with a kind of paradox. By voting in favour of this motion — and I will — we are asking the government to do more of something it has been pretty bad at. It would be tempting to spend 10 minutes railing against the dysfunction of some of our online services, but I will resist.

Consider only two anecdotes. The first comes from a family of Canadian permanent residents in Montreal. They are immigrants from Eastern Europe. Both are telecommunications engineers. They have two children. They have lived in Canada for a few years, and recently had to renew their permanent resident cards as they prepare to apply for Canadian citizenship. This was a formality. So they went onto the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada, or IRCC, website and they started to fill out the online forms for their family of four. These are fairly complex applications, even for people who are already permanent residents.

The father started working on the process one evening, and after encountering some difficulties, he decided to take a day off only to fill out the applications online, but it did not work. For some reason, the government site made it impossible to submit the application. So this man, a telecommunications engineer, started looking for advice, and he discovered entire blogs dedicated to dealing with the IRCC system. He was told the name of his street might be too long. He was told to try to add spaces in his postal code. He was told not to use capital letters. He was told other things, but in the end, nothing worked.

After wasting more than one day on his family’s online application, this very smart and technologically capable man printed the application documents and sent them in paper form.


Here’s the second anecdote. Everyone knows there’s a dire shortage of doctors in the regions, including in Quebec’s Laurentians region. Five years ago, two doctors from France came to lend a hand, and they now have 2,700 patients between the two of them.

Unfortunately, we recently found out that Isabelle Branco and Jean-Louis Ménard had to put their appointments on hold and were in danger of losing their work permits. That means they’re no longer treating their patients, ostensibly because a code was missing from their file even though it had been sent several days earlier.

Fortunately, the whole thing was cleared up yesterday, but apparently it took the media getting involved to sort things out.

It’s something of a paradox. Government websites have been making lots of people, including me, want to tear their hair out for years, yet we still want more. We need more.

Why? Simple: We now live much of our lives online. We pay our bills online. We communicate online. We bank online. We research online. We shop online.

Steve’s Music Store, a Montreal institution, had this motto: “If we don’t have it, you don’t need it.” These days, if something isn’t on the internet, it doesn’t exist.

That’s why we need the federal government to increase the quantity and improve the quality of its online services.

I will not repeat the statistics given by Senator Deacon regarding Canada’s low digital government ranking, nor will I dwell on the cost savings, because, as the Parliamentary Budget Officer’s recent reports show, those are difficult to quantify. In any case, the digital transformation is not just about cutting costs. It’s about making life easier and making sure that our public services remain accessible as technology evolves.

In order for that to happen, I would suggest that our federal government focus on two issues in particular.

The first is simplicity. The primary objective of this motion is to increase the quantity of services available online. However, I think that will be impossible if we don’t also improve the quality of those services.

Government websites must be simple to use and written in plain language, not Klingon. The sites must contain simple instructions with an easy log-in and authentication process. They also need to be reliable and flexible. They should not be designed to accept only specific file types, requests, software applications, certificates, characters, browsers or formats. They must be designed so that a 10-year-old child or a 64-year-old adult, like me, can use them without screaming or bursting into tears.


The Parliamentary Budget Officer report contains an encouraging paragraph on this point:

As part of this goal, the federal government created a link between [an individual’s Canada Revenue Agency and his or her Service Canada Account]. This allows for a single sign‑in and is based on a “tell us once” principle. . . . In addition to being able to connect between [different agencies’ accounts], the federal government also partnered with certain financial institutions . . . and some provinces to access Government of Canada services. The purpose of offering different choices of login credentials . . . is to make its online services “more convenient for clients to access” and having “one less username and password for clients to remember”.


I would like to take a minute to make sure that the eternal archives of the Senate record this critically important prescription for the future of humanity: Please give us fewer usernames and passwords to remember.

The second issue that I think needs to be addressed is that of privacy and information security. I have zero technical knowledge about these issues. To be perfectly frank, these are not problems that wake me up at night — perhaps because I am naive, or because my personal information is fairly boring. But I know that a lot of people are very concerned about privacy and information security — I have one friend in particular — and I know these things matter. As the federal government moves forward with the transition to digital services and digital identification, it must make sure to adopt best practices and be completely transparent about what it does.

This is not just a matter of information security. It’s also a matter of public trust in our institutions, which is something that has implications beyond the delivery of government services. At a time when, sadly, public trust in our institutions seems to be at an all-time low, our government needs to be exemplary in its approach to digital interactions and information processing.

