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Previous Sittings
Previous Sittings

Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

1st Session, 44th Parliament
Volume 153, Issue 155

Wednesday, November 1, 2023
The Honourable Raymonde Gagné, Speaker


Wednesday, November 1, 2023

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




Support for Municipalities

Hon. Éric Forest: Honourable senators, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, chaired by our former colleague Murray Sinclair, has had a decisive impact on our understanding of the historical wrongs committed against First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples.

Elected municipal officials recognize the importance of the process and want to participate too. We can only achieve our potential as a country, as a city or even as individuals by charting a new course with Indigenous peoples based on empathy, respect and an honest understanding of history.

The Federation of Canadian Municipalities has responded to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s calls for action by posting a tool designed to guide cities along the path to reconciliation and support the federal government in rebuilding nation-to-nation relationships.

A number of initiatives have started since then. The City of Montreal is one example that comes to mind. It offers its employees training on Indigenous culture, it has a commissioner for relations with Indigenous peoples, and it provides funding to community organizations working to improve the quality of life of Indigenous persons.

I would also call attention to the third Great Gathering of Indigenous peoples and Quebec municipalities held this year in Gatineau to promote reconciliation and mutual understanding.

Smaller communities are also taking action in accordance with their resources. This year, for example, the North Shore region hosted the fourth Grand Economic Circle of Indigenous Peoples and Quebec. The aim was to encourage networking between Indigenous and non-Indigenous businesses in order to promote the region’s economic development.

Some people talk about economic reconciliation. There is probably a way for the federal government to support municipalities that are seeking to go one step further on the road to reconciliation. The federal government recently set up a fund to reward municipalities that relax their regulations to encourage soft densification.

In a similar vein, why not provide technical and financial support to municipalities that want to take action and create a framework for truth and reconciliation? Cities, towns and municipalities are willing to work towards reconciliation. The federal government would do well to establish genuine partnerships with them, since it is often at the local level that broader issues are resolved.

Thank you.

Rose Cathy Handy

Hon. Amina Gerba: Honourable senators, on Saturday, I had the privilege of speaking at the Black Pearls Gala 2023, an annual event that celebrates the achievements of 100 Black women who have demonstrated extraordinary resilience and community impact.

I rise today to pay tribute to the woman behind this initiative, a trailblazer with a very inspiring story: Rose Cathy Handy.

Born in Cameroon, she came to Canada in 1993. She took on the challenge of integration head-on by volunteering for several organizations. However, her life would soon be turned upside down. In 1997, after giving birth to her first child, Rose Cathy became homeless and had to take refuge in a shelter with her baby.

She did not give up. Rose Cathy became an entrepreneur and got her first contract with Glendon College to organize a conference on women. That is how she got her autonomy back and could afford an apartment again.

She went on to found a business called BilingualLink, which helps newcomers understand the Canadian labour market and improve their employability. In 1999, BilingualLink organized the first bilingual job fair in Toronto.

Finally, Rose Cathy created Canada International Black Women Excellence, whose signature event, the Black Pearls Gala, celebrates 100 outstanding Black women and the progress they have achieved in Canada and beyond.

From homeless immigrant to unifying business leader, Rose Cathy Handy is a shining example of integration for newcomers and a model of resilience for women with diverse ethnocultural backgrounds.

Thank you.


Visitor in the Gallery

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, I wish to draw your attention to the presence in the gallery of Donald Kennedy, husband of the Honourable Senator Hartling.

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

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!


Diabetes Awareness Month

Hon. Nancy J. Hartling: Honourable senators, November is Diabetes Awareness Month. As many of you know, this disease holds a special importance for me because my grandson has Type 1 diabetes. Some of you met my grandson, Max, when he came to visit me in the Senate this year with his parents, Marc and Jody, from British Columbia.


Max is an enthusiastic 11-year-old who, along with his parents, has learned how to manage his condition. Mentors are especially important for kids with Type 1 diabetes, so it was a real pleasure for Max to meet with Tareq Winski, one of our former Senate pages, who also has Type 1. They had a very in-depth conversation about many aspects of living with Type 1 diabetes.

Tareq encouraged Max to attend D-Camps, a summer camp program specifically for kids with Type 1 diabetes. This motivated Max to attend D-Camps in Alberta this summer. There are many of these camps across our country. Max told me that it was the best experience since all the kids have Type 1 diabetes. He said, “Nannie, it was so much fun, and I didn’t think of my diabetes once!”

Diabetes doesn’t go away when you stop thinking about it. Although Max has learned to manage his condition, like for all his peers with diabetes, doing so can be a full-time job with no vacations, and a cure would be the greatest gift for kids like Max.

Colleagues, I’m so proud to say that Canada has always been a leader in diabetes research. From the development of insulin 100 years ago to stem cell treatments today, Canada has remained at the cutting edge of the search for a cure. We benefit from a robust health care system and world-class research institutions that attract the most talented scientists. In addition, organizations such as the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, or JDRF, have worked tirelessly to ensure that finding a cure remains a priority in Canada.


I would like to invite you to a special event on Tuesday, November 7 at the National Arts Centre. It’s a screening of The Human Trial, a documentary produced by Ottawa filmmakers Lisa Hepner and Guy Mossman.


The film explores a radical stem cell-based treatment for diabetics with the potential to completely transform the lives of people dependent on insulin. It’s a celebration of breakthrough science and the potential of public-private collaboration for health science research when consistent funding is made available.

The event is hosted by broadcaster Catherine Clark and will feature a panel of leading diabetes researchers. It will be moderated by André Picard, the health reporter and columnist from The Globe and Mail. I hope to see you there on November 7 at 6 p.m. During Diabetes Awareness Month, let’s work to make Type 1 type none. Thank you.


4-H Canada

Congratulations on One Hundred and Tenth Anniversary

Hon. Robert Black: Honourable senators, I rise to highlight that today marks the one hundred and tenth anniversary of 4-H in Canada and Global 4-H Day. It’s also Show Your 4-H Colours Day, their biggest annual event in this country. Every November, the 4-H community comes together to celebrate their accomplishments and the positive impact that they have had, not only in Canada, but around the world. This month-long campaign is a testament to the incredible contributions 4-H youth are making in their communities and the transformation that the 4‑H program is fostering by producing responsible, compassionate and engaged young people.

I can’t help but reflect on my own journey of more than 50 years with this incredible organization and program. I’m a proud alumnus, a former staff member at both the provincial and national levels, and even had the privilege of serving as the president of the Canadian 4-H Council. Moreover, I’m honoured to have been recognized as an honorary lifetime member of 4-H Canada. It is with profound gratitude that I declare that 4-H is the cornerstone upon which my life’s trajectory was set, ultimately leading me to the position I hold here in the Senate of Canada.

The impact of 4-H on young Canadians cannot be overstated. For over a century, it has provided youth with unique opportunities to learn essential life skills that go beyond traditional education. Through hands-on projects, leadership development and community engagement, 4-H empowers our youth to become active and responsible citizens. It instills values of hard work, dedication and the importance of giving back to the community. As we look to the future, the significance of organizations like 4-H in shaping responsible and caring leaders becomes even more evident.

Our world is facing an array of complex challenges, and the leadership and problem-solving skills instilled by 4-H are exactly what our society needs. The resilience, compassion and commitment fostered within the 4-H community are qualities that are essential to addressing issues such as environmental sustainability, social justice and economic development.

Show Your 4-H Colours Day is not merely an event; it’s a celebration of positive effects created by 4-H in our communities, an acknowledgement of the hard work and dedication of countless young Canadians who have committed themselves to making a difference — and a reminder of the potential that lies within each young mind.

I want to express my heartfelt gratitude to 4-H Canada for the profound influence it has had on my life and countless others. Colleagues, please join me in taking a moment to recognize and celebrate the transformative power of 4-H, and the promising potential it holds for our nation, with the 4-H pledge:

I pledge

My head to clearer thinking,

My heart to greater loyalty,

My hands to larger service,

My health to better living,

For my club, my community, my country, and my world.

Thank you.

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear.


ADHD Awareness Month

Hon. Sharon Burey: Dear colleagues, I rise today to highlight problems that are affecting millions of Canadians and to draw your attention to the fact that October was Learning Disabilities, Dyslexia and Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD, Awareness Month.


My remarks will focus on the cost to Canadian society and highlighting a few recent efforts to improve children’s literacy across Canada.

Although attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, and learning disabilities such as dyslexia — which are often seen together — are highly heritable, we know that racialized and marginalized individuals and those facing social adversity experience poorer outcomes. Education is a social determinant of health and economic outcomes, so if we as a country are serious about decreasing health care costs, increasing productivity and improving lifelong health, this issue requires our full attention. In fact, according to the Centre for ADHD Awareness, Canada, ADHD is estimated to cost Canadian society $7 billion annually.

