House of Commons Hansard #70 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was first.

Topics

Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act
Government Orders

10:05 a.m.

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria for the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

moved that Bill C-2, An Act to establish a process for assessing the environmental and socio-economic effects of certain activities in Yukon, be read the third time and passed.

Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act
Government Orders

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, in 1995 the Yukon first nations, the federal government and the Yukon government signed a great treaty.

Many people in Canada probably do not know that one of the interesting results is it created the potential for 16 different governments in the Yukon at the federal, territorial and first nations level.

The challenge was when it came to development assessment on a project, a first nations business, or a corporation, or a mining company that had interests across several boundaries of these many orders of government may have had to go through many different assessment processes, laws and regimes. There needed to be a one window process put in place.

The last time I debated the bill I spoke about how the law was created over a number of years, about how it would accomplish a one window approach and how some of the issues that came up during those many years of debate were dealt with in the proposal.

With all these orders of government managing various lands and resources, the Yukon could have found itself with 16 or more different ways for assessing projects throughout the territory. However, Bill C-2 will establish a single uniform process for assessing land projects in the Yukon.

Therefore, potential proponents will have to follow only one set of regulations for assessing the environmental and socio-economic effects of their projects in the Yukon. In order to promote responsible development activities, the assessment process must be uniform and predictable. The bill includes both these characteristics.

If responsible development in the Yukon is to include proper protection of the environment, certainty and timeliness are equally essential to the assessment process and are reflected in Bill C-2.

I committed at this stage to outline some of the ideas, concerns and suggestions that arose during the debate and the committee process on Bill C-2.

The Yukon organizations, Klondike Placer Miners' Association and the Chamber of Mines, have a number of suggestions. They want to ensure there is procedural fairness regarding a proponent's ability to respond and to appeal. They want to ensure that the proponent receives all the information pertaining to the application and is able to respond during the assessment phase prior to a recommendation being made.

They want to ensure that there is public input on the development of regulations and on the development of the Yukon environmental and socio-economic assessment board rules.

In this legislation there are very many important things, some of which were fought for by these groups.

The regulations define what a project would be, for instance. There are some other coordination issues in the regulations. This is a very significant factor in how this is going to work and what is defined as a project. It is very important that the public have input in this area. It is the same with the rules. Rules that will be developed by the board have some very instrumental elements that some of the Yukon groups asked for, for instance, time lines. It is very important that there be good public input into these major aspects of the bill.

The mining industry wants the bill to establish methods whereby the public will be consulted. Any legislation benefits from public input.

The assessments must have clear time lines in order to ensure a healthy economy. These processes should occur within the time lines. It provides certainty to those doing the development. For placer miners, even more so these days, well defined limits that are followed at every stage are a must for the stability of the industry.

A lot of these points are suggestions from the mining association. They also reflect what the chambers of commerce are interested in.

They would like to appeal to an elected official if there is a dispute with the board. They also suggested a scheduled review of the act because it is so important to ongoing protection of the environment and development in the Yukon.

Once the act is in place, they do not want existing projects to be reviewed unless the proponent requests a review. To ensure certainty, many of the miners told the committee that projects must only be reviewed if a proponent is requesting a change to that project. The ability to arbitrarily trigger a review is part of the legislation which has raised concerns in part of the mining community.

Assessments must also consider benefits to society. The purpose of the act should ensure that development as a public good is considered during socio-economic assessment. The economic factor is where there needs to be recognition of the good and the prosperity that the development brings so that Yukon families can support themselves and, through their taxes, fund the things that are important to governments.

They want to ensure that rules pertaining to designated offices will be reviewed. Designated offices should not be allowed to make their own rules to ensure that the rules are not different in different districts and a proponent is not treated differently in different districts. There are going to be six offices throughout the Yukon.

There was some suggestion that the scope of the act was so limited it could not catch some major projects that might have a negative socio-economic impact on communities and first nations such as the designation of parks or protected areas.

Again, in the assessment of cumulative impacts, they want to make sure that the board is empowered not only to consider the adverse impacts but the positive impacts of those developments. They also are wary of the possibility that certain mineral development could be imperiled where there are conflicts with the land use plans and this regime.

The Yukon Chamber of Commerce had similar concerns and suggestions.

Many of the intervenors were quite positive toward a five year review of the act and input into the regulations and the rules, all of which are so instrumental. In a pioneering piece of legislation that will have so much impact on the community and on the territory, it is important to incorporate these items.

Three first nations provided input, the Kwanlin Dun First Nation, the Kaska First Nation and the White River First Nation. They want to ensure that there is a five year review in place. They also want to ensure that the first nations are involved in the development of the regulations, which is a view consistent with that of other intervenors.

The Conservation Society also provided input throughout the process over the years and also represented the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society. One of the major points, over and above the ones that I mentioned was that there should be enforcement legislation so that the results of this legislation would not be just recommendations, as they are now, but decisions. This would be regulatory legislation as opposed to advisory legislation. The five year review and involvement in the regulations were also mentioned.

The bill is complex because there is another land claim in the northern part of the Yukon which involves the Yukon North Slope. The Wildlife Management Advisory Council of the Inuvialuit expressed an interest that there not be duplication of the screening that comes under its processes related to its screening committee under that land claim, which would then overlap the assessment process in the Yukon system. There could possibly be two different results from the different assessment processes.

The Association of Yukon Communities was also an intervenor. It represents 100% of the municipalities in the Yukon and over 80% of the people in the Yukon.

It noted in its submission that it had been involved with the public consultation process from the beginning, since 1996. It met regularly and had input with groups, including the Council of Yukon First Nations, Yukon Chamber of Mines, the Klondike Placer Miners' Association, the Yukon Chamber of Commerce, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, the Yukon Conservation Society.