I conclude by reiterating my support for Motion No. 107. The federal government must continue to transition to digital service delivery, and it must do it faster and better. I do not expect this major transformation to be completed in the short term. However, and for this reason, I am grateful to have my husband, children and younger staff to help me navigate these evil web portals. Thank you.

(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. Mohamed-Iqbal Ravalia: Honourable senators, today I rise to speak in support of my colleague Senator Stan Kutcher’s Motion No. 113 to authorize the Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology to study health misinformation, its impacts on Canadians and potential remedies. Today, I would like to focus my time on discussing some of what we currently know about vaccine hesitancy and misinformation in Canada, its causes and potential solutions.

As the world continues to work through the COVID-19 pandemic, vaccinations continue to play a critical role in keeping our communities safe. We must recognize that the pandemic had a once-in-a-generation impact. It is inevitable that there would be diverse viewpoints on such a seismic event. Unfortunately, in a digitized age, it is easier than ever before for those with views based on misinformation — whether intentionally so or not — to spread their message. At this time — when the need for vaccine uptake is at an ultimate high — vaccine hesitancy has only grown, and continues to increase not only for COVID-19 vaccines, but also for other routine immunizations. In effect, this creates windows of opportunity for the spread of preventable diseases — many of which we’ve even forgotten about — and the attendant risk to human life.

While it is true that any vaccine may have varying side effects as it is introduced to an individual’s immune system, overall vaccines remain a safe and critical way to prevent severe diseases and save lives. We have known this since Edward Jenner first developed the smallpox vaccine in 1796, which later eradicated the disease. From the beginning of the development of the first vaccines until today, humanity has continued to witness the strengths and benefits of vaccines, as they have prevented mass deaths from diseases like polio, measles, rubella, tetanus and hepatitis B.

In the past few decades, recently developed vaccines have provided people with safety against diseases like shingles; increased access to protection against HPV; and given children protection from the painful childhood disease — which I’m sure many of us have experienced — chicken pox. Just last week, Dr. Katalin Karikó and Dr. Drew Weissman were awarded the 2023 Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine for their work that enabled the development of effective vaccines against COVID-19 using the mRNA technology.

New vaccines are currently being developed, and give us hope for the prevention of future pain and suffering. As researchers work hard to find protection for the world’s most vulnerable populations from diseases like malaria and HIV, we must stay vigilant in ensuring that public trust in vaccines and scientific research is not tarnished by misinformation. The hard work of doctors, scientists and researchers to prevent the spread of these diseases will only be realized if the vaccines are taken up by the public, and proper protocol is developed and employed to ensure accurate education about the benefits and potential side effects — I repeat, potential side effects — of any given vaccine, given the fact that nothing is 100% proven.

Global trust in data-driven science is critical for the safety and health of all populations across our globe, and to prevent societies from backsliding into preventable health crises. UNICEF has reported that the public perception of the importance of vaccines for children has declined through the pandemic in 52 of the 55 countries it studied. One of those countries, unfortunately, is Canada. UNICEF has indicated that factors contributing to this decline include “. . . uncertainty about the response to the pandemic, growing access to misleading information, declining trust in expertise, and political polarization.”

This increase in vaccine hesitancy coincides with an increase in preventable diseases among children who are unvaccinated. UNICEF has reported that the number of measles cases in the world doubled in 2022, and the number of children with polio increased by 16% over the previous year.

The spread of COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy, along with more generalized fear mongering and misinformation about other vaccines, is of great concern. Confidence in vaccinations has been declining in Canada to the detriment of the health of our communities and our children as we see outbreaks of preventable diseases here in our own nation. Well-proven vaccines are being baselessly attacked in some circles, with fewer people accessing them — leading to preventable childhood diseases, like tetanus and measles, that have a negative impact on communities and those who are unfortunately impacted.

We also know that many of the children in Canada who missed vaccines throughout the pandemic live in communities that are often marginalized or in hardship areas. However, we have evidence from various studies that shows us there are ways to support Canadians who are hesitant about vaccines, and to rebuild the trust in our public health system.

According to recent surveys through the Public Health Agency of Canada, the most trusted source of information on vaccine safety continues to be medical health professionals. Among those who were hesitant about vaccines, the most common path that led to them choosing to have their children vaccinated was the discussions they had with their doctors, nurse practitioners, public health nurses and other public health representatives. These findings are reassuring in that they emphasize the significant role that public health care workers play in dispelling myths about vaccines and educating community members about the safety, efficacy and significance of vaccination and immunization.


