House of Commons Hansard #38 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was energy.

Topics

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Pallister Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, I can understand a certain amount of defensiveness on the part of the government as a consequence of the question that I raised today in question period regarding the issue of aboriginal teen suicide. In the context of that question, I referenced comments made by the Auditor General, Sheila Fraser. Her name is Sheila and I referenced her comments by saying, “Finally a Sheila that makes sense”, to speak favourably of the comments she made in her report yesterday referencing the issues about which the government would nationally be defensive.

The Auditor General yesterday raised specific concerns about the onerous burden of red tape that is imposed by the federal government on aboriginal people and on band councils.

I am attempting to clarify just so the member opposite has the chance to make additional comments. I think she knows she has a chance to make those comments later and I encourage her to do that.

However, when I made the comment, I was heckled by a member opposite, the heritage minister. I suppose, in anticipation of that possibility and recognizing that is something that does not happen infrequently in the House, I specifically made my comments in reference to her as an individual whose name is also Sheila, though in the House I cannot refer to her by name nor would I.

I think it was apparent to all here, who are reasonable people, to whom I was directing that comment. The member opposite me is not an infrequent participant nor a thin-skinned person, I believe, in terms of engaging in debate in the House.

It would be apparent to all observers that I was not making any blanket condemnation of any particular person. I was referring specifically to one. I do not apologize for that. Nor would I expect that the Minister of Canadian Heritage would ask me to apologize. Because it is so painfully obvious to any observer that I was not referring to the Minister of Canadian Heritage in my comments, I do not think any apology would be necessary, and I certainly will not make one.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:35 p.m.

Liberal

Paddy Torsney Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure the member for Portage—Lisgar actually understood the point. There are only two ways this could be interpreted. He either referred to the Auditor General by her first name, which I have trouble believing that he would have done for the previous auditor general and said, “finally a Denis who makes sense” or second, he was suggesting that everybody named Sheila or all women do not make sense.

It would be in his interest to suggest that he appreciates that some people were offended and he should withdraw or apologize for those remarks.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:35 p.m.

The Speaker

It seems to me the hon. member for Portage—Lisgar gave an explanation that--

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:35 p.m.

An hon. member

That did not make any sense.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

3:35 p.m.

The Speaker

I thought he made the statement to the Minister of Canadian Heritage, in response to her heckle he said, saying “Finally a Sheila that makes sense”. In other words, I think he was suggesting that perhaps the minister did not and the Auditor General did. That is my sense of what he just said.

If that is the case and if that is what he meant, and I think it is what he said, this might end the matter but I will review the question and answer. I will review statements made by the hon. secretary of state, the hon. member for Burlington and the hon. member for Portage—Lisgar on the question of privilege this afternoon. If necessary, I will get back to the House on this matter at another time.

Government Response to Petitions
Routine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Halifax West
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Geoff Regan Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to 15 petitions.

Veterans Affairs
Routine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Winnipeg North—St. Paul
Manitoba

Liberal

Rey D. Pagtakhan Minister of Veterans Affairs and Secretary of State (Science

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to announce today, on behalf of a grateful nation, that the Government of Canada will be making an ex gratia payment to retired Lieutenant Colonel Elmer (Al) Trotter and other prisoner of war veterans, POWs, found to be in similar circumstances.

As I had earlier alluded to in the House, Mr. Trotter has received the full benefits available to him under the current law.

This ex gratia payment will be made in recognition of lost opportunity for these very special Canadians and will not exceed $20,000 tax free per individual.

In announcing this decision, I would like to thank in particular the member for Kamloops, Thompson and Highland Valleys for first bringing Mr. Trotter's case to the attention of the House. Likewise, I thank all others who directly and indirectly also called this case to my attention: other colleagues from both the government caucus and the opposition; former members of both Houses of Parliament; citizens at large; and the media. I sincerely thank all for the participation in the public debate. This is part of the freedoms for which our veterans fought.

Prisoner of war veterans have always been a very special group of veterans for both the Parliament and the Government of Canada, for all veterans organizations and for all Canadians. Canada is the only country in the world, in addition to France, which provides pensions for POWs. This is why Mr. Trotter's case is so compelling and why I have taken this course of action.

From time to time, parliamentarians are called upon to deal with difficult issues. Such situations are very challenging for all of us and call for a solution that is fair to the veterans concerned and to the citizenry at large on the issue at hand.

The tenet of ex gratia payment provides us with the needed solution. It presupposes that the payments set reflect responsible public spending. Indeed, the principle of ex gratia payment is to be invoked only in exceptional circumstances.

Many words have been written on behalf of Mr. Trotter; many more have been spoken. I quote from a member of the Privy Council for Canada, the former Senator Leonard S. Marchand who, referring to Mr. Trotter, wrote, “He is a kind, intelligent, unassuming individual who cares deeply for his country and little about himself”. He is truly a hero.