Frontier College, a national charitable literacy organization, reported in 2021 that:

Studies have consistently shown that improving the literacy of a country’s workforce increases both GDP and productivity. In fact, literacy scores are a better predictor of long-term growth of OECD countries than educational attainment. Increasing the literacy skills in the workforce by an average of 1% would, over time, lead to a 3% increase in GDP, or $54 billion per year, every year, and a 5% increase in productivity.

In 2019, the Ontario Human Rights Commission undertook a public inquiry entitled Right to Read. The Ministry of Education adopted most of its substantial recommendations, and science‑based, evidence-based, structured literacy is now part of the language curriculum in all Ontario schools.

A 2023 Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission report entitled Equitable Education for Students with Reading Disabilities points to provincial reading scores that indicate 25% of all students and a staggering 45% of students identifying as First Nations, Métis and Inuit were not meeting provincial standards for reading. In closing, colleagues, it is hoped that this report will lead to systemwide changes to the literacy and language curriculum in Saskatchewan schools. Our children and families are depending on us. 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 participants of Take Our Kids to Work Day.

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

Hon. Senators: Hear, hear!




Notice of Motion

Hon. Patti LaBoucane-Benson (Legislative Deputy to the Government Representative in the Senate): Honourable senators, I give notice that, at the next sitting of the Senate, I will move:

That, when the Senate next adjourns after the adoption of this motion, it do stand adjourned until Tuesday, November 7, 2023, at 2 p.m.

Business of the Senate

The Hon. the Speaker: Pursuant to the order adopted by the Senate on December 7, 2021, Question Period will begin at 2:30 p.m.


Bill to Amend the Canada Business Corporations Act and to Make Consequential and Related Amendments to other Acts

Third Reading

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Downe, seconded by the Honourable Senator Black, for the third reading of Bill C-42, An Act to amend the Canada Business Corporations Act and to make consequential and related amendments to other Acts.

Hon. Victor Oh: Honourable senators, I rise today to speak at third reading of Bill C-42, An Act to amend the Canada Business Corporations Act and to make consequential and related amendments to other Acts.


This bill aims to safeguard Canadians from the threats of money laundering and terrorist financing, discourage tax evasion and avoidance and maintain Canada’s reputation as a favourable destination for conducting business. To meet those objectives, the government is implementing a publicly accessible beneficial ownership registry of corporations governed under the Canada Business Corporations Act, or CBCA.

Experts believe that this legislation will have a substantial impact on discouraging money laundering within the country. Internationally, among anti-corruption organizations, and notably among facilitators and criminals, Canada has gained a reputation as the “snow-washing” destination of the world. Right now, according to a Canadian Security Intelligence Service 2020 report, it’s estimated that $45 billion to $113 billion is laundered annually in Canada.

Bill C-42 will dispel that perception and will deter criminals who wish to take advantage of corporations governed under the CBCA. Transnational criminal groups will need to reconsider their shareholding structures or their strategies before infiltrating Canada’s economy. We need to put an end to those who seek to exploit Canada as a haven for their criminal activities.

The publicly available beneficial ownership registry proposed in Bill C-42 aligns with the practices of the G20 and Five Eyes nations. If Canada were to pass this legislation, as indicated by experts in committee, the country would make substantial progress on the global stage regarding beneficial ownership regulation.

Similar actions have already been taken in jurisdictions around the world. Among the Five Eyes nations, the implementation of this registry would place Canada on the same level as the United Kingdom and New Zealand, both of which are establishing publicly accessible registries. Additionally, Australia is also committed to developing a publicly accessible registry. Canada’s new public registry would be on par with what our allies have developed. This would ensure interoperability.

Bill C-42 is critically necessary to make a true difference in the fight against illicit financial activities around the world. However, there are some issues to consider when implementing a system of this nature.

First, the public disclosure of an individual’s information can raise concerns regarding privacy and the protection of personal security rights. I highlighted this issue as one that needed to be examined in committee during my previous speech. In fact, privacy and personal security rights were the reason a similar public registry in Europe was held to be invalid by the Court of Justice of the European Union in 2022. This highlights the implications that a public registry can have on beneficial owners’ rights and the balance between the public’s right to information and an individual’s right to privacy.

Second, interoperability on an international scale is important to detect the complex structures used by criminals. However, we need to make sure the registry is truly pan-Canadian with the inclusion of provincially and territorially incorporated corporations. If provinces and territories are not included, bad actors can incorporate under their laws and escape the proposed national registry altogether.

At this time, there seems to be no set agreement with any provinces or territories to adhere to the new system or to enable provincially or territorially incorporated corporations to transmit beneficial ownership data directly to the federal registry. Ministers Champagne and Freeland have written to their provincial and territorial counterparts urging them to take part in the system. However, I am not aware of any confirmation that the provinces or territories will do so.

Bill C-42 represents a pivotal step in ensuring the integrity of our financial system and safeguarding our nation against the misuse of corporate structures for illicit activities. With this legislation, Canada can further align itself with global standards in the fight against money laundering, tax evasion and corruption.

We will be supporting this bill at third reading. Thank you.

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

Hon. Senators: Agreed.

(Motion agreed to and bill read third time and passed.)

Business of the Senate

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, the minister has arrived, and we will suspend until he is seated.

(The sitting of the Senate was suspended.)

(The sitting of the Senate was resumed.)

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, it is now 2:30, and the Senate will proceed to Question Period. The minister has taken his seat, so we will now proceed.



(Pursuant to the order adopted by the Senate on December 7, 2021, to receive a Minister of the Crown, the Honourable Bill Blair, P.C., M.P., Minister of National Defence, appeared before honourable senators during Question Period.)

Business of the Senate

The Hon. the Speaker: Honourable senators, today we have with us for Question Period the Honourable Bill Blair, P.C., M.P., Minister of National Defence. On behalf of all senators, I welcome the minister.

Honourable senators, let me remind you that during Question Period with a minister the initial question is limited to 60 seconds, and the initial answer to 90 seconds, followed by one supplementary question of at most 45 seconds and an answer of 45 seconds. The reading clerk will stand 10 seconds before these times expire. Pursuant to the order adopted by the Senate, senators do not need to stand. Question Period will last 64 minutes.



Ministry of National Defence

Comments by Minister

Hon. Donald Neil Plett (Leader of the Opposition): Welcome, minister.

Minister, around ten o’clock at night on Saturday, October 21, you released a statement indicating that the Government of Canada does not believe Israel struck a hospital in Gaza earlier that week. After initial media reports blamed Israel for attacking the hospital, Prime Minister Trudeau made sure his rush to judgment was in the full light of day and in front of reporters. The timing of his comments implied that he believed Israel was responsible, which, of course, was the story spread by Hamas.

After your statement, minister — and many of us here agreed with your statement that Saturday night — the Prime Minister went days without saying a word about it. Why is that, minister?

Hon. Bill Blair, P.C., M.P., Minister of National Defence: Thank you very much, Senator Plett, for the question. Thank you also, ladies and gentlemen, for the privilege and the opportunity to come before you today.

In the aftermath of the terrible attack and the murder of innocents that took place on October 7, there was, very importantly, a reaction. I think that we have been very clear on the government’s position with respect to affirming Israel’s right to defend itself. As a result of the bombing of the hospital that took place in Gaza, there were a lot of questions and, I think, a lot of misinformation with respect to what had taken place there.

I met with my officials at the Department of National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces, and I asked them for a close examination of the ballistics of the event and the trajectory of the ammunition. They examined both the open-source information and the classified material that was available to us. Then, I had the opportunity to brief the Prime Minister on this matter on that Saturday afternoon, and, after briefing the Prime Minister, I made a public statement.

Senator, I would respectfully disagree with your characterization. I think the Prime Minister reacted in a very understandable way to the explosion that took place at that hospital and the loss of innocent life.

Senator Plett: You, in fact, have been very clear, minister. Thank you.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs still hasn’t taken down her statement about the bombing of the hospital in Gaza, which she posted when the media was reporting that Hamas claimed that Israel was responsible. I would hope that Minister Joly is aware of her government’s findings and your statement by now.

Minister, why do you think she has not retracted this statement? She has had 12 days to do so. Failing to delete this post is a deliberate choice on her part, minister — is it not?

Mr. Blair: Again, senator, if I may, I believe our government has been very clear. On behalf of the government, I released the report provided to me by the Canadian Armed Forces, which contained their analysis and our conclusion — which we could say with a high degree of confidence — that the missile did not originate with Israel. We said that the far more likely cause of that explosion was an errant missile fired from the Gaza side. I put that out on behalf of the Government of Canada. I would hope that Canadians would take that report, which was independent, objective and, I believe, balanced, from a credible source — the Canadian Armed Forces — as a conclusion of what —

The Hon. the Speaker: Thank you, minister.

Defence Policy Review

Hon. Elizabeth Marshall: Minister, welcome to the Senate of Canada.

Shortly after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year, Canadians were told there would be an urgent review of your government’s defence policy: Strong, Secure, Engaged. There was an indication that the updated policy would be released this past summer. However, we have yet to see it. In September, there was a media report that the rewrite of the new policy had been sent back to National Defence for further revisions.