In my own experience with children in Newfoundland and Labrador, I have always been impressed with how vigilant our public health nurses are and continue to be in ensuring that children’s immunization records are well-kept and that those who are missing immunizations are followed up and vaccinated in a timely manner. Where hesitancy comes up, appropriate consultation with health care providers is arranged.

The incidents of preventable childhood diseases in Newfoundland and Labrador are very low, and I believe this reflects the solid foundation of community immunization that has been established by a rich tradition of public health nurses and physicians.

This is an example of the strength of community-based efforts in public health education in support of vaccination. Establishing and re-establishing trust in vaccines is critical in protecting the health and well-being of all of our communities.

Honourable senators, it is important that we learn more about the effects of misinformation on vaccines and public health across the communities we represent in this country. I thank Senator Kutcher for opening this platform to dialogue and bringing forward such an important initiative. And for those of you who have not yet had your shingles vaccine, my prescription pad is ready and waiting. Thank you, meegwetch.

(On motion of Senator Martin, debate adjourned.)

One Hundredth Anniversary of the Chinese Exclusion Act

Inquiry—Debate Continued

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the inquiry of the Honourable Senator Woo, calling the attention of the Senate to the one hundredth anniversary of the Chinese Exclusion Act, the contributions that Chinese Canadians have made to our country and the need to combat contemporary forms of exclusion and discrimination faced by Canadians of Asian descent.

Hon. Ratna Omidvar: Honourable senators, I rise today to speak to Inquiry No. 11, which calls our attention to the one hundredth anniversary of the Chinese Exclusion Act. I would like to thank Senator Woo for bringing forward this timely inquiry. I believe that one of Canada’s great strengths is our capacity to self-reflect on the mistakes that we have made in the past. Senator Woo’s inquiry gives us an opportunity to ensure, upon reflection, that we never go down this path again.

Many of my colleagues have weighed in and continue to weigh in, but I’d like to focus my comments on the gendered impact of discriminatory immigration policies on the Chinese community.

During the 24 years that the Chinese Exclusion Act was in place, Canada admitted fewer than 50 Chinese people. This was indeed a very cruel way to repay the contributions of the 17,000 Chinese labourers who played an essential role in building the Canadian Pacific Railway, which was the first great infrastructure nation-building project of Canada.

When the railway was completed in 1885, instead of rewarding the Chinese labourers, Parliament enacted the Chinese Immigration Act, which placed a head tax of $50 on Chinese people coming to Canada. In 1903, $50 was increased to $500, equal to about two years’ salary of an ordinary person. This exorbitant amount meant many Chinese labourers could not afford to bring their wives. In 1921, it is no surprise that the ratio of Chinese men to women in Canada was 15 to 1.

The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1923 ensured that this ratio remained disparate. Over 90% of the wives of Chinese men were left behind in China. During their husbands’ prolonged absences, wives had the responsibility of raising children and looking after parents. Visits by husbands were short and infrequent because their right to return to Canada would be revoked if they were away for more than two years. Remember, colleagues, there were no airplanes, there were no jets; there was only the long way with the ship. Many children grew up barely knowing their fathers.

Canada did not repeal the Chinese Exclusion Act until 1947. When it did, it was replaced by a restrictive race-based immigration policy under which only those Chinese who already had a Canadian citizenship were allowed to sponsor their families. In other words, it was a restrictive measure of a different kind. The same rules, of course, did not apply to European immigrants. Twenty years later, after the points system was adopted, Chinese people finally began to be admitted under the same criteria as other ethnic groups.

Wives who succeeded in entering Canada in the 1950s and 1960s found their lives fundamentally transformed. Having lived without a spouse for years, they had to deal with readjusting to husbands they barely knew. Many put in long working hours labouring in their husband’s small businesses or took on multiple manual jobs.

In the early years of their arrival in Canada, Chinese women found themselves socially isolated and excluded. But it was their daughters and their granddaughters who took up their cause for justice. Chinese Canadian women like Avvy Go, Chow Quen Lee and Susan Eng were instrumental in campaigning for an apology and a redress.

As the President of the Toronto Chapter of the Chinese Canadian National Council, Avvy Go became involved in the campaign in 1989. She was co-counsel in the class-action lawsuit seeking redress for the head taxpayers and their families. One of the three litigants who led the lawsuit was Chow Quen Lee. Separated from her husband for 14 years because of the act, she was an outspoken activist. Although the lawsuit was ultimately dismissed, it set into motion talks with the government that ended with an official parliamentary apology in 2006.

As co-chair of the Ontario Coalition of Head Tax Payers and Families, Susan Eng convinced VIA Rail to sponsor the Redress Express, during which about 100 people boarded a train from Vancouver to travel to Ottawa to hear the apology.