I would like to add that he flew 44 missions over Europe during the second world war as a pathfinder for Lancaster bombers, was shot down, taken prisoner of war and tortured.

Now I quote from Mr. Trotter himself. He wrote:

I believe...my record proves that I served my country well over my 26 years in our Armed Forces, both in war and peace, and to suddenly find myself being treated like I was an alien hurts very deeply...

One can fully appreciate why his case was heart-rending for me and for all of us until now.

I conclude on this note. Once more we can say we have listened to the challenge of the human conscience. Moments like this one make politics a truly noble calling and the House of Commons, and Parliament as a whole, a truly noble institution.

Retired Lieutenant Colonel Al Trotter served with gallantry when the nation called more than half a century ago. Today he has reinforced in us who we would like to be: servants of the people.

Veterans Affairs
Routine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Betty Hinton Kamloops, Thompson And Highland Valleys, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the Minister of Veterans Affairs for this long awaited announcement. Although this sum is half the amount stated in Mr. Trotter's grievance, it is a positive recognition for Mr. Trotter and others like him. What they have accomplished and the trauma they have gone through in service to our country is something that cannot go unrecognized.

I am pleased to see the minister properly regarding Mr. Trotter's situation as an exceptional circumstance with an ex gratia payment.

In the year that I have worked with Mr. Trotter on this issue I have grown very fond of him. Al is an exceptional man who during and peace conducted himself with integrity and honoured his contract with Canada. He was recognized with the Distinguished Flying Cross and other medals too numerous to mention for his courage and his devotion to duty. He served his country and lives his life with passion and valour. I am pleased to see that his fellow countrymen supported his efforts to right this wrong.

Al will be proud to know that through his efforts the veterans affairs minister is committed to provide to prisoners of wars and others who find themselves in similar circumstances recognition for their service.

On behalf of Al Trotter, I would like to thank all the Canadians who wrote, e-mailed and called the minister and to the newspapers, television and radio stations who took this issue from coast to coast. It is heart-warming to see this issue, one wrapped in Canadian values, history and honour, resonate with the Canadian public. Without their help and support, I do not believe I would be making this statement in the House today.

As I stated, this ex gratia payment, while not fully recognizing Mr. Trotter in accord with the intent of the original POW benefit, does give us hope that the government holds our military in high esteem and that it does acknowledge the important part these men and women played in our today and in our children's future.

Veterans Affairs
Routine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

Bloc

Louis Plamondon Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to add my voice to those of all parliamentarians in telling the minister that we congratulate him on his decision and that we thank him. I think that this was a unique situation that called for a unique solution.

It took too long since some people associated with this case will not be able to take full advantage of the money that will be paid because of the time it took to make this decision. However, better late than never. The minister did the right thing.

I was saying earlier that it is a unique solution to a unique situation. Other government ministers should be inspired by this courageous decision by the Minister of Veteran Affairs. Indeed, each department has these kinds of problems that cannot be addressed without taking specific action. In this case, the minister took action.

In other departments, there are sometimes problems that have to do with taxes or with industry. There are refunds and various situations that do not meet any specific criteria. Just as was done in this case, concrete measures should be taken in these unique situations.

I thank the minister and I extend my best wishes to all those who will benefit from this act of generosity and recognition.

Veterans Affairs
Routine Proceedings

3:45 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise on behalf of the New Democratic Party of Canada to recognize and thank the hon. Minister of Veterans Affairs for his statement today in the House, and what this must mean for Lieutenant Colonel Elmer Al Trotter.

I also want to thank the hon. member for Kamloops, Thompson and Highland Valleys as well for bringing this very serious and sensitive issue to the House.

The $20,000 figure which has been granted, although no small figure in any way and is tax free, has been arbitrarily calculated. It is the same sort of compensation received by our merchant mariners and our aboriginal veterans, and now Mr. Trotter. For one reason or another the $20,000 seems to be the figure that veterans affairs is using to settle outstanding concerns.

It would be a worthy debate in the future to ask the minister on a separate day why that particular figure has come forward in these various compensation packages. Again, I cannot help but thank the hon. minister for his comments today in the House.

My father was a prisoner of war with the Dutch Resistance during World War II. I know Mr. Trotter and other former prisoners of wars know what it was like to be taken away and held captive. He served his country with bravery. He is an honourable and decent gentlemen. We are proud to call him a fellow Canadian. I am proud today to stand in the House and thank the hon. minister and other members in the House of Commons. Mr. Trotter's recognition is finally due.

We wish him the very best of luck and continued health in his future years.

Veterans Affairs
Routine Proceedings

3:50 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Elsie Wayne Saint John, NB

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise in the House today on behalf of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada and commend all persons concerned for the decision of Veterans Affairs Canada to compensate Colonel Trotter and other war heroes like him.