Minister, why is the updating of the defence policy taking so long? What is the cause of the delay?

Hon. Bill Blair, P.C., M.P., Minister of National Defence: Thank you very much, Senator Marshall.

I would point out, senator, that I was recently appointed to this position. Although I work closely with my predecessor, Minister Anand — and I continue to work very closely with her — upon my arrival into that portfolio, I undertook a comprehensive review. I had previously seen some of the planning that had gone into the Strong, Secure, Engaged defence policy update in a different capacity — I was the chair of the security committee for cabinet. However, having gone in there, I have been working very closely with the Department of National Defence, the Treasury Board and our government in determining the right way forward. There have been some changing circumstances. There has also been extensive consultation with not just the Canadian Armed Forces, but also with industry. I have been meeting with them as well because, in many respects, the defence policy update is also industrial policy — it’s not just defence policy in my opinion — so I have been engaging with them as well.

I understand the importance of coming forward with that defence policy update. We are working on it very diligently, and I hope to have good news about that in the not-too-distant future.

Senator Marshall: On March 8 — so that was eight months ago — officials from your department told the Senate National Finance Committee, of which I am a member, that the updated policy would be released very soon. That was the term we were told. They said, “very soon.” However, we have yet to see it. The Parliamentary Budget Officer has also reported that the Trudeau government has underfunded the policy’s capital investment plan, which accompanies Strong, Secure, Engaged.

Will you commit to releasing the updated defence policy and the capital investment plan before the end of 2023?

Mr. Blair: It is my intention to complete that work and to make it public at the very earliest opportunity. I understand that the Canadian Armed Forces, the Department of National Defence, Canadians and Canadian industry require the certainty and clarity that the release of that policy will provide. I am committed to doing that as quickly as possible. Unfortunately, Senator Marshall, I wouldn’t make a commitment that I can’t keep, so I can’t give you a precise date. However, I want to acknowledge to you that I understand the urgency of completing that work, and I will have it completed as quickly as possible.

Recruitment Levels

Hon. Tony Loffreda: Minister Blair, thank you for joining us today.

Canada’s military and peacekeeping legacy is something that we should all be proud of. I, for one, felt much pride this summer when I joined hundreds of volunteers, military personnel and supporters in Sicily for the Walk for Remembrance & Peace in honour of the eightieth anniversary of Operation Husky. This rich history is worth celebrating, and I feel that commemorations of this nature are a great way of instilling pride in our fellow citizens.

Would you not agree that these types of events can also serve as a recruitment tool for the forces? More broadly, can you share with us the Canadian Armed Forces’ recruitment efforts, and how the department is modernizing the recruitment process to simplify and shorten the application process for candidates?

Hon. Bill Blair, P.C., M.P., Minister of National Defence: Thank you very much, senator.

First of all, let me acknowledge your initial comments. I believe those commemorations are important. It is important that we honour our history. I think the Canadian Armed Forces has a long and proud history with the incredible work they have done, and the service and sacrifice of their members. That history needs to not only be commemorated, but it is also a great opportunity, I think, to encourage young people — the talent that we need in the Canadian Armed Forces — to consider a career in the Canadian Armed Forces. I believe it is a very proud and noble profession, and we need to promote that.

There is a real challenge, sir — as I’m sure you are aware — in the Canadian Armed Forces. Over the last three years, we’ve actually seen a greater attrition — more people are leaving the forces than the Canadian Armed Forces has been able to recruit. I think that may be the greatest challenge that I face as the new defence minister — doing everything I can to support the Canadian Armed Forces in their efforts to recruit the talent we need and, just as importantly, to retain the excellent people they already have. I have asked them to look very carefully at some of the impediments to recruitment and how long things have taken — background checks, for example.

I’ll give you an example: Last year, in December 2022, my predecessor announced that we were going to open up Canadian Armed Forces recruitment to permanent residents of Canada. I think it’s a very appropriate and necessary opportunity. What we have not yet seen is a commensurate increase in the number of people. Almost 12,000 people indicated an interest. We need to move faster in our recruitment and onboarding processes.


Senator Loffreda: In a letter to your staff on July 27, you committed to establishing a meaningful culture change where people in uniform feel protected, respected and empowered to serve. Beyond commemorative events and modernizing the application process, I believe recruitment and retention success for the forces depends heavily on this culture change. Can you speak about your efforts in this area and what you have undertaken more precisely to improve the diversity of the Canadian Armed Forces?

Mr. Blair: Thank you very much, senator. This question merits much more time for discussion than I have here. Let me tell you that culture change and ensuring that the Canadian Armed Forces provide a working environment which is inclusive, respectful and safe for all of its members is important.

Diversity is a priority for me, and we are taking significant steps. I have been working closely with the External Monitor — I met with her this morning for almost an hour — and I have had conversations with Madame Arbour with respect to the implementation of her 48 recommendations. I want to also assure you that in all of my work with the Chief of Defence Staff and his staff, they are resolute and committed to cultural change and to creating an inclusive, respectful and safe work environment for every member of their service. We have much more to report on it.

Arctic Sovereignty

Hon. Pat Duncan: Earlier this year, we experienced a foreign object in Canadian airspace over the Yukon. This experience re‑emphasized our dependence on the Alaskans and our Canadian Rangers, who are active and present in every Yukon community. Canada’s commitment to Arctic security in the North is focused on increased funding to the North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD, National Defence and human resources at Joint Task Force North in Yellowknife. The Yukon has three Canadian Armed Forces staff stationed at Camp Boyle Barracks in Whitehorse.

In February, I wrote to your predecessor and asked that an office be centrally located to provide your department with a greater profile and ability to respond in a fulsome manner when needed. I have yet to receive an answer. Minister, are you aware of the minimal presence of the department in the Yukon? What, if anything, is the department doing to increase their presence and capabilities in the Yukon?

Hon. Bill Blair, P.C., M.P., Minister of National Defence: Thank you very much, senator. It’s a very important question. The Canadian Armed Forces and the Minister of National Defence have a great deal of priorities right now, but none is greater for me than our important work in maintaining Arctic sovereignty and the investments we have to make in the North.

As you rightfully pointed out, we have made a commitment of $38.6 billion to NORAD modernization, but a very significant portion of that — part will be for investments in over-the-horizon radar and other things — will include a $122 million contract to strengthen Canadian Forces in Alert. It also includes the purchase of offshore patrol ships, of which four of six have been delivered and are available for patrol. I recently met with Duane Smith from the Inuit Nunangat area, as well. Those conversations are also very important.

As part of our commitment on the expenditure of the $38.6 billion for NORAD modernization, there is a commitment in that as well for Indigenous procurement for as much as 5% of that money. I will share with you that I’ve travelled to the Yukon and talked to the territorial government and the First Nations and Inuit governments there about Arctic sovereignty and the work of the Canadian Armed Forces in their region, and they have made it clear that sovereignty for them is investment in airports, highways and infrastructure. We’re committed to doing that.

Senator Duncan: Minister, you addressed two out of the three territories. I appreciate that National Defence’s financial and human resources are stretched to the limit with responding to natural disasters in Canada and conflicts in the world. Camp Boyle Barracks in Whitehorse can accommodate 400 in the summer months with modernization and more than 100 in the winter months. It serves military training needs and provides facilities for future evacuees. It serves all Canadians with modest capital investment.

Minister, would you commit to having a fulsome review and ensure that you and your department have a greater understanding and use of existing resources at Camp Boyle Barracks in Whitehorse in the Yukon?

Mr. Blair: I will happily make a commitment to meet with you and discuss your concerns and your recommendations. I want to acknowledge that I have much more to learn about how we need to support the North and also the important role that the North plays in the defence of Canada.

In making commitments as to what we would do, I would need to learn more about it and I would need the opportunity to consult with the Canadian Armed Forces as to what their capabilities are. They are challenged on many fronts. Committing to deploying people into an area is something I would want to do in consultation with them, but I will happily commit to meet with you and discuss your concerns which would give me an opportunity to learn more about that important environment.

Support for Ukraine

Hon. Rebecca Patterson: Welcome, minister. With everything going on geopolitically, we can’t lose sight of the ongoing Russian aggression against Ukraine. My question today has to do with Canada’s continued support for Ukraine, specifically the donation of clothing and equipment you announced on October 11.

At that time, you announced 2,000 uniforms for women Ukrainian soldiers, and this was a welcome announcement. However, there are approximately 40,000 women in the Ukrainian army, with many fighting on the front lines in this grinding war of attrition, and they need to stay in the fight. We know these women are short of properly fitting uniforms and gender accommodating personal protective equipment, such as body armour.

Canada’s experience in combat has shown us that properly fitting equipment saves lives. But, frankly, 2,000 uniforms are a drop in the bucket of what women soldiers actually need. In your announcement, there was no mention of other personal protective equipment.

