House of Commons Hansard #142 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was country.

Topics

Criminal Code
Adjournment Proceedings

6:20 p.m.

Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine
Québec

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Parliamentary Secretary to the Solicitor General of Canada

Madam Speaker, let me assure the House and all Canadians that the RCMP is fully committed to delivering forensic laboratory services that provide scientific and technical assistance to law enforcement agencies in a timely and efficient manner.

It is standard practice for the RCMP to perform regular reviews of programs to ensure the most effective use of resources in line with its priorities. In 1998, the forensic laboratory services commenced an organizational review of the laboratories to improve and streamline services to better meet the needs of law enforcement partners across Canada.

The member for Yorkton—Melville mentioned the Auditor General's report of 2000. Yes, it made recommendations for a more efficient national laboratory system. As a result of those recommendations and the organizational review, a new service delivery model is now in the final stages of implementation and will be completed in April 2004.

Contrary to what the member for Yorkton—Melville would have Canadians and other members of the House believe, this restructuring will be accomplished without staff layoffs or the closure of laboratory sites.

The recent reports of massive backlogs of DNA casework at the forensic laboratories, which we heard about again today from the member for Yorkton—Melville, are misleading. The backlog of DNA casework is being addressed and significant progress is being made in eliminating this backlog.

Prior to the rationalization, there was a backlog of cases and the average processing time for a DNA case was more than 365 days, as the Auditor General mentioned. This has improved, as the member himself states, to an average of 55 days for urgent cases. I do not know what Canadian would not say that is a heck of an improvement. I do not want to use the other “H” word which also has four letters, but it is a heck of an improvement.

It is standard that all cases be opened within five days of receipt at the laboratory. The RCMP works closely with its policing partners to ensure that their needs are being met and the forensic labs will expedite the processing of samples from high risk cases as warranted. The police have only to ask.

The member himself mentioned that as of September 26, 2003, there were 683 cases in the entire country being worked on. That was the entire so-called DNA backlog. Of those cases, approximately 615 were in analytical processes or were completed and were waiting to be reported. Of the 683 cases, approximately 20 cases were of an urgent nature and had received a priority rating within the forensic laboratory services. So even though the restructuring of our forensic laboratory services is not yet complete, there have been real, significant improvements in the timeliness of processing and reporting of DNA cases.

The RCMP forensic labs turnaround times of 15 days for urgent cases and 30 days for routine cases is an ambitious target and will be realized as a result of the restructuring exercise as it reaches its completion.

I will leave it there. I am sure the member opposite has other comments he wants to make.

Criminal Code
Adjournment Proceedings

6:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Garry Breitkreuz Yorkton—Melville, SK

Madam Speaker, this is a gross miscarriage of justice. DNA analysis prevents crime. It helps solve crime and it puts real criminals in jail.

As all hon. members know, I am familiar with that useless $1 billion gun registry. It does not prevent crime, does not solve crime and completely ignores real criminals. If we were to put just a fraction of that money into the DNA lab we would accomplish something.

I ask those who are listening, do they believe the hon. parliamentary secretary or do they believe an expert who works in Regina and knows exactly what is going on there? He knows what he is talking about. He is an expert in that field.

I would like to conclude by reading a section of an October 17 column by Doug Beazley in the Edmonton Sun . He summed up this whole Liberal mess this way:

One thing we do know: money can fix this.

Hepworth estimates another $5 million a year could beat the backlog down--chickenfeed compared to the $1 billion our federal government has squandered on a gun registry which has yet to save a single life.

What a warped sense of priorities. What a bloody waste.

Criminal Code
Adjournment Proceedings

6:25 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Jennings Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, QC

Madam Speaker, I personally do not know the expert the member from Yorkton is talking about.

However before coming into politics I was in the law enforcement milieu. I have a great deal of respect for our police and law enforcement agencies, and what they have to say. Two years of survey results from the police who use the laboratory services show that 92% believe the services are timely and 98% say that the laboratories are responsive to their needs. I take that as solid information.

The other information I have is that the RCMP forensic labs have been recognized and meet international quality assurance standards, including ISO 17025 accreditation.

I hope the member from Yorkton knows what an ISO accreditation is all about.

Criminal Code
Adjournment Proceedings

6:25 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

Madam Speaker, I gives me great pleasure to again raise one of my pet concerns, the issue of the Coast Guard.