The municipalities were concerned that because they were not recognized as an order of government in the bill, they may not have a right to appeal on every issue that occurred within municipal boundaries. They also suggested that it be mandatory on panels occurring within the municipal boundaries to have representation on the panel recommended by the municipalities.

In their reading, they thought it was unclear where CEAA and YESAA would cover a project and that there might be a dual assessment. The bill basically removes CEAA from the Yukon. Yukon will be one of only three parts of Canada that have their own assessment process. It will be designed by the local governments and people in the Yukon, for the Yukon.

It is exciting when people can work with the federal, first nations and territorial governments. It is a process that is unique to the country and to Yukon. They then do not have to follow the national legislation that may not be as sensitive to local concerns. The municipalities also thought that as other orders of government or decision bodies were in line within their jurisdiction, they should have the same provision in certain instances.

These were some of the ideas and suggestions that were raised during the debate. We have been processing this proposition created by three governments in Yukon for Yukoners. Whatever emerges from this Parliament will be unique to Yukon and to Canada. Perhaps it will contain elements of a model for the country for refinement and emulation.

Emerge it must. Our economy is at a low ebb and we need a regime to protect the environment while providing the certainty to entrepreneurs, corporations, first nations business persons and businesses so that we can all get on with building an economy so that Yukon families can survive and prosper in the beautiful country that has been given to us.

Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise this morning on behalf of the constituents of Surrey Central to participate in the debate on Bill C-2, an act to establish a process for assessing the environmental and socio-economic effects of certain activities in Yukon.

We heard from the hon. member for Yukon and I do appreciate his concern for the environment and the socio-economic development of Yukon. All members in this Chamber are concerned. However, I wish that the hon. member had some influence on his government and the minister to address the issues which I will be addressing.

Let us consider some important elements about rural Canada. Canada is the second largest country in the world with a huge wealth of natural resources. Though we are sparsely populated in Canada, more than 60% of our population lives in 10 or so of our southern most cities.

In the last decade of the Liberal government's rule, rural Canada has more or less been ignored by the government. Rural Canada suffers because of poor roads, poor rail links, and a lack of infrastructure development.

The interior of Canada depends on resource based industry, which is not supported by government programs, and is suffering badly from the plight of the Liberal government. The reasons are political more than anything else. It likes to focus on the voter rich areas, but it forgets about the concerns of rural Canadians.

The mismanagement of our natural resources by the Liberals is quite evident. Softwood lumber, mining, oil and gas and the fisheries are some of the examples of Liberal government mismanagement. If the weak Liberal government had a vision Canada would have been exporting more value added products rather than the natural resources like raw materials that we export.

If we were to go to the port in Vancouver we would see big heaps of sulfur or lumber. Why can we not add value to the products? It would not only create jobs but it would contribute to the economy. That is the unfortunate plight.

Rural Canada is suffering because of Liberal government mismanagement. The government's approach to dealing with the environment, Kyoto, endangered species and wildlife, or even the gun registry has not been fair to the rural communities in Canada.

Bill C-2 should have been in the House at least six years ago. Despite the lengthy development process the bill is significantly flawed. The Canadian Alliance is opposing the legislation, not because legislation in this area is not needed, but because this particular piece of legislation is not what is needed. Our main concern with the bill is that it does not do the very thing the minister says it does. The minister and his department claim that the bill would hand over to Yukoners the task of assessing development projects that have been proposed on federal, territorial and first nations lands.

The government says the bill is about devolution, about putting into local hands responsibility for making these assessments, but the truth is that the minister would retain for himself the power to control the process and to control who sits on the board that would be set up.

Once again the federal government cannot keep its hands off areas that should be under provincial and territorial jurisdiction. When it says that it is handing over powers to another level of government, it is doing nothing of the sort. There is no true handing over of power to Yukoners. The minister would retain the powers that he claims would be given to Yukoners.

I would like to focus on other concerns that we have with the bill. The minister would have too much authority over project assessment in Yukon. The bill was supposed to be about devolving to the people of Yukon authority for project assessments. The public relations material from the minister's department and the spokesman of the committee have sold this bill as a devolution of power, but the opposite is true. The minister would hold all the strings.

We find that in a number of places in the bill, the most important of which is the composition of the assessment board, which would be the main body established by the bill.

Let me mention some of the amendments the Canadian Alliance moved in committee. These amendments would have curbed the minister's power over the assessment process, but each amendment was voted down by the Liberals in committee.

First, the minister currently has the power under the bill to make an unlimited number of patronage appointments to the assessment board. Two different amendments were proposed that would have restricted the size of the board. We made those amendments on the recommendations of an MLA from Yukon. This would have limited the federal minister's ability to make patronage appointments to the board, but the amendment was not passed because the Liberal members voted against it.

Second, another amendment would have forced the minister to establish minimum qualifications and other criteria for the selection of board members. The bill in its current form makes no such requirements and therefore patronage appointments are easier to make. Our amendment would have made patronage appointments more difficult for the government and the minister. Again, the Liberals on the committee voted down this amendment.

Third, we also proposed amendments designed to strengthen the role of the Yukon government at the expense of the federal minister's role. The bill is supposed to hand to Yukoners control of the project assessment process, so one would have expected these amendments to pass because they are very natural amendments, but again the Liberals voted them down.

One such amendment would have strengthened the role of the territorial minister by enabling him to nominate one of the three executive committee members of the board; just one of the three. At present the minister must merely consult the territorial minister on one of those three appointments. Can you imagine, Mr. Speaker?

Another amendment would have strengthened the role of the territorial minister at the expense of the federal minister by enabling him to nominate two rather than only one of the four non-executive board members. Again, the Liberals voted this down, choosing instead to keep all of the strings in the federal minister's hands.