I want to also note the contributions of Dora Nipp, Chief Executive Officer of the Multicultural History Society of Ontario. She comes from a family who helped build the railway and paid the head tax. As a historian, Dora Nipp has conducted extensive oral history interviews documenting the experiences of immigrants to Canada. She has also produced various works, including directing Under the Willow Tree, a documentary on pioneer Chinese women in Canada.

These women fought for justice and they were ultimately successful, with the government handing out symbolic payments to roughly 400 survivors and widows in 2006.

The Chinese Exclusion Act and other discriminatory measures had profound and lasting impacts on Chinese women and families. It took until 1981 for the sex ratio in the Chinese Canadian community to equalize. On the one hundredth anniversary of the Chinese Exclusion Act, it’s important to recognize not just the prejudice that the community faced but also the tremendous perseverance it took to have these injustices reversed. Canadian Chinese women played a significant role in seeking and achieving this redress. In their honour, I thank you, colleagues.


Hon. Marie-Françoise Mégie: Honourable senators, I rise today to speak to Senator Woo’s inquiry, the goal of which is to call the attention of the Senate to the one hundredth anniversary of the Chinese Exclusion Act, the contributions that Chinese Canadians have made to our country, and the need to combat contemporary forms of exclusion and discrimination faced by Canadians of Asian descent.


As Senator Woo pointed out on February 14, 2023:

 . . . 100 years ago, in this chamber, senators voted to adopt the Chinese Immigration Act, 1923. This piece of legislation is better known as the Chinese Exclusion Act . . . .

Senator Kutcher, Senator Simons, Senator McCallum, Senator Jaffer and Senator Oh also spoke to this inquiry.

They all provided numerous examples to illustrate the systemic discrimination suffered by Chinese Canadians. They also highlighted the important contributions made to our country by the Chinese and Asian communities, in spite of everything.

As I listened to my colleagues’ speeches, I too felt compelled to speak out. The last thing I want to do is conflate the issues, but Black communities have also been targeted by similar legislative measures in Canada.

The Canadian Encyclopedia states, and I quote:

Order-in-Council P.C. 1324 was approved on 12 August 1911 by the Cabinet of Prime Minister Sir Wilfrid Laurier. The purpose of the order was to ban Black persons from entering Canada for a period of one year because, it read, “the Negro deemed unsuitable to the climate and requirements of Canada.”

The time periods might be different, as the Chinese Exclusion Act was passed 12 years later, but there are many similarities between the discrimination faced by the Chinese and Black communities in Canada, which proves, unfortunately, that history repeats itself.

It is therefore essential to fight contemporary forms of exclusion and discrimination that many Canadians still face to this day.

I thank Senator Woo for his dedication to bringing awareness to the systemic discrimination that Chinese Canadians experience. The exhibit he put together in the Senate foyer shines a light on a very dark chapter of Canada’s history that gets left out of the school books. As Senator Woo mentioned, the exhibit acts as a tangible link to the past and as a call for vigilance against all modern forms of exclusion.

This call resonated with Prime Minister Trudeau. Let me read out a passage from the statement he issued on May 14, 2023:

[The Chinese Exclusion Act] was a dark time in Canada’s history that has lasting impacts today. Along with the Chinese Immigration Act of 1885, which imposed a head tax on Chinese newcomers to Canada, the racist 1923 legislation almost completely prevented people from China from entering Canada for 24 years. It remained in place until its eventual repeal on this day in 1947. This systemic discrimination and racist policy separated loved ones, impoverished families, and reinforced prejudice against people of Chinese origin in Canada – scars that would endure for generations.

My dear colleagues, we absolutely have to take the opportunity presented by this inquiry to improve our knowledge of Canadian History with a capital “H.”

As historians have told us over and over, if we don’t learn from history, we’re doomed to repeat it.

As you can see from reviewing the sequence of events, that happened in 1911 and in 1923. Never again must we pass such discriminatory laws.

Our role is to transmit our values of inclusion and equality to future generations so they can live in a more just country.

To eliminate all forms of racism, whether implicit or explicit, we here in this chamber must remain vigilant.

Thank you.

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!


Hon. Mohamed-Iqbal Ravalia: Honourable senators, it is my pleasure to rise today to speak to the inquiry initiated by Senator Woo. The purpose is twofold: to celebrate the invaluable contributions that Chinese Canadians have made but also to reflect on the prejudice, exclusion and discrimination that Canadians of Chinese descent have faced and continue to face.