The other day in the House I asked the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, on behalf of all Canadians, a question which I thought was very simple.

When the commissioner of the Coast Guard, John Adams, appeared before the fisheries committee hearings--and the hon. parliamentary secretary was there to hear his comments--the committee asked Mr. Adams if the mandate of the Coast Guard was to guard the coasts. Mr. Adams' answer was, no, that was not its mandate.

Since we have three very large ocean coastlines and a large Great Lakes water system, I am thinking, very nervously, that if it is not the Coast Guard's responsibility to guard the coastlines, then who does it.

We have had indications that it is the responsibility of the RCMP and defence. Therefore we went to the RCMP and the defence department. The RCMP in Windsor said that it did not have the resources or manpower to do the Great Lakes protection at all. We then went to officials at DND and they told us that they did not have the resources or manpower to patrol our three oceans, even on an irregular basis.

It makes us think that it is no wonder the United States would be nervous about us in terms of a security risk when ships of any size can come on to our coastline completely undetected.

If the House does not believe that to be true, last year we had two incidents just outside Halifax harbour, including one at Chebucto Head where a freighter landed on shore. We did not know about it until authorities went to see it. Nobody was on board and the crew was caught hitchhiking down the road. How does a freighter land on the shore right next to Halifax harbour, with a population of almost 380,000 people? One has to wonder who is guarding our coastline.

We have a tremendous problem in terms of environmental spills. In fact, the commissioner of the Coast Guard said that 75% to about 80% of all spills in Atlantic Canada are mystery spills. Officials have no idea where the pollution comes from and yet it is destroying our marine life and aquatic species that many people rely on for their economic opportunities.

It begs the question, who exactly is providing security for our coastlines?

I will say that a company called Provincial Airlines, which operates out of Newfoundland but has offices in Nova Scotia and British Columbia, does some surveillance on contract but even it has a contract with the government that clearly says that it does not have the resources or manpower to do everything it would love to do for the government.

Once again, on behalf of all Canadians who think the Coast Guard's role is to guard the coast, I will ask the question. If it is not the mandate of the Coast Guard to guard our coasts then who exactly is in charge of protecting our Great Lakes system and the Pacific, Arctic and Atlantic Oceans?

Criminal Code
Adjournment Proceedings

October 23rd, 2003 / 6:30 p.m.

Liberal

Georges Farrah Bonaventure—Gaspé—Îles-De-La-Madeleine—Pabok, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased that the member raised the issue tonight so that we can clarify the facts. Indeed, people sometimes get confused about the mandate of certain government departments.

If the member wants a debate on whether the various organizations are adequately equipped, this is one thing. However, if he asks me specifically who has the mandate to patrol the coasts and the territorial waters of Canada, I can tell him that it is the Department of National Defence. This is quite clear. If he wants a debate on whether it is adequately equipped, this is another matter.

When the member says that problems might have occurred not far from the Halifax harbour, perhaps this is true, except that the Halifax harbour is an important harbour of the Canadian navy. With the frigates and the vessels that are there, we can certainly say that Canadian territorial waters, particularly in the Atlantic region, are very well protected, and that the Department of National Defence is doing an absolutely extraordinary job.

The role of the Coast Guard is simple. It includes search and rescue, boating safety, ice-breaking services, assistance to vessels underway, marine communications and traffic services, aids to navigation, environmental protection, response to pollution incidents, navigable waters protection, safe use of ship channels, support to conservation and habitat protection programs, support to scientific programs and assistance to other departments.

What matters from a government point of view is that the various departments with a capacity to act with respect to our territorial waters can work in a coordinated fashion. The Coast Guard's traffic, radio and service centres are working closely with the Department of National Defence.

If there is any indication that our security could be threatened, information is systematically directed to DND, and the RCMP may also become involved. This ensures a concerted action, under the auspices of DND whose role this is. This is how we can respond. Since the events of September 11, 2001, international security has become a greater concern than ever.

Within the government, we have an interdepartmental committee chaired by the Minister of Transport. Around the table where we coordinate our actions, we have National Defence, Fisheries and Oceans, because it concerns the Coast Guard, Canada Customs and Revenue Agency and the RCMP.

All this demonstrates that the government is very concerned about the safety of our navigable waterways. Still, the mandate of providing security on Canada's coasts belongs specifically to the Department of National Defence, which works in collaboration with various parts of the government to ensure the safety of all Canadians.