Another amendment would have limited the size of the board to a maximum of 13 members, but the Liberals on the committee voted against this. So now, the federal minister can make as many patronage appointments as he or she wants, up to 13 at least.

Another amendment would have changed the process of how the additional board members are chosen. Currently half of these members are nominated by the Council of Yukon First Nations. Under another amendment, the other half would be nominated by the territorial minister. That is fair enough. Half would be nominated by the minister and half by Yukon first nations through the council.

The handing of power from the federal minister to the territorial minister would make sense if, as the minister says, the bill is about handing to the people of Yukon powers that have until now been with the federal government. However again the minister is holding all of the power rather than giving it to the people of Yukon.

Clause 22 would give the federal minister authority to select the communities in which six assessment officers would be located, because the bill would establish six offices in various communities in Yukon. This would create the potential of political influence in the selection of the communities. We have moved an amendment that the authority be transferred from the minister to the board so that a board could make those decisions but again the Liberals on the committee rejected that amendment too.

A second major concern with the bill is that it is silent on the subject of timelines for the completion of assessments by the board. This is unacceptable given the problems that have existed in Yukon in this regard. Project assessments have taken far too long. Given this major problem, the bill should have addressed the matter of timelines right away. The bill has failed the people of Yukon on that issue again.

Let me describe the problem that has existed in Yukon, with project assessments dragging on for so long. Development and the economy of Yukon are hurting and the people of Yukon are suffering for that.

Currently, environmental and socio-economic assessments of proposed projects in Yukon are assessed under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. It is administered by the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. The department has failed to conduct a timely, efficient and cost effective assessments of the projects in Yukon under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

These projects should be assessed in a timely, efficient and cost effective manner but the department has failed the people of Yukon. It is widely recognized. For example, in the mining industry, the recent annual survey of mining companies rated Yukon as having the second worst mining regulatory system in Canada. A survey was done by the Fraser Institute and it rated Yukon to be the second worst mining regulatory system in Canada. By the way, the first one was British Columbia.

As for hard data over the past 10 years, the length of time between the submission of an application and the delivery of a permit for a mining project has far exceeded what any reasonable person would consider acceptable. I did some research and have some examples.

Western Copper Holdings Ltd. made a submission in 1994 for an assessment. It is still not complete after 97 months. Imagine a business company applying for a licence and waiting for 97 months.

New Millennium Mining Corp. made a submission in 1996 for assessment. It is still not complete after 79 months.

I had an opportunity to visit the Cominco mine. Cominco Ltd. made a project assessment submission in 1996 and the permit was delivered in 2000, after 47 months, almost four years.

Minto Explorations Ltd. made a submission for assessment in 1994 and the permit was delivered in 1997 after 35 months, almost three years.

Viceroy Resources Ltd. made a submission in 1994 and the permit was delivered in 1996, after 23 months.

Most jurisdictions in Canada, at least for small mines, take six months to one year. Can members see the comparison? In the rest of Canada it takes just six months to one year. In Yukon it takes from 97 months. That is not acceptable. Globally it takes two years or less and that is the norm. The Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, has not come close to these Canadian norms of two years or less.

The failure of the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development to conduct timely, efficient and cost effective assessments of projects in Yukon has contributed to the economic slowdown in Yukon and destroyed Yukon's reputation as a sound and stable jurisdiction in which to develop new mines. How can Yukon attract foreign investments or investors in the mining industry when the government's standard is letting those miners down?

For example, the shutdown of the mine at Faro in 1998, I am sure the member for Yukon knows, had disastrous economic consequences in the region. This could have been mitigated by timely approvals of other projects prior to the Faro shutdown. However those timely assessment projects by the government were not there. One company had to shut down. The other projects for the assessment were not completed for so long and the economy suffered.

The federal government has not been equal to the task. As a result, Yukon's economy is largely dependent on the net federal transfer payments to fuel economic activity, whereas Yukon could be self-sufficient. Development should have been taking place if the government's approach was right.

Given the failure of the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development to conduct timely, efficient and cost effective assessments of projects in Yukon, we would expect the bill to correct these deficiencies so that worthwhile projects could proceed in a timely manner. However the bill does not do this nor even attempts to do this.

Instead the bill focuses on identifying and mitigating negative impacts of development. The bill shows little concern for development as something positive and desirable for the people of Yukon. It focuses on the negative impacts of development, including damage to lifestyles, heritage sites, the environment and community social systems. Therefore the bill is missing a needed balance between development and sustainability. It does not consider development as a public good which benefits communities.

The assessment board is therefore incapable of weighing costs and benefits in a balanced fashion since its only mandate is to safeguard against damage. Under the bill the board's preference when making assessments must always be to prohibit or limit development, even in cases when the benefits of a project would be great.

The only timeline that would come into play has yet to be determined, since it will be a part of regulations. That timeline does not relate to the assessment process. It relates to something that will follow the assessment process. Let me explain this, because it demonstrates just how much the bill fails to do what is needed.

Once a project has been assessed, the board, or one of the six offices in the communities that have conducted the assessment, will recommend to the responsible federal, territorial or first nations decision bodies whether the project should be allowed to proceed. These decision bodies, not the board or its six offices which are supposed to be listening to the people, have the final say. The board can only recommend. These decision bodies can accept, reject or vary the recommendation contained in the assessment.

The incredible thing about the bill is that timelines will be created under regulations for the decision bodies to issue their decisions. The bill specifies no timelines for the assessment board and its offices to deliver assessments to these decision bodies. That means the board can make its own decisions as to how long it wants to take to complete an assessment. People who do the labour of assessment get to decide how long they will take to finish their work, the while development will be held up.

