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Perspectives — May 14-16, 2019
May 22, 2019
OPINION

Last week in the Senate: Protecting the languages of Indigenous Peoples, opposition to Bill C-48 at committee, improving palliative care for all Canadians and protecting Canada’s oceans.


Government

The oceans are home to a wondrous array of species, from tiny invertebrates to the biggest creature that has ever existed on earth — the blue whale. Oceans may seem endless, inexhaustible and indestructible, but the opposite is true. They are delicate life systems now in serious decline.

That’s why the passage of Bill C-55 — legislation that protects and improves the health of Canada's oceans — is such an important milestone. The bill makes it easier to create marine protected areas off our coasts and is one of three government bills in line for Royal Assent after receiving final approval in the Senate last week.

The legislation helps deliver on Canada’s international commitment to increase the protection of marine and coastal areas from 7.75% to 10% by 2020 — targets set out in the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity.

Two other bills are also set to be law. Bill C-85 makes the legislative changes required to ratify the modernized Canada-Israel Free Trade Agreement, which first came into force in 1997. Bill S-6, which originated in the Senate and cleared the House of Commons last week, implements a tax convention between Canada and Madagascar.

When the Senate sitting resumes on May 27, we will continue debate and examination of 12 government bills, including legislation to regulate firearms, legislation to replace Canada’s current system of administrative segregation in federal prisons and legislation to improve the rules for the assessment of major projects.


Opposition

Conservative senators have been clear from the outset of debate on bills C-48 and C-69 that it was important for the Senate to get outside the Ottawa bubble, and make sure Canadians had an opportunity to have their say.

Well, Canadians spoke loud and clear and the result of their speaking out has been dramatic.

One of the two controversial Liberal bills that have stoked the fires of national disunity has been defeated.

Bill C-48 was defeated last Wednesday at the Senate Committee on Transport and Communications meeting. The bill was largely seen as antagonistic toward Alberta and Saskatchewan, since — unlike the name of the bill would suggest — it did not actually stop tankers from travelling through British Columbia’s Hecate Strait.

Instead, it simply banned the offloading of Western Canada oil via pipeline to vessels. This bill would only make the issue of landlocked Canadian oil worse. Last Thursday, Conservative senators put forward 90 amendments to Bill C-69 that reflect the concerns of provincial governments and front-line energy companies that provide more than 130,000 middle-class jobs across the country.

We still have serious concerns about Bill C-69, but these amendments help bring the bill into equilibrium when it comes to balancing the environment and the economy. It’s now up to the Senate Chamber and the government to decide if it will respect the decisions of these committees.

Conservative senators will continue to fight for our regions, and our energy workers, with every tool available at our disposal.


Senate Liberals

Last week, I rose in the Senate to speak about National Hospice Palliative Care Week, which took place from May 5 to 11. Given that death, dying, loss and bereavement touch us all, I felt it was important to highlight and acknowledge the importance of end-of-life care.

The Canadian Hospice Palliative Care Association has called this year’s campaign, “Busting the Myths.” In my speech, I aimed to outline some of those myths, and how to dispel them.

One such myth is that palliative care only relates to pain control, when, in fact, it also encompasses psychological, social, emotional, spiritual, care giver and practical support. Another myth is that one is not ready to receive palliative care, when at least 89% of people with a life-limiting illness can benefit from it.

Many people believe that receiving palliative care or talking about dying means admitting defeat or causes stress to loved ones. In reality, the more we talk about death and dying and end-of-life care, the more we facilitate acceptance and understanding of how palliative care can positively impact people’s lives. We should encourage initiating conversations about palliative care with physicians and incorporate future health care plans into discussions with loved ones and not assume they are aware of our wishes.

The number of Canadians requiring end-of-life care is increasing drastically so we must advocate for quality hospice palliative care that is accessible to all Canadians.


Independent Senators Group

Some decades ago, I had the pleasure of studying linguistics and modern languages.

I also had the privilege of living and working in Botswana and Indonesia. When immersed in another culture and language one comes to understand the people and how they see the world.

These experiences have shaped how I understand and view the importance of language and have helped inform my study of Bill C-91, An Act respecting Indigenous Languages.

During the committee’s pre-study, we heard of the tragic loss of languages across Canada. Yet, we also heard of many innovative and valiant efforts of Indigenous Peoples across this nation to reclaim, revitalize, promote and protect their precious and sacred languages.

As a member of the Special Senate Committee on the Arctic, I have also heard this repeated throughout the experience of the Inuit during our study of the significant and rapid changes to the Arctic.

Bill C-91 is about more than language; it is about agency and self-determination. For a person to have agency means they have the will, the power and the capacity to lead and act. 

We have heard loudly and clearly from Inuit leaders and their First Nations and Métis counterparts that their languages are essential to having the capacity to lead and develop the strong, healthy and proud communities they want and of which they were deprived for far too long.

The time to address this important issue is now and I am proud to be part of this important step.