Criminal Code
Adjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Musquodoboit Valley—Eastern Shore, NS

Madam Speaker, with tongue in cheek I say to the hon. member, for whom I have the greatest respect and who sits on the same committee as I, that he has heard almost every organization, which appeared before our committee on the Coast Guard, very clearly say that the Coast Guard was in an absolute mess. It does not matter how one looks at it, the Coast Guard is in serious trouble. However that is an argument for another day.

The member said that it was up to the defence department to guard some of the largest coastlines in the world, which are the Pacific, Atlantic and Arctic Oceans, as well as our Great Lakes system. I do not think too many frigates are patrolling the Great Lakes at this time.

I do have a very simple and perhaps facetious question. If the member says that it is up to the defence department to guard our coastlines, why the drastic cuts to the Aurora flights that used to patrol the Arctic? Could he tell us how many frigates or patrol vessels are patrolling the waters of Canada right now, not only in defence but in actions of prevention of pollution, overfishing, drug interdiction or illegal immigrants?

If he says that it is up to the defence department to guard our coastlines, exactly how many vessels are actively patrolling our waters at this time, or within the week, and giving blanket coverage--

Criminal Code
Adjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans.

Criminal Code
Adjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.

Liberal

Georges Farrah Bonaventure—Gaspé—Îles-De-La-Madeleine—Pabok, QC

Madam Speaker, objectively, the hon. member should recognize that the government is investing over one billion dollars to supply National Defence with additional equipment.

I have been told that the Aurora aircraft destined for surveillance use are part of a program that has not been cut. I have also been told that the minister is very concerned about this issue and will soon make announcements about it. Investments will be made.

Very objectively, if the hon. member would like to debate whether the Coast Guard is receiving sufficient funding, that is another thing. At the moment, we are talking about who is responsible for the safety and security of Canadians along our coasts. That responsibility falls to National Defence. With the amounts invested by this government, I do not think anyone can accuse us of not taking this seriously.

Criminal Code
Adjournment Proceedings

6:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Madam Speaker, it is with disappointment that I find it necessary to call into question the response I received from the Minister of Foreign Affairs regarding Canadian participation in a ground based missile defence system.

In the past, reporting of our exchanges in the House of Commons have been manipulated and misreported into something entirely false. As fellow professionals, I know the minister understands and accepts this as I do.

Although I appreciate the element of partisanship that follows ministerial responses, the government does have a responsibility to adhere to the issues when answering to the Canadian public. It is simplistic on behalf of the government to state that if we support our friends and allies, and in this case our largest trading partner, we do so to the detriment of our own national interest.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs would have Canadians believe that by supporting our traditional ally, the United States, we are somehow being unpatriotic Canadians. This is false.

The Minister of Foreign Affairs made the suggestion that it was the official opposition that said Canadians were anti-American but he knows it was a member of the minister's caucus, the member for Mississauga Centre, who went on national television to make her anti-American comments. It was the Minister of Natural Resources, the colleague of the Minister of Foreign Affairs, who made the anti-American comments.

Blaming the official opposition for the anti-American rhetoric of government members is like saying that we forced the industry minister to climb aboard the Irving company jet for a free plane ride.

We in the official opposition understand the necessity for good relations with our largest trading partner. I am pleased to acknowledge the efforts of my leader and members of our party who travelled to Washington on behalf of thoughtful Canadians. We support civil relations with our southern neighbour to repair the damage done by the government with its unfortunate pandering to anti-American sentiment for certain segments of the population.

Canada has an international reputation as defence freeloaders. There seems to be a pattern here.

Defence business is vital to Canada's aerospace industry and, in the words of the Aerospace Industries Association of Canada:

Key to our success in the global market is unfettered access to opportunities in the United States, the single largest market for aerospace goods and services.

While Canada's aerospace industry became the fourth largest in the world in 1999, the bulk of its output is civil aviation. As it has been pointed out, there needs to be a balance in the industry.

Billions of dollars in export revenues and thousands of jobs depend on the aerospace industry. By Canada signalling a willingness to participate in national missile defence, Canadians will benefit in a number of different ways.

First and foremost, we are participating in the defence of our own nation, in the name of our sovereignty. What could be more patriotic? Maybe we could start to shed the reputation of the Liberal Party as defence freeloaders with a firm declaration.