I would like to thank Senators Jaffer, McCallum, Simons, Oh and Kutcher for speaking to this important matter — and, of course, to our speakers today as well.

The contributions of the Chinese community in Newfoundland and Labrador are a significant but often overlooked aspect of our province’s history. The Chinese community has played — and continues to play — a vital role in shaping our cultural, economic and social fabric.

The first Chinese immigrants arrived in Newfoundland in the 1890s, and word spread throughout St. John’s that two Chinese immigrants would be opening a laundry business. Over the next few decades, the city and the province would continue to attract Chinese immigrants.

Colleagues, this was at a time when Newfoundland’s population was almost entirely White, Christian and English-speaking. In 1906, the province had legislation — the Act Respecting the Immigration of Chinese Persons — that imposed a $300 head tax on each Chinese immigrant entering the colony. This equalled between one and three years’ earnings and was a significant barrier to entry for Chinese immigrants. Despite the challenges and prejudice faced by Chinese Newfoundlanders, their perseverance and strength as a community remained remarkable, and their contributions to our society and growth continued to be exceptional.

In the 1920s, the Chinese community turned towards opening restaurants and is now credited with helping build the dining-out culture in our province. Early Chinese restaurants served foods Newfoundlanders knew about and loved, like fish and chips and roast chicken. Despite this, Chinese immigrants maintained their traditional cuisine at home and faced the challenges of sourcing traditional ingredients. In downtown St. John’s in 1968, Mary Jane’s was the first health food store to carry some Chinese groceries. Today, there are multiple grocery stores in St. John’s as the community continues to grow and thrive.

When Newfoundland joined Confederation in 1949, the Chinese head tax came to an end. With changes to immigration policy in 1967, Chinese immigrants to Newfoundland and Labrador became more diversified in their professions, backgrounds and practices, including health, science, engineering, mining and the fishing industry.

In 1976, The Chinese Association of Newfoundland & Labrador was established to promote Chinese culture and tradition throughout our province and nurture communities in preserving and celebrating Chinese heritage. The association is operated by volunteers who organize and promote events, including Chinese New Year celebrations, performances and memorial services. In 1981, the association, along with their community partners, erected a memorial in Mount Pleasant Cemetery in St. John’s to honour the Chinese immigrant community in Newfoundland from the time of their first arrival in the 1890s.

Elsewhere in St. John’s, a different memorial stands to honour the 300 Chinese men that had to pay the head tax in Newfoundland. This monument was created in 2010 by the Newfoundland and Labrador Head Tax Redress Organization, a group working to educate on and preserve the awareness of this dark chapter in our history. The monument is placed on the site of Saint John’s’ first Chinese hand laundry, which was opened in 1895.

In 2006, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador made a formal apology for the Chinese head tax, delivered by then‑premier Danny Williams.

Today, our Chinese community is the largest visible minority, representing 1.3% of St. John’s’ population, or approximately 1,500 people. In broader Newfoundland, there are approximately 2,300 people of Chinese ethnicity, making up 0.5% of the population of our province. Despite these seemingly small numbers, the Chinese community in Newfoundland is strong, active and heavily influential.

I’m also proud to say that the growth of Memorial University has been a source for an increase in Chinese immigration to Newfoundland, with students and academics being drawn to the province for their education and for educating us.


Members of the community have continuously brought their traditions to Newfoundland and Labrador and generously shared their culture with the non-Chinese community. Recently, members of the community have brought traditional music to St. John’s audiences with performances featuring the traditional instrument, the guzheng. The YY Guzheng Ensemble has been performing for the St. John’s community and spreading the love for Chinese music throughout the community. The group has 15 members with ages ranging from their early teens to their 70s with a common love for music and tradition.

Honourable senators, despite a dark chapter and the incredible difficulties that the community faced, today they are an integral part of our province’s history. Chinese immigrants and their descendants continue to play a crucial role in our economic, cultural and social development. Their legacy of resilience and determination serves as a testament to the importance of recognizing and addressing historical injustices, like the head tax, while celebrating the rich diversity that makes my beloved province a unique and inclusive place to call home. Thank you, meegwetch.

(On motion of Senator Petitclerc, debate adjourned.)

Business of the Senate

Hon. Patti LaBoucane-Benson (Legislative Deputy to the Government Representative in the Senate): Honourable senators, with leave of the Senate and notwithstanding rule 5-13(2), I move:

That the Senate do now adjourn.

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

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

(At 5:32 p.m., the Senate was continued until tomorrow at 2 p.m.)

Appendix—Senators List

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