I mentioned that the regulations will decide about the timelines and the fact that the regulations are not submitted along with the bill. Normally, the government submits the regulations after the bill is debated in the House. All members in the House passionately debate bills and passionately vote on bills, but without knowing the contents of a bill.

The government is in the habit of submitting the intent of the bill without any substance or subject matter. The subject matter and the substance comes through the back door by way of regulations. Why does the government not submit all regulations with the legislation when the legislation is tabled in the House so we can debate them and vote on them? We could then understand what the bill means. The government is not governing; it is ruling through the back door. Eighty per cent of the substance that we see in the law in Canada comes through the back door by way of regulations not debated in the House.

The Standing Joint Committee on Scrutiny of Regulations, which is supposed to scrutinize those regulations, has very limited powers. The committee cannot even scrutinize regulations made by the delegation of authority to various agencies and boards. The disallowance procedure is not on statutory footing, but I will talk about that another day.

This is a non-partisan issue. The House needs to have a disallowance procedure for those regulations which are submitted through the back door to be scrutinized properly. If committee members decide that those regulations are not fair enough, or they are not legal or they are not valid, then they should be disallowed. That procedure should be on statutory footing, but it is not.

Sixteen years ago a committee set up a temporary experimental procedure to see if the procedure would work. For 16 years we have been following that temporary procedure rather than putting the statutory disallowance procedure on statutory footing. However that is for another day.

The Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development has a history of foot dragging in completing assessments, and we have seen this in relation to the mining industry. Timelines should have been imposed on the board by the legislation itself, not by the regulations. The bill fails the people of Yukon in this important respect.

It is unfortunate that the bill fails to provide the people of Yukon with a true devolution of power as the minister has been touting. It also fails to provide a timely way to assess and approve projects so that they can get off the ground and development can begin in Yukon.

What is particularly shameful is the way in which the Liberals have concealed their failure to the people of Yukon by telling them the opposite of what the bill will do. The first thing mentioned in a Liberal press release was that the bill would hand over power to the people of Yukon. Once again we see the Liberals playing their power games with other levels of government. We are seeing again that confrontation between the provincial and territorial governments. The Liberals are hoping their public relations material will be slick enough that the public will not catch on.

We in the Canadian Alliance are opposed to the passage of this bill and will vote against it in the true interests of the people of Yukon. I am sure people of Yukon will understand. I wish the hon. member representing Yukon had some influence on the government in addressing these issues.

Yukon Environmental and Socio-economic Assessment Act
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and indicate on behalf of the New Democratic Party of Canada that we will be supporting Bill C-2. We are pleased at the progress this demonstrates in terms of transferring authority and control to the first nations.

We do not see the bill, assuming it will pass into law and eventually be the law, as a panacea for all of the problems that will be confronted by the Yukon government and the first nations in Yukon with regard to environmental assessments. There are problems with the bill. However, because we have waited so long, we are at that stage where the party feels we must move ahead.

We expect that over the next number of years some of the problems that have been identified and that I will make reference to today will come to the fore. They will require either amendments to the legislation or some very generous interpretations to broaden the scope of the legislation.

One of the concerns we have with the legislation is that it will supersede the Canadian environmental assessment legislation. As the party representative on the environment committee, I have just gone through the review of that legislation. That legislation and the amendments to it will be coming before the House sometime between now and the spring. I am concerned because some of the amendments we made to it are not necessarily reflected in this legislation.

Again, going back to our support of the legislation, we see this as an initial stage. I will not say that it is an experiment, as we are beyond that, but it is the initial stage of having the first nations of this country take greater control of the environmental assessment process. For that reason alone, in spite of our concern about potential conflicts between the Canadian environmental assessment legislation and this bill, the Yukon environmental and socio-economic assessment act, we believe that it should go ahead, and we should develop experience from it.

One of the other concerns we have is that the legislation is not clear enough, we believe, as to how assessments will be dealt with when they cross boundaries, whether it is dealing with Alaska or with other parts of Canada, with the territories or British Columbia. It is quite possible, and I think of the pipeline in particular with the potential for pipelines coming out of the north, that it will require a number of jurisdictions to have environmental assessments. How that will be resolved, how the assessment process will take place when we have multi-jurisdictions, is not at all resolved in the legislation. That is a problem that will have to be dealt with at some time in the future and potentially in the near future.

Perhaps I will digress for a moment, if I may. Anyone who has looked at the territories and the north generally recognizes that they are under tremendous pressure and will be even more so in the next number of years from major endeavours to develop, whether it be in the mining sector, and the diamond mines are probably the best example, or in oil and gas. There is going to be tremendous pressure put on the governments, both in the north and in the provinces immediately adjacent to the north, to deal with how or whether those projects should go ahead. I would suggest that this legislation is going to be tested very early on and probably repeatedly.

It has some very good points in it. I think the major one is that it is not strictly the traditional environmental assessment approach. It does take into account and in fact give priority to socio-economic issues. It does not ignore, as we have on a number of occasions with the existing environmental assessment legislation, historical and cultural issues and topics. In fact, it makes it mandatory that they be taken into account.

The first nations who were consulted extensively in this process insisted on that being in the legislation, and rightfully so. I believe it is going to give us an opportunity, perhaps for the first time on the globe, for those issues to be taken into account significantly. We can point to other examples around the globe where assessment legislation will sometimes look at those issues almost as the periphery of the environmental assessment hearings that go on, but in Yukon they will be front and centre.

I suggest that we will see situations, and I am going to use an example, where perhaps a significant mining development wanting to proceed, that being the proposal that is before the hearing, will be confronted with the reality that there is a regional fishery that is very fundamental to that community, that forms the basis of that community. The importance of that historical fishery will be given prominence and may in fact override the need to have that mine developed. Given the fragility that we find in our northern territories, it is important and crucial that in fact those considerations be taken into account.