Minister, will you commit to engage with your officials and with industry to investigate providing full combat kits, which are desperately needed for those Ukrainian women soldiers?

Hon. Bill Blair, P.C., M.P., Minister of National Defence: Thank you, senator. I remain absolutely committed to doing everything we can. I met have with Minister Umerov, who is the Ukrainian defence minister, and President Zelenskyy three times in the last two months. We are part of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group and have been responding, in every case, to what they have asked of us. One of the conversations I had with Minister Umerov was about having proper winter equipment because they knew they were going into a winter campaign. We were able to quickly respond with $25 million in winter equipment, including uniforms, sleeping bags, tents and boots, which is what they said they needed.

We also talked to them about making sure they were properly fitting uniforms. When we talked about that, we made a commitment of 2,000 uniforms. They will need more, but there are a number of different needs that Canada has been responding to. I would also point out that just a few weeks ago we announced that we were making a commitment of $650 million for light armoured vehicles, and specifically, the Ukrainians told us they needed armoured medevac vehicles, so we have included those as well.

The challenge I face is that the Canadian Armed Forces need that equipment, too. They need those light armoured vehicles and those investments. On the one hand, I remain resolute in our commitment to support Ukraine, and on the other hand, I have to continue to support the Canadian Armed Forces.

Senator R. Patterson: When you are engaging with your departmental officials and the ministry and armed forces in Ukraine on proper equipment for women soldiers, would you also investigate what Canada can do to support other gender and sex-specific considerations to keep those Ukrainian women soldiers in the fight? I’m talking about military considerations to maintain women’s health in the field. We have an expertise in that area.

Mr. Blair: I agree, I believe we do have an expertise in that area that we can share. The Canadian Armed Forces has been involved since 2015 in Operation UNIFIER in training and supporting the Ukrainian armed forces. Some of that training is directly attributable to some of the success — there are challenges — that they have been able to achieve in their fight against Russia’s illegal invasion. We continue to work closely with them. There is a strong collaboration between the Canadian Armed Forces and the Ukrainian forces. We work very closely with their defence minister. We have expertise that we have offered in other areas, and we will continue to do it there as well because I think there is a significant contribution that we can make. Thank you.

United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples

Hon. Pierre J. Dalphond: Welcome, minister. In June, before you became defence minister, the government released the co‑developed action plan to implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, or UNDRIP, principles. Substantial sections are related to defence, imposing several responsibilities on your department. One of them is to collaborate with the Inuit Treaty Organizations to jointly identify Inuit-specific priorities and considerations for inclusion, where feasible, in National Defence policies, programs and initiatives. These matters are to be jointly identified by the partners, whose focus includes Inuit Nunangat, being the northern regions where Inuit traditionally live in the country. Minister, how is this work proceeding? How is the meaningful consultation engaged and the partnership developed?


Hon. Bill Blair, P.C., M.P., Minister of National Defence: Thank you very much, Senator Dalphond. I have some good news on that. I met earlier this week with the Inuit Treaty Organization. It was a meeting chaired jointly by Natan Obed and my colleague Minister Gary Anandasangaree. There were a number of discussions that took place with respect to our UNDRIP commitments with respect to the military. And as I spoke earlier, one of the Indigenous leaders we had met with earlier this week, I met yesterday with his team, and we talked about how we can work more collaboratively and consultatively with Inuit leadership, working with the Nunangat in order to fulfill our obligations.

Senator, I want to assure you we see this area as critically important, but every investment we make has to be done in close and proper consultation and collaboration so that, first of all, we would benefit from their knowledge of the territory but also take full advantage of their presence and capabilities within the region and allow us to invest in those capabilities.

We also discussed the important work that the Canadian Rangers do and why they are such an important part of the Canadian Armed Forces’ presence in the North, and that needs to be done also in consultation and close collaboration with the Inuit Treaty Organizations.

Senator Dalphond: Thank you, minister. I see that the work is only beginning. Will that work include a recognition of the strategic role and contribution of Inuit, including prioritizing Inuit access to federal procurement in relation to National Defence focused on Inuit regions?

Mr. Blair: Again, thank you, Senator Dalphond. That is an important question, and that was part of our discussion both at the Inuit Treaty Organization meeting and the meeting that I had with Mr. Smith yesterday following that. We talked about, for example, some of the money that has now been committed by the government with respect to NORAD modernization and what those investments could form. We talked about very specific investments in Inuit territory, and we also talked about the role of Inuit in those investments and being part of, for example, maintenance at CAF facilities in the region, but also the construction of what we might refer to as multi-purpose infrastructure. For example, a military airstrip could also be used by the community. We have begun those consultations. I want to assure you it is a consultation. We won’t simply tell them what we are doing.

Cost of Living

Hon. Yonah Martin (Deputy Leader of the Opposition): Hello, minister. Like other Canadians, the men and women of the Canadian Forces are struggling under the Trudeau government’s cost-of-living crisis. Just within the last few weeks, we’ve heard that our soldiers are asking for donations to help with food and housing costs. CAF members are increasingly choosing to leave the forces rather than relocate to an area they cannot afford or take a loss on an existing home, and the average cost to purchase or rent housing now exceeds incomes of several CAF working rank levels. Is the affordability crisis caused by the Trudeau government harming our military personnel and its readiness? It certainly looks that way.

Hon. Bill Blair, P.C., M.P., Minister of National Defence: Thank you very much for the question. Providing support to military families is one of the most important things we need to do in order to improve the retention of the talent that we have and recruit new people into our organization.

I have travelled to the bases, and at every place I go, I try to spend time with the men and women who work there to give them an opportunity, first of all, to talk about the work that they are so proud of but also about some of the challenges they are facing. And, like in many parts of the country, I am hearing clearly that Canadian Armed Forces members are struggling with access to affordable housing, and that becomes a real priority. Although we have a budget of $55 million, it is not nearly enough to respond to what I believe to be almost a 7,000-housing unit deficit for the Canadian Armed Forces.

As I have been travelling to each of those bases, I also see the local municipality and work with the mayors. I have gone to the Minister of Housing, Infrastructure and Communities. As you are aware, the government is making significant investment in housing acceleration across the country, and I want to ensure that it also deals with the housing deficit that exists for our Canadian Armed Forces members.

We have also made significant investments across the country in child care. That is another huge challenge for military families, and so we have been providing money to the provinces, but the provinces don’t necessarily see it as their responsibility to support Armed Forces members and their families. I want to make sure that that investment is reflected in the provision of those important services to Canadian Armed Forces members.

Senator Martin: Additionally, a briefing note from military chaplains made public last month said the high cost of living, staff shortages and changes to the Post-Living Differential have resulted in “. . . many CAF leaders and members feeling more undervalued and underappreciated than at any point in recent memory.”

Minister, this is happening on the Trudeau government’s watch. What is your plan to improve such low morale?

Mr. Blair: The Post-Living Differential is money we provide to the Canadian Armed Forces to help reduce financial burdens for CAF personnel and their families. Unfortunately, the differential was given to everyone regardless of rank and income, and there have been changes made recently to ensure more support went to the lower-income members, who faced greater challenges with respect to affordability of housing. But recognizing that some of those changes would have a direct impact on serving members, we put in a differential allowance that effectively supports those members over the next three years to help continue to support them.

I honestly believe that the real answer for this is more housing. That’s the work that we’re undertaking now to identify those opportunities that do exist for our bases right across the country, to create more housing that will be affordable and accessible to more members of the service.


Military Procurement

Hon. Claude Carignan: Minister, despite the fact that our soldiers have outdated equipment that does not guarantee their safety like it should, your department is leaving billions of dollars on the table every year by failing to streamline the procurement process.

In 2021, $1 billion of the $5 billion that was allocated to the Canadian military remained on the table. According to the Parliamentary Budget Officer, if that trend continues, National Defence will be leaving on the table at least $4 billion of the $10.8 billion that it was allocated to buy equipment during the 2023-24 fiscal year.

Even more embarrassingly, our soldiers sometimes have to buy their own equipment. Denmark has and uses state-of-the art equipment that is made in Canada that our own soldiers don’t even have access to.

Minister, what tangible measures have you taken to address this unacceptable situation?


Hon. Bill Blair, P.C., M.P., Minister of National Defence: Thank you very much, senator. It’s not a situation that I am embarrassed by. It is something that I feel a strong responsibility to fix.

I have looked carefully at military procurement processes. They have, over the past many years, become bureaucratic, overly lengthy, and the fact is that we do provide money for the procurement of the equipment and the kit and the gear that our members need and were unable to acquire. I’ve already met with the Minister of Public Services and Procurement but also the Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, and I am working with my deputy minister at National Defence to look at those processes and find ways in which we can expedite those procurement processes. It’s always important that we spend Canadian tax dollars carefully and create the best value for each of those dollars spent, but at the same time, the processes of that procurement — I have asked our officials to begin looking through those very carefully to find ways to expedite those matters.