I would like to single out the tireless efforts of the member for Kamloops, Thompson and Highland Valleys. My hon. friend was unwilling and unable to accept anything short of the recognition that Colonel Trotter has received today and she should be commended.

Any day when we honour our war veterans is a very good day. It is for this reason that we should be proud of what the minister said only a few moments ago, but the unfortunate reality is that too many of our national heroes have been forced to take legal action against the government for compensation and recognition. In particular, I am thinking of my dear close friends in the Merchant Navy who were forced to come up here to Ottawa on a hunger strike.

Ossie MacLean, arguably the most colourful of those who came to protest, as we all know is no longer with us. He has since passed away. I know that his family is deeply proud of the selfless sacrifice he offered in the name of all of those with whom he served.

I am thinking also of veterans like the late Joseph Authorson, whose assets the federal government seized and who was denied the interest of the investments made on his behalf. Mr. Authorson and his family were forced to turn to the courts to continue their battle and thus far they have been proven right. The courts have been quick to recognize their call to justice and the wrongdoing of the government. The government has sought leave to appeal a groundbreaking judgment of the Ontario Court of Appeal. We will now wait to hear whether its decision will be overturned. Although Mr. Authorson himself is no longer with us, like Ossie MacLean, there are still thousands of Canadian veterans and their families who are suffering through this senseless legal battle.

Finally, my thoughts cannot help but turn to those brave veterans who were used by the Canadian government of the day to test chemical weapons like mustard gas. The government has recognized but never compensated those great Canadians whose patriotism and sense of duty were abused in the name of science. To this day, I have the honour and the privilege of working with great men like Mr. Bill Tanner to try to correct this terrible injustice.

The truth is that for every case like that of Colonel Trotter or that of the Merchant Navy which we bring to light, there are countless others that remain undecided, often even litigated before the courts. In times of great need, this country turned to its young citizens to fight for the ideals of freedom and democracy for the world over. In their golden years, those brave soldiers, now heroes, have been forced to take on the very government that they served so proudly two generations ago.

It has often been said that a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. I see the minister's wonderful announcement today as a single step in the right direction. Our thoughts and prayers go out to Colonel Trotter, his family and all those brave prisoners of war who will finally receive their due. On behalf of the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada, I thank the Minister of Veterans Affairs for taking this position.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:50 p.m.

Liberal

Paddy Torsney Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the chair of our committee, the hon. member for St. Catharines, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the first report of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology concerning Bill C-15, An Act to amend the Lobbyists Registration Act, as reported without amendment from the committee.

Statutory Instruments Act
Routine Proceedings

3:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jim Pankiw Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-321, an act to amend the Statutory Instruments Act (regulatory accountability).

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to introduce the bill. It would ensure that all proposed regulations must be laid by the designated minister before each House of Parliament in order to give the appropriate committee of each House of Parliament the opportunity to conduct inquiries or public hearings with respect to the proposed regulation and report its findings to that House.

As much as 90% of a bill's legislative impact comes in the form of regulations put in place by departmental bureaucrats acting on the delegated authority of a minister. As a result, parliamentary review of regulations takes place after they are in place and even then they only come before the scrutiny of regulations committee if there is a problem. This proposal would ensure transparency and fairness in the regulatory process.

I urge all members of the government and opposition parties to support this measure because it would improve the democratic and legislative process.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Criminal Code
Routine Proceedings

3:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Kevin Sorenson Crowfoot, AB

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-322, an act to amend the Criminal Code (elimination of conditional sentencing).

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to reintroduce my private member's bill which, if enacted, would repeal sections 742 to 742.7 of the Criminal Code. These sections allow the courts to impose conditional sentences which are to be served in the community in respect of convictions for offences for which a minimum term of imprisonment is not prescribed.

Since the introduction of conditional sentences by the current government, numerous violent criminals, including rapists, have served no jail time for their heinous crimes.

If the guiding principle of our justice system is the protection of society, then all violent criminals should spend an appropriate period of time behind bars.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Corrections and Conditional Release Act
Routine Proceedings

December 4th, 2002 / 3:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Kevin Sorenson Crowfoot, AB

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-323, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and the Prisons and Reformatories Act (conditional release).

Mr. Speaker, I rise again to reintroduce my private member's bill which, if enacted, would amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act to provide that any person who receives a sentence as a result of being convicted of an indictable offence while on conditional release is obliged to serve the remainder of the original sentence and at least two-thirds of the new sentence.

In addition, it provides that if a person has been convicted on more than one occasion of an indictable offence committed while on conditional release, the person is not eligible for conditional release in respect of any new sentence.

This private member's bill is introduced out of respect and to honour the hard work of the Canadian Police Association, representing 26,000 members. The Canadian Police Association diligently endeavours to make this country a safer place.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)