The first nations have argued strenuously in a number of areas, and we were confronted with this in the species at risk legislation, that traditional knowledge be given equal weight with what I will call European science. It was accepted in that particular piece of legislation and it is incorporated into this one also. It recognizes that the scientific technology and techniques that we have developed are not perfect. They are at times certainly not the best method to assess the significance of developments on the natural environment. In fact, the traditional knowledge that comes out of the first nations will be at times, in some cases many times, a better technique to be used. Again, as I said, that traditional knowledge, that concept, that principle, is incorporated into this legislation. It is an important step forward to be doing that.

The structure of the board and the executive committee I believe calls for commentary as well, because it reflects the importance of the first nations and local communities being involved in the process. The board will be composed of members of the first nations. Also, they will have not a majority but a significant representation at the executive committee, which is a three member committee. It will have one member from the first nations and one appointed by the government and then those two people will choose the third person. The larger board is roughly equally balanced between the local communities and first nations and the appointments from the government.

Therefore, the needs, the desires and the decision making will be flowing from the local community, not from the south. These will be people who know their communities, know their regions and know their territory. They will know what is best for it, where they want it to go and where they want to take it, what they want to save and what they want to develop. This is built into the legislation and I believe it is one of the strong points of the legislation.

There has been some debate and some criticism of the legislation over what will be considered. There is what is being touted in the legislation, the project list regulator, which will be the body that will determine which activities are subject to assessment and which are not. The goal of that body is to catch those projects that pose a potential risk to the environment and/or that have socio-economic impacts. It will also take into account and ensure that activities which do not pose any risk, either to the natural environment or with socio-economic impacts, will be cleared quickly and will not be assessed because they do not need to be.

The other point I want to make, which is both a strength and I think also a weakness in that it does not go far enough, is that of the cumulative impact. This has been a real weakness in the Canadian environmental assessment legislation to this point. We have attempted to deal with it in amendments that will be coming before the House shortly. I do not think we did so successfully.

Equally so, I do not think that this legislation is broad enough. It is one of the areas where some very generous interpretation is going to have to occur in order to take into account fully the cumulative impact of a series of developments and those developments impacting on the natural environment. One small mine may not be a problem, but if it is the first of a chain of mines in that particular region it may in fact be a major problem. More of that work and the questioning of cumulative impact has to be taken into account at earlier stages than what we have traditionally done under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act.

Pharmacist Awareness Week
Statements By Members

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Mac Harb Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, March 3 to 9 is Pharmacist Awareness Week. Every day pharmacists make a significant difference in the lives of Canadians by providing expert information and advice on health and medication.

As the most accessible health care provider, pharmacists are always available to answer questions, give professional advice and ensure better health outcomes for all Canadians.

It is therefore no surprise that pharmacists were recently chosen as the most trusted professional by the public at large. As we undergo health care reform, Canadians will see the role of the pharmacist continue to expand.

In the future we will see greater participation by pharmacists in medication management programs, patient safety initiatives and full involvement in new primary health care teams.

I ask all Canadians to join us in celebrating and thanking Canadian pharmacists for a job well done.

Justice
Statements By Members

10:55 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Deepak Obhrai Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have reintroduced my private member's Bill C-393 now for the third time.

This private member's bill would amend the Criminal Code by providing for the imposition of a minimum mandatory period of imprisonment of two years upon a second or subsequent conviction for the offence of breaking and entering where the offence was committed in relation to a dwelling house.

A break and enter offence is much more than a property offence. It is a crime against the person. It is a crime that violates a person's home, often the only refuge of private ownership and privacy left for Canadians to enjoy. It also has the potential to be a violent crime because every break and enter is potentially a home invasion.

The Liberals have been making this bill non-votable despite Canada-wide support from police organizations. For a change, can the Liberals listen to Canadians and do something about the break and enter problem?

Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous Festival
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, at this very moment the Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous celebrations are occurring in Yukon's capital city. Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous is one of the top winter festivals in the nation.

We will be celebrating Yukon's lively and colourful past, so whether people are into dog sledding, chainsaw chucking, sourdough sam's, flour packing, watching can-can dancers, taking in the hairy leg contest or simply enjoying a get together with friends and family, everyone is guaranteed a great time during the festival.

The Yukon Sourdough Rendezvous is run entirely by volunteers and supported by corporate and government sponsors. It takes a lot of hard work and an unbelievable amount of energy to make this annual event such a success.

I would like to offer my heartfelt congratulations to all the people who work so tirelessly to achieve the great and successful festivals. I know the logistics may be challenging but I urge all members in the House today to cancel their weekend plans, hop on a plane, head up to the Klondike for one of the greatest winter festivals around.

Foreign Credentials
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Gurbax Malhi Bramalea—Gore—Malton—Springdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased by the announcement in the budget 2003 of the government's commitment to improve foreign credential recognition so many skilled immigrants can participate in our growing economy.

The government announced in the budget $13 million over two years to work in partnership with the provincial and territorial governments to develop efficient and transparent foreign credential recognition methods. It is essential to work with our partners across the country to break down the barriers to the recognition of foreign credentials.

Many Canadians do not realize that the majority of newly arrived immigrants in Canada are highly educated professionals with specialized skills. Governments, employers and communities each have an important role to play in helping immigrants fully achieve their potential and make a full contribution to our country's social and economic life.

Josée Lavigueur
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Yolande Thibeault Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, each year, the South Shore's chamber of commerce and industry celebrates International Women's Day by inviting a local celebrity to speak.