I have also met with industry because they are a very important part of those procurement processes. We know that we have to make significant new investments, for example, in the manufacture of munitions, and we’re working closely with our aerospace and shipbuilding industries. We want to make sure those processes work for the Canadian Armed Forces and for Canadians.



Senator Carignan: Minister, the situation is even more embarrassing because a Wall Street Journal editorial referred to Canada as a “military free-rider in NATO” owing to its pathetic investments in defence.

Minister, you are the minister of the armed forces, but some wags are even referring to you as the “minister of the unarmed forces” because of the pathetic investments in our national defence. In addition to improving the efficiency of the procurement system, will you increase the defence budget?


Mr. Blair: Yes, we all remember when, a decade ago, defence spending in this country fell to less than 1% of our GDP. This was one of the reasons our government came forward in 2017 with the Strong, Secure, Engaged defence policy that provided funding to increase defence spending by 70% through 2026. But we have seen that even that is not enough to provide the Canadian Armed Forces with the capabilities needed to fulfill commitments to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, or NATO, North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD, and others both at home and abroad.

We have, for example, made a commitment of $38.6 billion to NORAD modernization. That’s a lot of money, senator. It’s important that it be spent well, but we’ve made that commitment. We’ve also made contracts for the fighter jets —

The Hon. the Speaker: Thank you, minister.

Search and Rescue Capability

Hon. Marty Deacon: Hello, minister. Thank you for being here this afternoon. Thank you for your comments on morale and recruitment and culture. My question today stems from a report on Arctic sovereignty and security made earlier this year by the Standing Senate Committee on National Security, Defence and Veterans Affairs. It recommended that, by March 31, 2024, the government establish a permanent Arctic search and rescue round table comprised of representatives of the federal, territorial and Indigenous governments, as well as community-based organizations and government entities involved in search and rescue — including our Canadian Rangers.

My question is this: Is the government undertaking such a project? If not, what steps are you taking to ensure better search and rescue capabilities in the Arctic?

Hon. Bill Blair, P.C., M.P., Minister of National Defence: Thank you, senator. I’m aware under legislation that I am the government official responsible for search and rescue in Canada. It was also my responsibility in my previous capacities as the former Minister of Public Safety and the former Minister of Emergency Preparedness. I understand the enormous challenges that we face with respect to search and rescue, particularly in the Arctic and other remote regions of this country.

Having said that, I apologize, senator, as I’m not familiar with the report that you prepared. I’ll make myself familiar with it because I have been working closely with both territorial and provincial partners, and also First Nations and Indigenous partners across the country, talking about how we can improve the system.

I am absolutely committed to taking as much of the “search” out of “search and rescue” as possible. There are technologies that we can utilize to do so.

I also met with the Russell family in Newfoundland. They lost their son in a terrible marine tragedy there.

We’re looking at ways to invest more appropriately in remote regions of the country and use certain technologies to improve our success rate. I’ve been meeting with search and rescue people from across this country. There’s a real opportunity for us to do better. I look forward to reading your report and learning from the advice provided.

Senator M. Deacon: Thank you. We’re hopeful that report will be reviewed and will provide a good template.

One recommendation was that the government use new or existing institutionalized mechanisms to partner with Indigenous peoples in the Arctic — and to obtain their views about security and defence in the region — and that these partnerships should be undertaken in accordance with the Indigenous rights outlined in modern treaties. What steps has the government taken to include Indigenous peoples in recently announced plans for defence infrastructure in the Arctic?

Mr. Blair: Thank you, senator. I would point to some work that we did earlier this week, meeting with the Inuit Circumpolar Council, or ICC. We engaged quite directly with senior representatives from all the Inuit governments across the Arctic region. We focused on the investments that we’re making there. We’ve heard very clearly from them that they don’t necessarily want to deal with us one ministry at a time; they want to deal with the Crown. For that meeting, we had several ministers who are directly impacted by those investments and that discussion. We meet three times a year to advance the conversation, with consultation on how we can do that work right.

Violence against Women

Hon. Kim Pate: Welcome. Thank you for joining us today, Minister Blair. For decades, as you know, governments have pointed to the need to address violence against women as an impetus for criminal legislation that too often results in making sentences longer, harsher and more punitive. These approaches have not meaningfully prevented violence against women, including in the military.

What concrete measures has the government taken to implement the Calls for Justice of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls inquiry, as well as the recommendations of the Mass Casualty Commission and the Arbour report on sexual misconduct in the military? How will the government seek to address and redress the root causes of violence against women? What is the timeline for the full implementation of these recommendations?

Hon. Bill Blair, P.C., M.P., Minister of National Defence: Senator, if I may, I can speak a bit more fulsomely to the 48 recommendations of Justice Arbour. We have been working very closely with her. As a matter of fact, a few weeks ago, within my own office, I onboarded someone who is solely dedicated to the implementation of those recommendations.

Of course, we’re also working very closely with the Canadian Armed Forces, or CAF, including the Chief of Defence Staff, or CDS, and General Carignan, who has that responsibility within CAF. I believe we’ve made some very significant progress. For example, one of the most important recommendations made by Justice Arbour was to have sexual assault investigations done by police in the jurisdiction, not by the military police, and that those matters would be then prosecuted, if they result in prosecution, in the criminal justice system.

By ministerial directive, my predecessor directed that all of those cases would be forwarded to the criminal justice system, and that has been done.

I’ve been working closely on drafting a new legislative amendment that will bring about that change and institutionalize it to permanently establish Madam Justice Arbour’s recommendation number 5 within the Canadian Armed Forces. I hope to be able to bring forward that work, first of all, to my cabinet — I can’t get ahead of them — and, ultimately, after cabinet approval, to bring forward legislation at the earliest opportunity. I’m very hopeful to have that done before —

Senator Pate: In fact, you got ahead of me, and you know my supplementary question. Part of the reason Madam Justice Arbour recommended the transfer and why she wanted legislation is the fact that many civilian police forces have refused to act upon those cases that have been referred.

Can you share any further information about the type of legislation you’re proposing and how it will ensure that civilian forces have to take seriously the reports that are put in by the military?

Mr. Blair: I spoke with the Solicitor General of Canada and more recently with the Solicitor General of Ontario, and I have the latter’s commitment that Ontario police services will conduct those investigations. In some of the jurisdictions where there is a relatively small police service adjacent to a military base, that could present some resource challenges. I’ve undertaken to work with them to address them. I also believe, senator, that when we make legislative changes to the National Defence Act, it will articulate who is responsible for these investigations. A number of other important steps also exist.

Making sure that victims of sexual assault and sexual harassment have access to strong victim support services is also critical. Whether or not they choose to pursue an investigation, I believe it’s important to make sure that those services will be available to every member of the Armed Forces when they —

The Hon. the Speaker: Thank you, minister.

Health Care for Military Families

Hon. Percy E. Downe: Thank you, minister. The Canadian Armed Forces are short-staffed by 16,000 members. Retention and recruitment shortfalls are the worst they’ve ever been. Family consideration is an important fact for many members. I’ve been contacted by members of the Canadian Armed Forces who are concerned that, given the current health care accessibility crisis in Canada, medical support for their immediate family members will be next to impossible to obtain if they are posted to new locations in Canada.


As you’re well aware, members of the forces have access to military medical personnel, including doctors and nurses, but their family members don’t. Therefore, when they’re posted to a new location, their quality of medical care will continue, but their family members have to join a waiting list for a family doctor that, in many provinces, can be thousands of names long. For example, the wait-list for a family doctor in Prince Edward Island is over 30,000 names.

In light of this, and the impact it is surely having on recruitment and retention, why is your department not extending the Canadian Armed Forces medical coverage to members’ families, like they do in the United States?

Hon. Bill Blair, P.C., M.P., Minister of National Defence: Thank you, senator, and as you quite rightly point out, members of the Canadian Armed Forces are not insured persons under the Canada Health Act, and the Canadian Armed Forces actually provides those services. I was recently in North Bay where we opened up a new medical centre providing those services, which I think is a very important investment and an important initiative to support the men and women who serve.

However, I’ve also heard — and I don’t disagree with you at all, sir — that family members, particularly because of the way we transfer people, often go on a wait-list. By the time they reach the top of that wait-list, they’re transferred to another location. That has created a real burden.

Yesterday, I went to the Minister of Health. They are negotiating a number of different advancements to medical supports and services with each of the provinces and territories, and I’ve asked him to make, as part of those discussions, provisions in order to ensure that family members of the Canadian Armed Forces are given priority in gaining access to family health services because of the unique challenges that our members face. He’s undertaken to me that this will form part of our discussions with our provincial partners with respect to enhancements to medical services that will be provided across the country.

I am committed, senator, to continuing to work with them in order to ensure that we support military families in everything we do. Recruiting and retaining the very best talent — the men and women who work there — is a great strength of the Canadian Armed Forces, and we must ensure that we support their families.