Second, Canada would be sending a clear signal to our strongest ally and our largest trading partner that we are serious about repairing the damaged relations that currently exist between Canada and the United States. Only then will we see some progress on issues like softwood lumber and mad cow disease.

Third, we would be securing thousands of Canadian jobs with the prospect of creating more employment in a value added, knowledge based industry.

Criminal Code
Adjournment Proceedings

6:40 p.m.

Beauséjour—Petitcodiac
New Brunswick

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Madam Speaker, as the House is aware, on the 29th of May the Minister of National Defence did exactly what the hon. member has asked and signalled a willingness to discuss with the United States the concept of ballistic missile defence.

Since that announcement, discussions have taken place on a number of occasions and have proceeded very well. These discussions have addressed a number of issues important to Canadians, including the potential for industrial benefits to Canadian companies should Canada ultimately decide to participate.

The hon. member is perhaps jumping ahead of herself. There has been no final decision to sign up to a ballistic missile defence system at this time. Some people in the House, including the hon. member, have suggested that we should put our name now on the dotted line because substantial industrial benefits might accrue to Canadian companies. In our view, such haste is imprudent.

Decisions regarding the security of Canadians should not rest upon whether or not there would be some commercial benefit to Canadians, or whether or not, in the member's exaggerated and I find rather dramatic view, we need to somehow correct policy decisions that the government is proud to have taken in the past. We justifiably place the security of Canadians as the main priority in assessing whether or not to participate in something like ballistic missile defence.

Canada has for many years taken a comprehensive approach to the issue of ballistic missile proliferation based upon the diplomatic engagement of Canada, promotion of multilateral arms control mechanisms and the examination of potential defensive capabilities. Through this approach, we have sought to address the threats posed by the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and missile technology in a manner that respects Canada's longstanding policies on arms control and strategic stability.

I have every confidence that Canadian companies would be well qualified to compete for defence contracts. Our expertise in many sectors of these industries is world leading. I think the member acknowledged in her comments the great example of the Canadian aerospace industry. Furthermore we have a long experience in cooperative industrial ventures with the United States. Our cooperation with the United States, for example on joint strike fighters has earned Canadian companies substantial industrial benefits.

We have taken seriously our joint responsibility for the defence of North America. Canadian security cannot be separated from continental security. That is why we have a longstanding commitment and have participated as a full partner in the North American Aerospace Defence Command, Norad, a binational defence institution that has conferred substantial security benefits upon both nations.

The case for participating in ballistic missile defence will be made in a principled way. The government will make a principled decision. Once that decision is made, if in fact the government decided that, for example, Canada's longstanding policy against the weaponization of space could be respected, if Canada ultimately decided to participate, I have every confidence Canadian companies would benefit greatly. However, the decision to participate should not simply be based upon that narrow interpretation.

Criminal Code
Adjournment Proceedings

6:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Madam Speaker, I think the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence must be indicating that we are going to be freeloading again on this defence system.

He was at the Standing Committee on National Defence and Veterans Affairs today, in which it was outlined that the United States plans on implementing its missile defence program by October 2004. That is less than a year away.

The government has poured billions of dollars into the aerospace industry to support companies like Bombardier, only to take away its market, which results in it asking for and receiving billions more in subsidies. The Prime Minister has defended the $100 million jet purchase as a bailout for Bombardier. Maybe Bombardier would not have to keep on looking for taxpayer handouts if the government would coordinate what the left hand is doing with the right hand.

One way or another, it is time for a firm decision to be made to end the uncertainty in the Canadian aerospace industry over whether or not we will be able to share the technologies of the national missile program.

Criminal Code
Adjournment Proceedings

6:45 p.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Beauséjour—Petitcodiac, NB

Madam Speaker, I do not think anybody in the House needs to be lectured on freeloading from the Alliance Party. It has appropriated the word conservative. It is freeloading on the reputation of the Progressive Conservative Party to try and pull itself out of the electoral ditch that it is in.

Freeloading in national defence is not something that Canada has done at all. It is disparaging the major commitments that Canadians are making and our troops are making in many operations around the world.

As we stand here tonight I find it unfortunate that the decision to participate in something as important as ballistic missile defence should be mixed up with the Alliance's obsession about denying a wonderful Canadian company like Bombardier a chance to participate in the global market in aerospace.

We on this side of the House are committed to pursuing the interests of Canadian sovereignty and the defence of North America.

Criminal Code
Adjournment Proceedings

6:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6:48 p.m.)