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Perspectives — November 21-23, 2017
Perspectives — November 21-23, 2017
November 28, 2017
OPINION

Last week at the Senate: the tragic passing away of Senator Enverga, breaking the glass ceiling, National Child Day and a bill on roadside drug and alcohol testing.

Government

It took 375 years after the founding of Montreal by Jeanne Mance and Paul de Chomedey de Maisonneuve for Quebec’s largest city to elect its first woman mayor. With 51% of the vote, Valérie Plante became the only woman to lead a major metropolitan area in North America. She now belongs to the exclusive club of women at the helm of a major world city, such as Paris, Tokyo, Stockholm, Cape Town, Madrid and Sydney.

It is now 2017. Why is the list of women mayors so short? As we try to answer that, here are a couple of other tough questions: What obstacles are now standing in the way of equality? How can we encourage women to get into politics? How can we support them in their roles? These are good questions, and Montreal’s example can help us find answers.

In fact, as pointed out by Le Devoir on the November 5 election, there is some great news: “There were already some serious cracks in it, but Montreal’s glass ceiling has finally been shattered: for the first time in its history, there are now more women than men on Montreal’s city council.”

Let us celebrate Montreal and pay tribute to all the women who have decided to get involved in politics at all levels, including municipal politics.

But let us also work on tearing down the barriers keeping women around the world out of politics so that in the near future, Ms. Plante will be joined by many other women mayors.

The dedication shown by women who enter politics makes me very proud to be a Montrealer and a Quebecker. Let us support these women so they can fully assume their role within our democracies.


Opposition

I am deeply saddened to learn of the passing of our colleague and friend, Senator Tobias C. Enverga, Jr.

Senator Enverga will be greatly missed by all who had the pleasure of knowing him, and equally by those who were not fortunate enough to cross his path. He was a man of great conviction and a hardworking parliamentarian. Through his efforts in the Chamber and across Canada, Senator Enverga had earned the respect and admiration of his colleagues and fellow citizens.

Senator Enverga was the first Filipino-Canadian elected to public office in the City of Toronto, having served as a school trustee for the Toronto Catholic District School Board. He also founded the Philippine Canadian Charitable Foundation. He was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012 for his community work.

He was also the first Filipino-Canadian Senator. 

Senator Enverga advocated tirelessly for people for Down syndrome, a condition that one of his daughters has, offering a strong and dedicated voice for those who could not speak for themselves. He worked tirelessly for Canadians and to be the voice of his community. Senator Enverga was a true embodiment of what it meant to be a Canadian, a senator, and most importantly, a friend.

On behalf of the Senate Conservative Caucus, I wish to extend my sincere condolences to his wife Rosemer, their three daughters, Rystle, Reeza and Rocel, as well to his family. Our thoughts and prayers are with you during this difficult time.


Senate Liberals

November 20 marked Universal Children’s Day and National Child Day in Canada, a recognition of the 1989 unanimous adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child by the United Nations.

This UN Convention provides an invaluable framework for enabling children to live and grow and flourish. Eliminating social inequities and respecting children’s rights begins with making the choice to do so. While Canada made this choice when it ratified the convention in December 1991, we are not meeting our obligations to all children of this country.

National Child Day reminds us not only of what has been accomplished, but also of the work that needs to be done, particularly for the most vulnerable, like indigenous children or those with physical or intellectual disabilities.

There are inconsistencies in health and mental health services, access to healthy food and clean water, and education services across this country. For this reason, I continue to encourage the creation of a national commissioner for children and youth in Canada. This would level the playing field for all children, so that no matter the economic or social situation they are born into, they have the chance to succeed and achieve their greatest potential.

One of the most important and greatest commitments a society can make is to its children. There is a saying: You can seek the wisdom of the ages, but always look at the world through the eyes of a child.


Independent Senators Group

This week we catch a glimpse of the Senate through the eyes of Independent Senator Raymonde Saint-Germain (Quebec).

Driving is not a right but a privilege that comes with responsibilities to ensure public safety. Although impaired driving is the most common offence brought before criminal courts, there have been major improvements in annual impaired driving rates since the 1980s. Enforcement and awareness campaigns seem to be making a difference, but there is always room for improvement.

However, I am puzzled by certain aspects of Bill C-46, such as the constitutionality of random alcohol breath testing. Canada would be adopting the Australian model, which gives police full authority to conduct random alcohol screenings. In order to strike a better balance between public safety and individual rights, there are two alternatives:

  1. Mandatory screening only at organized and announced roadblocks; and
  2. Mandatory screening following a traffic accident that results in injury or death.

It is also worth emphasizing the potential consequences of the new random alcohol testing approach for racial minorities. Under the current legislation, police can require a breath sample if there are reasonable grounds to suspect that the driver has alcohol in their system. This was put in place to strike a fair balance between law enforcement powers and the reasonable expectation of privacy.

Eliminating the requirement to have reasonable grounds for suspicion gives police arbitrary powers that run the risk of increased racial profiling. It is our duty to ensure that racialized minorities are protected against the risk of discrimination arising from the new approach to alcohol screening.