Senator Downe: As you know, under the regulations of the forces, you have the ministerial authority to instruct the Canadian Armed Forces, as with other circumstances prescribed by the ministerial regulation team. You could do that right away.

My concern is that the Ontario government, for example, gives priority, but priority needs availability on the other end. There are simply not enough doctors and nurses in this country to assist. Your authority, as minister, could change that to duplicate what is done in the United States, where members’ families could be covered by the Canadian Armed Forces medical system. Is that something that you’re considering?

Mr. Blair: I would be concerned about the impact of the services that we do provide to the Canadian Armed Forces members. They are not insured persons under the Canada Health Act, except under exceptional circumstances where we may pay for a specialist, for example, but I do not want to take measures that would in any way take away from the important services that are provided to the members. Instead, I think the right thing to do, sir, is to make sure that their families are treated on a priority basis, and given access to the services that we have invested quite significantly in across this country. I would be very cautious about impacting the limited services that we do make available to Canadian Armed Forces members.


Arctic Sovereignty

Hon. Clément Gignac: Welcome, minister, and thank you for your public service as an MP since 2015 and, especially, for your 39 years of service in the Toronto Police Service.

As has already been mentioned, in June, the Standing Senate Committee on National Security and Defence tabled a report on Arctic security, which set out 23 recommendations. One of them stated, and I quote:

That the Government of Canada include, in its next defence policy, a section on underwater domain awareness and underwater threats.

That section should also include a plan so that the government can quickly replace Canada’s existing Victoria-class submarines with submarines that would work better in the Arctic.

Minister, have you read this report? More importantly, do you intend to follow up on this recommendation to ensure Arctic sovereignty?


Hon. Bill Blair, P.C., M.P., Minister of National Defence: Thank you very much, Senator Gignac. In addition to your recommendation, I’ve had an extensive conversation with Vice‑Admiral Topshee about the important role the Royal Canadian Navy has in maintaining security and sovereignty in our Arctic. He has told me that the current fleet of Victoria-class submarines is not entirely fit for purpose, and he’s made it very clear about the need to make significant new investments in ensuring that we have an underwater fleet that is capable of persistence so that they can stay in the region long enough; capable of stealth so that they can operate effectively; and capable of lethality so that they can take whatever action may be necessary to protect Canada’s interest in that area. I assure you that is a serious consideration for our government, and in the development of the defence policy update with respect to future requirements for the Royal Canadian Navy — ensuring our people have the platforms they need.

We’re involved in other discussions, particularly with our allies, because it’s more than just the boat — more than just the platform — as it’s also the important investment in equipment and technology that we place on board those vessels in order to support the important, essential work of the Royal Canadian Navy.


Defence Budget

Hon. Clément Gignac: The Treasury Board wants to cut roughly $1 billion from your budget, prompting General Wayne Eyre to say, and I quote, “There’s no way that you can take almost a billion dollars out of the defence budget and not have an impact . . . .”

My question is this: Don’t you think that this decision affects the morale of the Canadian Armed Forces and, especially, that it gives the impression that adding new social programs, as called for by the NDP, is a higher priority for the government than ensuring Canada’s Arctic sovereignty and meeting our NATO commitments?


Hon. Bill Blair, P.C., M.P., Minister of National Defence: The letter we received from the Treasury Board clearly indicated there was to be no impact on Canadian Armed Forces’ capabilities, or to the support that we provide to military families. One of the things that I have directed is looking at our administrative processes — the professional services that we contract for, executive travel and such things as consultation reports. I think it is incumbent upon every department of government to make sure that they’re spending Canadian taxpayers’ dollars well, and that they are as efficient as possible. I’ve also been discussing investments that we can make in efficiency and savings with the Department of National Defence.

Military Procurement

Hon. Leo Housakos: Minister, I’m sure you’re aware of the Auditor General’s and the RCMP’s investigation into the outsourcing of contracts in regard to the “ArriveScam” app. If you’re unaware, minister, it’s high time you start reading all of your emails.

One of the two executives from Dalian Enterprises testified before a House committee. He couldn’t explain what his company does for your government. This is odd, not only because this company has zero employees, but also because your government continues to award them numerous contracts. Natural Resources Canada alone has awarded Dalian three separate contracts since March of this year for almost $10 million. The Department of National Defence also uses the services of this company. As a matter of fact, I’m told that Dalian does the majority of this outsourcing with the Department of National Defence.

Surely, minister, you can tell Canadians what it is that Dalian provides to the Department of National Defence, or is this another example of a ghost company billing taxpayers through an elaborate money laundering scheme that is benefiting government insiders?

Hon. Bill Blair, P.C., M.P., Minister of National Defence: Thank you, senator. First of all, I do read my emails, but thank you for reminding me. Senator, you’re clearly confused about something there because I do read my emails.

Second, I’m not familiar with any relationship that the Department of National Defence has with that company, and, if you want to make that request of us, I’ll ensure the information is provided to you in a timely way.

Senator Housakos: With all the questions being asked, and with the RCMP’s investigation and the Auditor General’s investigation being launched on this issue, you’re telling me that you’ll look for the information. How many outsourcing firms run programs for the Department of National Defence? For example, who runs the medical services for the Department of National Defence? Is that done in-house, or is that contracted out? If it’s contracted out, can you please tell us to whom, minister? When you do contract out our services at National Defence, how many are awarded without tender or through selective tendering? These are questions that should be easily answered by a minister of the Crown. How many contracts have been awarded to Dalian by the Department of National Defence either without tender or through some kind of selective tender?


Mr. Blair: There are a few things in there, sir. First, senator, you made reference to an RCMP investigation. I’m not privy to the RCMP investigations. In any event, even if I were, it wouldn’t be information I would be sharing publicly.

If you have questions about any particular contract that National Defence may be involved in, I’ll make sure that you receive that information. I didn’t bring with me today and do not have direct knowledge of the contracts that you speak of, so I don’t want to speculate. I certainly wouldn’t give you any information of which I was uncertain.

Canadian Forces Snowbirds

Hon. Denise Batters: Minister, the Canadian Forces Snowbirds are a national treasure. Canada’s demonstration flight squadron hails from 15 Wing, Moose Jaw in my province of Saskatchewan. The Snowbirds are a potent Canadian symbol not only of our proud tradition of military excellence but also of the hope and optimism that unite us as a country.

The Snowbirds celebrated their fiftieth anniversary last year, and they need the Government of Canada’s commitment so they can soar high for the next 50 years. Their Tutor jets require replacement by 2030, so the federal government needs an immediate plan to procure these new planes.

As Minister of Defence, will you commit today to ongoing annual funding for the Snowbirds until 2030 and beyond, and will you commit to initiate a procurement plan for new jets now?

Hon. Bill Blair, P.C., M.P., Minister of National Defence: Thank you very much, senator. I have seen the Snowbirds. They are a proud Canadian tradition. I know they’ve done some really great things for us in promoting their excellent work. By the way, in 2024, we are celebrating the one hundredth anniversary of the Royal Canadian Air Force, and the Snowbirds will be an important part of that celebration.

Unfortunately, senator, I’m not prepared to make any commitment with respect to future spending. Obviously, discussions are ongoing as part of our important work in the development of the defence policy update, and we’re looking at all the different expenditures. My primary focus is ensuring that we make investments in the capability of the Canadian Armed Forces to deliver upon all the missions and commitments that we have made through NATO, through NORAD, through our Indo‑Pacific Strategy and here at home and abroad. That is our focus.

I’m aware that the fleet of planes that the Canadian Snowbirds use will, at some point in time, no longer be fit for purpose, so that’s part of our consideration. However, I’m not prepared to make a commitment on any expenditure until that work is complete.

Senator Batters: Minister Blair, the commitment by the Government of Canada to the Snowbirds is imperative. The Snowbirds are the excellent public face of the Canadian military and serve as a major recruitment tool at this time of declining membership in the Canadian Forces. Current Snowbird 2 Captain Caitlyn Clapp started dreaming of becoming a Snowbird pilot at age 12, when she saw this magnificent team perform, led by Commanding Officer Maryse Carmichael, the Snowbirds’ first female pilot. With media reports stating that your government intends to cut the National Defence budget by $1 billion, will you commit today that Canada’s beloved Snowbirds will never be sacrificed on the chopping block?

Mr. Blair: Let me repeat: I think the Snowbirds are a terrific example, and I know how important they have been to Canadians. I’ve been to those shows as well. I think they do great work on our behalf. Again, decisions are made with respect to the defence expenditure, and we’re looking at those expenditures which are necessary in order to maintain the military capability to fulfill the missions to which we have made obligations and to ensure that the Canadian Armed Forces can continue to support Canadians here, at home, and abroad. All of those things are under discussion.

I will tell you that what I’m not looking at with respect to the Treasury Board request for us to look at professional services, consulting and —

The Hon. the Speaker: Thank you, minister.