I am very pleased to see that, this year's guest of honour will be Josée Lavigueur, Quebec's current fitness guru.

Josée Lavigueur, from my riding, has made a name for herself in this industry. She is a popular aerobics star, mother of two young girls and a professor of physical education. She also hosts the show Tonus on TVA, has a column in La Presse and has produced many videotapes.

My hearty congratulations to the South Shore chamber of commerce and industry, which is promoting women in our society.

National Defence
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Williams St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, my St. Albert riding is home to many military personnel who are prepared to put their lives on the line to defend our country. It is therefore shocking that the government expects them to also put their lives on the line when using antiquated, outmoded equipment like the Sea King helicopters which are falling apart.

Yesterday a Sea King crashed on the deck of the HMCS Iroquois on the way to the war front, not because of the enemy but because the government treats the military like some kind of useless appendage to a state that prefers to distribute wealth rather than creating wealth.

This was a country that was strong and free but somewhere along the line the government lost the way.

Canadian Music Week
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

John Harvard Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to ask all Canadians to join in the celebration of our Canadian music industry.

This is Canadian Music Week. Every year the creators, broadcasters and entrepreneurs involved get together to share a vision, celebrate successes and lay the groundwork for addressing the new challenges they face.

For many, names like Alanis Morissette, Barenaked Ladies, Avril Lavigne, Céline Dion, the Guess Who and other superstars define Canadian music. We can now add the name Painting Daisies to this list, an Edmonton based band that won the CBC's Great Canadian Music Dream on Wednesday night.

Indeed, Canadian music as a whole is a great success story with Canadian songwriters and musicians from all parts of the country playing an important role capturing and reflecting the diverse Canadian experience.

I ask all members to please join me in congratulating all of our Canadian talent and the many participants in Canadian Music Week who play a key role in supporting our music industry.

International Women's Day
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, March 8 is International Women's Day and the theme chosen this year by the Fédération des femmes du Québec is “women in solidarity for equality in the world”.

I want to bring attention to the importance of the role of women and their solidarity to the advancement of our society. Over the last century, women have struggled and made immeasurable gains, but these gains are constantly threatened by the impact of globalization.

Globalization affects women particularly, through their working conditions, increasing poverty, health and education.

If they are to preserve their gains, women have to be alert to the negative effects of globalization and ensure that their voices are heard in the debate on this phenomenon.

Today, all the members of the Bloc Quebecois join me in paying tribute to the women who have helped build, and who continue to build Quebec each day.

I invite the women from organizations in my riding to join me for a brunch in their honour on March 9.

Women's solidarity is a means for improving the world of tomorrow.

International Women's Day
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Aileen Carroll Barrie—Simcoe—Bradford, ON

Mr. Speaker, this year's International Women's Day theme in Canada is “World-Wide Women: Surfing the Digital Revolution!”

Technology is changing. Information and communications technologies, or ICTs, and the Internet are no exception. They have revolutionized the way we communicate, access information and create networks. The Internet, in particular, has opened up a number of resources to individuals or organizations across the world.

Online activism, for example, has generated worldwide support for important issues such as human rights violation, gender-based exploitation and violence against women.

The World March of Women 2000 and the situation of women in Afghanistan are just a couple of examples of how the Internet can be used with success to mobilize people around the world on women's issues.

The Internet and ICTs are tools that everyone should have access to. Canadians should take the opportunity to learn about the benefits that these technologies have to offer and to reflect on how they can continue to benefit women.

Liberal Party of Canada
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Deborah Grey Edmonton North, AB

Mr. Speaker, evidently today is international hypnosis day, which is as good a time as any to delve deep into the psyche of the members across the way. If they will just relax and follow the swing of the pendulum, I think they will find themselves growing sleepy, so sleepy.

Oh look, there is the promise to eliminate the GST. But wait, it is still in place. Surely they feel a little embarrassment about that one. And then there are those repressed feelings of guilt and remorse over cancelling the Sea King contract. They must just feel sick about that.

Oh, and here we see the billions of dollars of taxpayer money squandered on HRDC grants and contributions, the flawed gun registry boondoggle, and advertising scandals. They have even voted down their own promise for an ethics commissioner accountable to Parliament. It seems that is buried so deeply it has not even registered on their consciousness.

Well, it has been a full therapy session today. Looks like it is time for the Liberals to wake up.

Atlantic Canadian Artists
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Beauséjour—Petitcodiac, NB

Mr. Speaker, Canadians do not always agree on every issue, but one thing on which I believe we can find common ground is that some of the most talented artists and performers in the world originate from Atlantic Canada.

Next week the National Arts Centre will unveil the artists line up of the Atlantic Scene/la Scène atlantique, a unique showcase of Atlantic Canadian artists who will hit the national capital region from April 22 to May 4. More than 400 Atlantic artists will perform in 85 venues for the 13 days of this festival.

I urge all Canadians to get out and participate in the Atlantic Scene when it comes to the capital. I commend the National Arts Centre for its vision in making the artists from Atlantic Canada a centrepiece of its programming.

International Women's Day
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

NDP

Wendy Lill Dartmouth, NS

Mr. Speaker, International Women's Day on March 8 is a day to reflect on how much women have achieved as we move toward a world of gender equality free from sexism.

It is a day to commemorate women like Nancy Riche, who recently won the AFL-CIO 2002 human rights award for her tireless work to improve the lives of working women around the world.

However women in Canada still face very real problems: 19% live in poverty and women on average still only earn 64% of men's salaries.

How is the government responding? Instead of changing EI rules for part time workers, most of whom are women, the Liberals hiked RRSP limits, which help less than 2% of women workers, and they have only delivered 3,000 of the 150,000 day care spaces needed for working women and their families.

