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Perspectives — April 30-May 2, 2019
May 8, 2019
OPINION

Last week in the Senate: Concerns about bills C-48 and C-69, marking Jewish Heritage Month, promoting organ and tissue donation in Canada and fighting climate change.


Government

Recently, Canadians learned that our country, on average, is experiencing warming at twice the rate of the rest of the world, with Northern Canada heating up at almost three times the global average.

This is according to a new government study called Canada’s Changing Climate Report (CCCR), authored by scientists from Environment and Climate Change Canada, Fisheries and Oceans Canada and Natural Resources Canada, and university experts from across the country.

The report reveals that, since 1948, Canada's annual average temperature over land has warmed 1.7 C.  In Northern Canada, the annual average temperature has increased by 2.3 C.

The CCCR indicates that while warming in Canada has been the result of both human activity and natural variations in the climate, "the human factor is dominant," especially in terms of greenhouse gas emissions.

The result is that, as the average temperature rises, Canada will experience an increase in precipitation during winter, a heightened risk of flooding in spring, and water supply shortages in summer.  Additionally, warming will intensify the severity of heat waves and contribute to higher risks of drought and wildfires.

This is a truly dire situation, which requires immediate action on the part of all Canadians.

The federal government is leading the way with a comprehensive plan to help Canada meet our emissions reduction targets, grow the economy, and build resilience to a changing climate. Together, we must all make it our top priority to protect our environment and reverse the effects of climate change before it’s too late.


Opposition

Over the past few weeks, senators have heard from Canadians about the impacts of bills C-48 and C-69.

To put it mildly, concern is growing all across the country.

We’ve heard from First Nations in British Columbia who oppose the federal government unilaterally blocking their right to self-determination and their ability to develop their economy. The newly elected Premier of Alberta, Jason Kenney, testified this week that C-69 and C-48 are fanning the flames of a national unity crisis.

And while he and former Premier Rachel Notley may not agree on many things, they have both delivered strong messages to the Upper Chamber saying these bills need to be completely overhauled.

Minister Eyre from Saskatchewan made it clear that her government is opposed to Bill C-48 in its current form.

Voices from Newfoundland and Labrador all the way to British Columbia have come forward to condemn these bills. It’s time now for a long, hard look at bills C-48 and C-69. Our Conservative senators will lead the charge in the Senate to propose significant changes to these bills to address the concerns we have heard from Canadians.

The stakes are high and we need to do this right.


Senate Liberals

Last week, I moved second reading of Bill C-316, An Act to amend the Canada Revenue Agency Act (organ and tissue donors), which proposes a very simple method to increase the size of the organ donor and tissue donor base in Canada.

If passed, this bill would use the annual tax form to ask Canadians if they would like to become a registered organ and tissue donor, and if so, the information would be passed on to be added to provincial registries.

With more than 4,500 Canadians waiting for a transplant, time is of the essence. One donor can save up to eight lives through organ donation, and enhance the lives of up to 75 people through the gift of tissue. But while 90% of Canadians support organ donation, only 25% are registered to donate. In fact, Canada has some of the lowest organ donation rates in the industrialized world.

We all recall the Humboldt bus crash, which claimed the lives of 16 people and injured 13 more. The news that one of the victims of the tragic accident, Logan Boulet, signed a donor card just weeks before the crash prompted others to do the same. Logan ended up saving six lives and his story will save countless more.

There is some progress, but there is more work to do. I look forward to the passage of Bill C-316 so that more Canadians can show their willingness to help those waiting for transplants.


Independent Senators Group

Credit to Senator Linda Frum’s efforts, May 1 marked the beginning of Canadian Jewish Heritage Month, a time to celebrate Jewish culture and reflect on the significant contributions that have been made — and continue to be made — by many. May 1 was also Holocaust Remembrance Day (known abroad as Yom HaShoah), Israel's day of commemoration for the approximately 6 million Jews murdered in the Holocaust.

On this day, I stood in the Senate Chamber to recognize the late Philip Riteman, a husband, father, successful businessman and Holocaust survivor.

During the Second World War, Riteman and his family were captured by the occupying Nazi government in Poland and were sent to Auschwitz. Only Riteman — prisoner number 98706 — survived. After the war, Riteman’s surviving aunts contacted him and encouraged him to settle in Newfoundland.

Newfoundland had yet to join Canada and did not share our country’s prohibitions on Jewish immigration. In his book Millions of Souls, Riteman discusses his love for the Newfoundland people, and how they restored his faith in humanity, giving him so much and expecting nothing in return.

Forty years after the Holocaust, Riteman broke his silence about what he had witnessed and endured. Travelling to schools, universities, churches and military bases around the world, Riteman shared his painful memories with a commitment to a more just society.

In the recent wave of anti-Semitism, we must echo the message to which Philip Riteman dedicated his life: love — not hate — can conquer the world.