Veterans’ Spouses—Survivor Benefits

Hon. Bev Busson: Minister Blair, it’s good to see you again. For as long as I’ve been a veteran, and long before that, there has been a policy at Veterans Affairs Canada that a spouse of a veteran married after 60 years of age cannot be eligible for the survivor benefits after the veteran’s death that a spouse married before age 60 is entitled to.

Your government has long acknowledged this injustice and ignores the longevity of these relationships today, often marked by loving caregiving for the veteran in their later years. This misogynistic policy has been called the “gold digger’s rule” and relates to veterans of both the RCMP and the Canadian Armed Forces.

Minister Blair, will you encourage the government to rectify this harmful and archaic rule?

Hon. Bill Blair, P.C., M.P., Minister of National Defence: Thank you very much, senator. In anticipation of that, I asked for notes but they’re far too long, and I don’t have near enough time to read them to you.

First, I want to acknowledge that provision of that act. I also wish to point out that the Standing Committee on Veterans Affairs tabled a report, and a response was provided by the Minister of Veterans Affairs, which we have supported with respect to that. I believe that there’s a program now run by Veterans Affairs Canada which has committed $150 million over five years to support veterans and their spouses who were married over the age of 60.

I recognize the concern. Frankly, my wife and I just celebrated our forty-sixth anniversary, so I do believe in marriage after 60. I know the circumstances that you speak of here. We want to ensure that all of our veterans are treated appropriately and fairly. I’m aware of the concern that you’ve expressed about that provision and I believe that we are committed to continuing to work with Veterans Affairs. By the way, I know it is the responsibility of National Defence. We administer the Canadian Forces Superannuation Act, which contains that provision. We’re working with Veterans Affairs to make sure that everyone is treated appropriately.

Senator Busson: Thank you, Minister Blair. As you know, many spouses, both male and female, face difficult financial distress, even homelessness, because of this rule. I hope you will take a personal commitment to make sure that this is properly addressed by your government and by Veterans Affairs.


Hon. Tony Loffreda: Minister, I would welcome further commentary on your efforts on culture change and the efforts undertaken to improve the diversity of the Canadian Armed Forces. You mentioned the issue was important and deserved more time.

Hon. Bill Blair, P.C., M.P., Minister of National Defence: Thank you, sir. I’d like to talk about some of the steps that we have been able to take. I reached out to Madam Justice Arbour. I wanted to understand not just what her recommendation says but, frankly, what the thinking behind it was. We had an opportunity to talk quite extensively. It was a helpful conversation for me because we talked about some of the impediments that currently existed for people in the Canadian Armed Forces, and we were able to act quickly on some of those recommendations.

For example, there was a rule previously that required a member of the Canadian Armed Forces to exhaust all other avenues of remedies, such as grievance procedures, before they could go to the Canadian Human Rights Commission to lodge a complaint. We lifted that requirement so that Canadian Armed Forces members, like every other Canadian, could go directly to the Canadian Human Rights Commission to lodge a complaint.

I also needed to understand Justice Arbour’s recommendation with respect to duty to report. Justice Arbour had recommended that the duty to report would be lifted because it created an unfair burden upon many victims of discrimination and harassment within the Canadian Armed Forces. After I spoke to Justice Arbour, I went back to my people and said there were more circumstances. Justice Arbour had recommended it for sexual harassment and sexual assault, but we recognized there were other forms of discrimination, such as racism, that a member could experience, so we removed the requirement for duty to report for all circumstances, not just the ones recommended by her.

Senator Loffreda: Minister, does your biggest concern lie in recruitment? How imperative or arduous is the task of fleet renewal given what we are experiencing with the budget cuts?


Mr. Blair: First of all, my concern is not only for recruitment because we have to get the best talent coming in the door, but I am also concerned about retention because we have extraordinary men and women in the Canadian Armed Forces. I want to make sure we provide them with the appropriate supports for housing, child care, health services, et cetera, but it is also important that we create a work environment that is respectful, inclusive and safe.

The priority is all of those things.

You mentioned the fleet. Making sure our people have the right equipment, access to the appropriate kit and in circumstances where there is an aging fleet, for example, either a motor vehicle or air platform —

The Hon. the Speaker: Thank you, minister.

Equipment Renewal

Hon. Dennis Glen Patterson: Minister, welcome.

As a senator from Nunavut, I am concerned about the urgent need to replace our venerable Aurora aircraft, which were procured in 1980. They have been monitoring our Arctic coast faithfully, soon beyond their shelf life. Public Services and Procurement Canada says that the P-8 Poseidon has been identified as the only currently available aircraft that meets all of the Canadian multi-mission aircraft operational requirements. It is noteworthy that our other Five Eyes partners, as well as our allies in the Indo-Pacific, already use the P-8. Interoperability is crucial, as you know.

My question is this: The letter of offer to purchase this badly needed upgrade is set to expire on November 30, 2023. When will your government be signing on the dotted line?

Hon. Bill Blair, P.C., M.P., Minister of National Defence: It is an important question. It occupies much of our current thinking right now.

The replacement of the multi-mission aircraft is a priority. The current fleet of CP-140s that are in service is coming to the end of their effective life. Although the crews we have flying them are among the best in the world, we have to make sure they have the right platform to do their important work.

Those aircraft perform a very important function for submarine detection and in search and rescue across the North. As I said, they are multi-mission.

As of this moment, senator, the decision has not been made. The statements that you referenced that we have heard with respect to the evaluation of one of those aircraft is accurate, and that information has been shared. I’ve also been meeting with other representatives in the aeronautics industry. It is an important decision that needs to be made in a timely way. That work is urgently ongoing. When that decision is made, we’ll be able to announce it. I’m not prepared to announce it today.

Senator D. Patterson: Arctic sovereignty and security are top of mind for many Canadians who are focused on Arctic policy. We have seen that in the questions asked today. Our ally the United States is closely watching how we move on the North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD, modernization file. I’m aware of your government’s multi-point plan on how to proceed, but there is a need to get going now on procurement. Our forward operating location, or FOL, hangars in the North are now too small to accommodate the F-35s your government is committed to buying, and the airstrips in Iqaluit, Rankin Inlet and Nunavik need to be lengthened for F-35s.

Like many of us, I would like to know how much of the promised $38.6 billion has your government spent to date, and how many contracts have you successfully tendered?

Mr. Blair: It’s fair to say, senator, that we have not made a lot of progress in spending that money, but there is very significant work ongoing regarding what the money should be spent on. It’s not just a matter of writing the cheque, as you well know. There has to be — and there are — ongoing extensive consultations with territorial governments and with Indigenous, Inuit and First Nation governments in order to make sure that we make investments that work for the communities.

I’ve travelled to the region myself; I have been there with you. One thing I heard clearly is that sovereignty is more than just a plane flying over or a ship sailing past. It really is investments in multi-use infrastructure that not only benefits the local community but also helps support the local community because they support our work in the Canadian Armed Forces to provide that presence and sovereignty —


The Hon. the Speaker: Thank you, minister.

Honourable senators, the time for Question Period has expired.


I am certain you will join me in thanking Minister Blair for joining us today.


We will now resume the proceedings that were interrupted at the start of Question Period.



Criminal Code

Bill to Amend—Third Reading—Debate Continued

On the Order:

Resuming debate on the motion of the Honourable Senator Gold, P.C., seconded by the Honourable Senator LaBoucane-Benson, for the third reading of Bill C-48, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (bail reform), as amended.

Hon. Paula Simons: Honourable senators, I rise today to speak to Bill C-48, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (bail reform).

I want to start by telling you the story of Shawn Rehn and give a warning: The stories I’m about to tell today are difficult to hear.

Shawn Rehn earned his first criminal conviction for assault at the precocious age of 15. He was 18 when he served his first jail sentence: 60 days for break and enter and theft. Over the next 16 years, he created a rap sheet that ran for pages: dangerous operation of a motor vehicle; possession of stolen property; housebreaking; careless storage of a firearm; driving while disqualified; refusing to provide a breath sample; escaping lawful custody — dozens of charges and dozens of convictions.

But the longest sentence Rehn ever received was five years in jail. He served three because he got credit for time spent in pretrial remand. His final conviction was in 2013 for assault. He served just one day because he had already spent almost two weeks in pretrial detention.

Certainly, the Parole Board of Canada was under no illusions about Mr. Rehn:

The Board believes you are a dangerous person who has demonstrated blatant disregard toward the criminal justice system as well as lack of respect to the public in general. . . . Your crimes are continuous and increasing in seriousness and often resulted in serious psychological, emotional and financial harm to victims.

You have engrained attitudes, values and beliefs that support crime. . . . Prior sentences failed to stop you or rehabilitate you from committing crimes.

Then, on a cold Saturday in January 2015, Shawn Rehn, 34-years-old and out on bail, shot RCMP Constable David Wynn, 42, and Auxiliary Constable Derek Bond, 49, at the Apex Casino in St. Albert, a peaceful suburb north of Edmonton. Constable Bond recovered physically, but suffered profound emotional trauma that left him unable to work for years afterward. David Wynn died later in hospital.