It is time to start taking women's issues seriously again instead of sweeping them under the carpet or hoping that surfing the net, the theme from Status of Women Canada, will bring about women's equality.

Winter Games
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Bloc

Caroline St-Hilaire Longueuil, QC

Mr. Speaker, we have already been dazzled by the Canada Games that will run until March 8. The magnificent performances so far all point to excellent results at the next Olympics.

I am very proud to underscore the excellence of our athletes from Quebec, who were leading in the medal count this week. The women's short track speed skaters, including four from Longueuil, made us especially proud when they swept the medals in both the 500 metre and 1,500 metre events.

And we can look forward to more because today marks the beginning of the 38th Finale des Jeux du Québec in the beautiful region of Portneuf.

On behalf of my colleagues from the Bloc Quebecois, I would like to congratulate the thousands of athletes and all the organizers and volunteers who contributed to the success of these two large gatherings of sport's finest.

Congratulations to everyone.

Suzanne Rochon Burnett
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Tony Tirabassi Niagara Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to some of the accomplishments of my constituent, Suzanne Rochon Burnett.

Suzanne is a proud Metis who began her broadcast career in Quebec in the 1950s. She eventually moved to the Niagara Peninsula and by 1974 she had developed the highly successful radio program Chanson à la Française . Suzanne was also a regular on CBC's Morningside .

In 1995 Suzanne's company purchased the business that operated radio station C-HOW in the Niagara. She applied to the CRTC for an FM frequency and was granted a licence.

Suzanne is a strong supporter of business, the arts and broadcasting in native communities. She is a member of countless arts and cultural boards, and has received numerous awards and medals, including the Order of Canada.

I congratulate Suzanne. She has made our community a better place in which to live.

Canadian Forces
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, our military has been in desperate need of new helicopters for over two decades and yesterday's accident on the HMCS Iroquois demonstrates how starving our military of resources has put Canadian's lives at risk.

At the same time a Sea King helicopter was crash landing on the deck of the Iroquois , we saw a smiling Prime Minister disembarking from his brand new Challenger.

When the government hides the $100 million price tag for two luxury Challengers from the public, where is the transparency? Where are this government's priorities?

The Liberals' legacy of waste and mismanagement results in a blatant disregard for the money and safety of others. The HRDC fiasco, Shawinigate, corrupt ad contracts, a billion dollars on a failed long gun registry, a ballooning bureaucracy and our international reputation is in decline.

Choose your Prime Minister carefully.

When we pick a Prime Minister we often pick our priorities. Life-saving helicopters or luxury jets, which would we choose?

Black History Month
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Paul MacKlin Northumberland, ON

Mr. Speaker, February is Black History Month. It is a time for all Canadians to experience a part of their history and explore role models that they might not have recognized before.

Molly Killingbeck is an athlete, a coach, a leader and just one of many shining examples of female black Canadian role models.

Killingbeck began her love of sports at a young age with her love of running. Through dedication and hard work, she trained to become one of Canada's top female athletes in track and field. Her love of sport propelled her to many heights, from coaching the gold medal winning men's relay team in 1996 to her current position as an athlete services manager with the National Sport Centre of Ontario.

Following her experiences, she was inspired to campaign for a tighter anti-drug program.

Dedication and a healthy dose of fun keep Killingbeck strongly connected to the world of sport. As a coach, Killingbeck works to instill qualities in athletes that they can use on and off the track. For her, it is important to see all athletes as people first before viewing them as performers.

I ask all members to please join me in saluting Molly Killingbeck and all black Canadians who are role models for Canadian youth.

Gasoline Taxes
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gurmant Grewal Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, the transport minister thinks our cities should start charging road tolls. There is a better idea.

The Liberals should start giving provinces their fair share of gas tax revenue. Thirty eight per cent of what we are paying at the pumps goes into government coffers. The government rakes in nearly $5 billion in gas taxes annually, but it spends merely $113 million on roadway development, just two and a quarter per cent. As gasoline prices soar, so do government revenues as the Liberals continue to charge taxes on taxes. The Ottawa gas tax rip-off is highway robbery.

Transportation is critical to B.C.'s economy and public safety. Money is needed for repairs to the Sea to Sky Highway and public transit, but instead the government has one boondoggle after another.

The government should dedicate more of the gasoline taxes to highway spending, eliminate the one and a half cent per litre deficit-financing gasoline tax and stop charging GST on gasoline taxes.

Ethics
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Dale Johnston Wetaskiwin, AB

Mr. Speaker, the Parker report has clearly stated that ministers should not operate family businesses under blind management agreements. The transport minister has conceded that changes to the government's ethics code may be necessary.

Will the government now admit that ministers should not be able to personally manage their holdings and be in cabinet at the same time?

Ethics
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Don Valley East
Ontario

Liberal

David Collenette Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, we have been consistent in dealing with this matter in the last few days. The fact is that the present code of conduct did emanate from certain deliberations made by the former government and following Justice Parker's report, and we have followed those procedures. In the case of the former minister of finance, he followed all the rules and that has been confirmed by the ethics counsellor.

Ethics
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Dale Johnston Wetaskiwin, AB

Maybe he followed all the rules, but the rules should be changed, Mr. Speaker.

The former finance minister is not covered by a blind trust but by a one of a kind supervisory agreement, whatever that is. That allows him to have direct input into his company. He now says that as Prime Minister he would change that and make an even better deal for himself.

Ethics should apply to all cabinet ministers, including the Prime Minister. Why should the government ethics package allow a special deal for this Prime Minister wannabe?

Ethics
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Don Valley East
Ontario

Liberal

David Collenette Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I can understand that the hon. member has some strong views on this particular issue and I would invite him to go to committee where this matter is now under review and make his points. He is a member of that committee, I am told, therefore he has the full advantage of going to the committee, making these arguments and trying to change the policy.

