House of Commons Hansard #128 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was police.

Topics

The Constitution
Oral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

Somalia Inquiry
Oral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Reform

Jack Frazer Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, the chairman of the Somalia inquiry has accused both the Prime Minister and the defence minister of political interference with the inquiry, interference unprecedented in Canadian history.

Before the decision was even made, the chairman had advised the privy council that such interference would cause a whitewash, yet the Prime Minister proceeded to shut down the inquiry anyway.

My question is to the Prime Minister. Why did the Prime Minister choose a whitewash over the truth by closing down the inquiry? Are his interests in the Canadian forces or are they strictly political?

Somalia Inquiry
Oral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Acadie—Bathurst
New Brunswick

Liberal

Douglas Young Minister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I must say that I am astounded by the tone of the question from my hon. friend.

As I have often said in this place, the hon. member had a distinguished career in the Canadian forces. Surely if he is staying in touch with his colleagues who are still serving in the Canadian forces both in Canada and elsewhere around the world he would know that what we are doing is construed by many as being absolutely essential to the future of the Canadian forces because we have to get on with doing the things that are required.

The one thing I will say in response to my hon. friend's question is that we have not interfered nor do we have any intention of interfering in the process that involves the Somalia inquiry.

I have as much respect for the judicial process and I am sure the hon. chairman of the Somalia inquiry has for the political process and the need to keep the two very separate all the time.

Somalia Inquiry
Oral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Reform

Jack Frazer Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I served for 36 years in the armed forces and I was proud of that. Incidents that have happened since Somalia have caused me to question whether I can still be proud of it. I wonder if the minister realizes the impact of the inquiry.

The Prime Minister, the defence minister and the justice minister all admit to being lawyers, but now their appointed lawyer, Justice Létourneau, has accused them of political interference in the process of the Somalia inquiry. He said that in future judges may have to think about whether they will accept serving on an inquiry because of political interference.

Has it been worth it: a cover-up, a whitewash? Is it worth sacrificing judicial independence for selfish political gain?

Somalia Inquiry
Oral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Acadie—Bathurst
New Brunswick

Liberal

Douglas Young Minister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, the member has touched on a question that is of vital importance, as I indicated in an earlier response this afternoon.

If judges or other Canadians called on to participate in this form of inquiry make it a pre-condition that once the inquiry begins they be allowed to continue as long as they wish to ensure that everybody is heard, that every question is addressed and that every document is examined, then that is a legitimate question.

We need to know from my hon. friend whether the commission or anyone else in this place, or anyone else who is observing this scene, agrees with that kind of a prospect, that once a process called a commission of inquiry has begun that not only is it a whitewash, it is a carte blanche.

Somalia Inquiry
Oral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Brien Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Prime Minister.

Time and time again, the Prime Minister has told this House that the Somalia commission can hear any witness it wants concerning the cover-up in the Somalia affair, although Justice Létourneau said this morning that the government had in fact been advised that imposing a June 30 deadline would prevent the commission from hearing a number of key witnesses, including Ms. Campbell.

How can the Prime Minister maintain that it is business as usual for the Somalia commission, when, this morning, Justice Létourneau described the Prime Minister's statements as "misleading and unjust"?

Somalia Inquiry
Oral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Acadie—Bathurst
New Brunswick

Liberal

Douglas Young Minister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, the chairman of the Somalia commission of inquiry made a statement this morning. Thus far, I have refrained from commenting on the evidence heard by the commission, and I am not about to comment on remarks made by the judge who has judicial authority over the whole process.

I think it is very important, in such matters, to always try to strike a balance between the role of the players in a judicial inquiry and the role of the government. Not only is it a custom and a tradition but it is also a Canadian reality that I intend to respect.

Somalia Inquiry
Oral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Brien Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, this role is viewed by the public as government interference in a commission trying to shed light on the matter.

I must point out that, last April, the former Minister of National Defence announced that the worst was still to come in the Somalia affair. Clearly, this government knows things it does not want the commission and the public to know.

Is the deadline imposed on the commission by the government not designed to ensure that the public will never know what the worst is?

Somalia Inquiry
Oral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Acadie—Bathurst
New Brunswick

Liberal

Douglas Young Minister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I am convinced that the Canadians who have been following the commission's proceedings realize full well that, the incidents in Somalia that resulted in the death of a number of Somali are basically unacceptable to the people of Canada.

What is of interest to me in the hon. member's question is whether he thinks that, while the commission has already heard in excess of 100 witnesses, we really must comment on the witnesses who were invited to testify? Or that we should have set the commission's schedule?

The hon. member is no doubt aware of the fact that, originally, hearings were scheduled to conclude by the end of December 1995. The government has agreed to extend the commission's mandate three times already. And, the last time, it was extended to the end of June.

If the hon. member and his party believe that commissions of inquiry should have carte blanche and that, once they have begun, they should carry on until everyone is happy, the hon. member should propose this to the Canadian public and see how it reacts.

Employment
Oral Question Period

February 12th, 1997 / 2:45 p.m.

Liberal

Roy Cullen Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, in communities across Canada there are a large number of young people, university graduates, who cannot find jobs and who are seriously underemployed. At the same time, companies in my riding cannot fill job openings because the right skills or the right trades are not available.

My question is directed to the Minister of Human Resources Development.

While recognizing and respecting provincial jurisdiction over education, can the minister tell the House how the federal government can get involved to find a solution to this thorny issue, and what it intends to do in this regard?

Employment
Oral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

Papineau—Saint-Michel
Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew Minister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague for his excellent question. This morning, along with 13 of my colleagues, I had the very great privilege of announcing the strategy for youth employment that we are offering to Canadian youths who face a very challenging situation in entering a complex and difficult labour market.

We are working very hard at plugging these young Canadians into the new economy. This morning we created a web site to give them information on all available programs. We are doing this in partnership with the private sector and non-governmental organizations.

They will have internships in the growth sectors of the economy that will allow them to get jobs. We are building on programs that have been demonstrated they work well. Sixty-eight per cent of young people who have participated in an internship program have got a job within six months.

Somalia Inquiry
Oral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

Reform

Chuck Strahl Fraser Valley East, BC

Mr. Speaker, here is a summary of this case to date. There was a murder. There was a cover-up of that murder. The Prime Minister and the Minister of National Defence are contributing to the cover-up and the whitewash by ensuring that the Somalia inquiry cannot complete its original mandate.

Why would ministers of the crown contribute to the obstruction of justice in a cover-up, as Justice Létourneau has said?

Somalia Inquiry
Oral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

The Speaker

I think your questions are going a little over the line with accusations. I would ask the hon. member to rephrase the question please.

Somalia Inquiry
Oral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

Reform

Chuck Strahl Fraser Valley East, BC

Mr. Speaker, my question is, why would they not let justice be done by letting the Somalia inquiry finish the mandate it was given originally?

Somalia Inquiry
Oral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

Acadie—Bathurst
New Brunswick

Liberal

Douglas Young Minister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, if the hon. member is capable, and I am sure he is an honourable member, I would appreciate if he would step outside, not like his hon. friend who wanted to step across the floor last week because I am too timid for that kind of activity.

I would like to see him come outside and accuse me of obstructing justice. I would like to see him do that. He is very free with words. It is obvious from the line of questioning he has been using in the House for some time now that it is not justice that is being obstructed, it is just the area above his shoulders.