What happened to Shawn Rehn? He sped away in a stolen truck, broke into an empty house and killed himself.

Why had Rehn been granted bail in the first place? That was the answer everyone demanded. In the aftermath of that terrible tragedy, the Alberta government launched a public inquiry into Alberta’s bail system headed by Nancy Irving, former general counsel for the Public Prosecution Service of Canada.

Back in 2015, Alberta had a system of bail hearings that usually happened without any lawyers present. Police officers, without legal training, acted in the role of prosecutors in 99% of all bail applications. The accused didn’t have counsel either. In her inquiry report, Irving found that only 7% to 10% of people arrested by the Edmonton Police Service actually had legal counsel when they appeared before a justice of the peace to ask for bail.

At that time, there was no access in Alberta to legal aid for initial bail hearings, so roughly 90% of those arrested had to represent themselves.

To add to the problems, back in 2015, there was no reliable way for the presenting police officers to access an accused’s criminal record. The police officer who appeared at Shawn Rehn’s bail hearing didn’t have Rehn’s record available to them. That wasn’t atypical; many times, said Irving, the presenting police officers, who had no legal training, didn’t even realize they could demand a revocation of bail for someone like Rehn, who had allegedly committed more crimes while on bail.

In the wake of Irving’s powerful report, which was issued in April 2016, the Notley government enacted some real bail reform. It stopped using police officers to oppose bail applications and assigned that role to Crown prosecutors. It started providing legal aid duty counsel to every person applying for bail, all across the province. It made sure that the Crown and the duty counsel had access to criminal records.

Those were concrete, common sense reforms that simultaneously increased the safety and security of the community and protected the rights of the accused. Those reforms made the bail system run more smoothly, more transparently and more fairly for all concerned. They were, in short, reforms that served the cause of justice writ large. Yet if you ask most Albertans today what they really remember about the whole affair, it is that a police officer on duty was murdered by a man out on bail. It’s the kind of ugly memory that haunts our society. No matter what positive changes were made afterwards, what remains is a lingering impression that our bail system is broken and makes our country more dangerous.


So what should we emphasize in terms of public policy: changes that make our bail system better and safer or changes that make us look tough on crime without making our lives much more secure? This, my friends, is the problem with Bill C-48. It is not bail reform. It is tough-on-crime cosplay. Yes, the bill has the unanimous support of all 10 provinces and 3 territories. Yes, it received unanimous consent of the House of Commons. That, alas, does not make it good public policy.

The bill, as we have heard, reverses the onus in bail applications for a handful of crimes and circumstances that the government has deemed particularly heinous. What does that reverse onus mean? Well, normally the default is that people are granted bail, often with some kind of strict conditions, and it is traditionally up to the Crown to prove why someone should be denied bail. The Crown has all kinds of resources at its disposal to make that case. It is the Crown that must make those arguments and take on the responsibility of demonstrating its case.

Reversing the onus means that defendants must prove why they deserve bail, and they won’t be released until they can do so. That puts the burden on individuals who don’t have the power and resources of the state behind them. The end result will be to weigh the balance of justice against people who may not be equipped to advocate for themselves and will presumably lead to more people being denied bail and held in overcrowded remand facilities pending trial.

Just this week, The Globe and Mail released a bleak investigation into this very problem. It found that in Ontario only 15.9% of inmates in provincial custody had actually been convicted of a crime, and 80.4% were being held in remand, with another 3.7% in immigration detention or police custody. In Alberta, things weren’t much better. There, 77% of inmates in provincial custody had not been convicted or sentenced. In British Columbia, it was 74%. That’s a dramatic change from 25 or 30 years ago, when the ratio of inmates on remand in Canada was between 23% and 30%.

Bill C-48 will only make this situation worse, especially for those — many of them Indigenous or racialized — who don’t have the money or the settled living conditions that allow them to make bail or live up to their bail conditions.

The way the bail system works now, justices of the peace and judges already have the right to deny bail if the accused is a flight risk or a danger to the public or if releasing them could bring the administration of justice into disrepute. In cold, practical terms, Bill C-48 does not actually give judges or justices of the peace any new powers, and it will make neither our streets nor our homes any safer.

Still, we do need bail reform in this country — real reform. We need to ensure that when people are released on bail, they have the supports and supervision they need to meet and maintain their bail conditions and they are not a danger to the community at large. We cannot, practically or constitutionally, deny bail to everyone charged with a crime or everyone who might be a threat. What we really need is a robust bail system that ensures that when people are out on bail, they are abiding by their conditions of release and are not a risk to the public or their families.

Let me share another, more recent story with you.

On April 29, 2022, a young man named Justin Bone was released on bail from the Edmonton Remand Centre. He had been charged with breaking and entering. Between 2005 and 2018, Bone had accumulated more than 30 convictions, ranging from failures to comply with court orders to escaping lawful custody to assault with a weapon to robbery to sexual interference.

By the terms of his bail conditions, he was to live in Alberta Beach, a little village west of Edmonton, with his surety, a family friend who had agreed to supervise him. His bail conditions specified that he was not to be in Edmonton at any time without supervision. He was also supposed to attend an addiction treatment facility but was apparently unable to do so because the program had no places available.

On May 15, the friend with whom Bone had been living — his bail surety — called the Parkland detachment of the RCMP to report that Bone had become threatening and violent. The surety said that Bone could no longer stay there. The RCMP could have rearrested Bone and charged him with breaching his bail conditions. Instead, in a kind of reverse starlight tour, the RCMP officers actually drove Bone some 70 kilometres to Edmonton and just, well, dropped him off.

Three days later, on May 18, 2022, two men who worked in Edmonton’s Chinatown, Hung Trang, age 64, and Ban Phuc Hoang, age 61, were assaulted and brutally beaten in two separate attacks. Hung Trang had worked at a well-known local autobody shop. Ban Phuc Hoang owned his own electronics store. Mr. Hoang died at the scene of the assault. Mr. Trang died the next day in hospital. Justin Bone was arrested and charged with two counts of second-degree murder.

After the tragedy in Edmonton, the city’s mayor, Amarjeet Sohi, remarked:

This person should never have been released from the remand centre without a proper plan in place for housing and access to treatment services.

Those are words that apply all across Canada to communities large and small. Our bail system cannot work if we release people under conditions they cannot meet.

Just this past July, Rukinisha Nkundabatware, age 52, a father of seven, was stabbed to death at Edmonton’s Belvedere LRT station. Edmonton police arrested Jamal Joshua Malik Wheeler, age 27, and charged him with second-degree murder. Court records show Wheeler had an extensive criminal record, including convictions for assault, forcible entry and robbery.

According to an open letter that Mayor Sohi wrote to then‑Justice Minister David Lametti, the accused man was out on bail on the condition that he was under 24-hour house arrest. Instead, according to the mayor, the suspect was unhoused and living rough on the streets in a tent not far from the LRT station. To quote Mayor Sohi yet again:

I struggle to comprehend why someone who could be a risk to others was released into our city without a plan in place to ensure they would not reoffend.

If we’re serious about bail reform at all, what we need are systems in place to ensure that people who are released on bail — especially if they have serious mental health and addiction issues — aren’t just dumped in the middle of some city somewhere without support, supervision or even a place to sleep. We need to ensure that those released on bail aren’t set up to fail or left unsupervised to hurt others. We need to ensure that treatment facilities and bail beds are properly funded. We need to ensure that our Crown prosecutors, legal aid defenders, justices of the peace and judges have the resources they need to do their jobs well. We need to restore public trust in our bail system, which starts with doing a better job of explaining how and why people get bail in the first place. The administration of justice should not be a kind of popularity contest where we adopt dubious policies simply because people are angry, nor should we push legislation through by preying on the fears of Canadians.

Today, I have told you three terrible, chilling stories about bail releases gone wrong. But you’ll never hear the thousands and thousands of stories of people who were released on bail without incident, who came to court when they were supposed to and who were either acquitted or served their sentences. We remember the horror stories because they haunt our nightmares. If we’re going to draw on those terrible outliers to shape public policy, let’s be sure we draw the right lessons and not the wrong ones from what they teach us.

In Canada, we probably remember Lord Sankey best for his decision in the Persons Case, where he argued that women were persons and that Canada’s Constitution was a living tree, capable of growth and change. But Lord Sankey’s remarks about reverse onus in our common law also bear repeating:

No matter what the charge or where the trial, the principle that the prosecution must prove the guilt of the prisoner is part of the common law of England and no attempt to whittle it down can be entertained.

A bail hearing, of course, is not a trial. The thresholds are not the same. But the principle at the heart of our justice system remains. Bill C-48 whittles down — just a bit — our traditional and treasured presumptions of innocence. It frays the golden thread that binds our common law together. And it does all that without giving Canada the bail reform it actually needs to keep our country safer. Thank you, hiy hiy.

(On motion of Senator Martin, 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 3:51 p.m., the Senate was continued until tomorrow at 2 p.m.)

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