Ethics
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Dale Johnston Wetaskiwin, AB

Mr. Speaker, the minister can count on us making a presentation to that committee.

The former finance minister's proposal for avoiding conflicts of interest, though, is to simply excuse himself from cabinet. When his businesses and personal holdings are directly affected by almost every government department, he will certainly be spending a lot of time in the hallways. Will the government commit to ethics guidelines that prohibit the Prime Minister from having personal control over his holdings? Yes or no.

Ethics
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Don Valley East
Ontario

Liberal

David Collenette Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I am sorry that the hon. member seems to be a bit under weather. I could not catch the full purport of his question, but I would say that the matter to which he refers about whatever happens at a Liberal leadership is hypothetical and we will not enter into those discussions.

Ethics
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I think it is the former finance minister that is about to be under the weather. The former finance minister had a special supervisory deal and has now asked for yet another tailor-made arrangement. Entrepreneurs in cabinet have only two options: to divest themselves of their assets or to put those assets into a true, and I emphasize true, blind trust. Will the government now admit that the only way to remove the perception of a conflict of interest is to have ministers divest themselves of private holdings as they do in the United States?

Ethics
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Don Valley East
Ontario

Liberal

David Collenette Minister of Transport

Again, Mr. Speaker, I will take this as representations. The hon. member should really be making these kinds of suggestions at committee.

Again, to repeat, the former minister of finance followed all the rules. He conducted himself in an exemplary fashion while he was in cabinet. The issue of the meetings and what was discussed at the meetings has been reported on by the ethics commissioner, who said that there was no cause for concern in any of the meetings which he attended.

Ethics
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, the only reason the former finance minister was able to follow all the rules is that they were so loose he could drive one of his ships right through them. The former finance minister received numerous private briefings from the Liberals' very own ethics counsellor. How many and on what issues, both of them refuse to say. Why is it the job of the ethics counsellor to protect the wannabe Prime Minister from public relations embarrassment?

Ethics
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Don Valley East
Ontario

Liberal

David Collenette Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I am very surprised that the hon. member is casting aspersions on a very highly reputable public servant, Mr. Wilson, who has done an outstanding job in the last number of years dealing with a number of difficult issues. I hope that the hon. member would reflect upon the kinds of accusations he has made against Mr. Wilson.

The fact is that for any discussions that have gone on, and these meetings are for Mr. Wilson or the former minister of finance to talk about publicly, we are assured that all of the rules were followed.

Iraq
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Caroline St-Hilaire Longueuil, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday in Mexico, the Prime Minister expressed concerns that a unilateral decision by the United States might lead to a split within the United Nations Security Council. Regardless of those concerns, the Prime Minister is proposing a deadline that has led the New York Times to conclude this morning that Canada is moving closer to Washington.

Can the Minister of Foreign Affairs explain to us how proposing a deadline can prevent both a split within the Security Council and war?

Iraq
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Toronto Centre—Rosedale
Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, as I pointed out yesterday in the House, the Canadian proposal was, clearly, designed precisely to avoid the need for war. There must be clarity in order to demonstrate to Saddam Hussein that he must disarm by a certain date. A deadline must be set, and the Americans and the others must be kept in the Security Council as well.

I believe our proposal has been well received by the international community. It has therefore made a positive contribution, and we continue with our policy to resolve this matter and get through this crisis without having to resort to force.

Iraq
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Caroline St-Hilaire Longueuil, QC

Mr. Speaker, Germany's ambassador to the United Nations has totally rejected the Canadian position, and Russia has not rejected the possibility of using its veto against the American proposal.

Does the Minister of Foreign Affairs realize there is a growing consensus for peace, and that, by setting a deadline, Canada is ultimately helping support the pro-war camp?

Iraq
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Toronto Centre—Rosedale
Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, on the contrary, I do not realize that, nor do I support that premise. As we have always said, the best way to avoid war under these circumstances is for Saddam Hussein and Iraq to clearly understand that they need to comply fully with resolution 1441.

We have made our proposal and it has been accepted, in that it has been examined by other members of the Security Council as a way of avoiding the use of force. We continue to work to that end.

Iraq
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Benoît Sauvageau Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, as the minister said, we still do not know who is supporting it, but the Franco-German memorandum proposes three things: a clear action program for inspectors; increased inspections; and a timetable for inspections and assessment.

Can the Minister of Foreign Affairs tell us what exactly Canada does not like about this proposal?

Iraq
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Toronto Centre—Rosedale
Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, that is exactly what we proposed, a specific timetable, with certain dates and activities for inspectors so that everyone knows exactly what needs to be done.

However, we have to recognize that there are parties other than the German government involved. There are also the Americans, the British and others who are threatening to go to war without the Security Council. We must examine the German proposal, but also what we can do to bring the Security Council together, and that is the purpose of our proposal.

Iraq
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Benoît Sauvageau Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Foreign Affairs says that he is proposing the same thing as the Franco-German memorandum.

Will he rise and say clearly that he supports the Franco-German memorandum as proposed?

Iraq
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Toronto Centre—Rosedale
Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I said that the principles are the same. It is a matter of knowing just how, and by which dates things must be done. That is the current crisis. Some want things done immediately, others say that we need to give inspectors more time.

Our proposal gives a reasonable time for inspections to be done in order to keep the Security Council united on this issue. That is why Mexico and Chile are so interested in our proposal. We will continue to work for peace with similar countries.

Iraq
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

NDP

Lorne Nystrom Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the same minister. As the war in Iraq is looming on the horizon, it seems to me that we have two superpowers that now hold the fate of millions in the world in their hands: George Bush's government on one side and global public opinion on the other side.

George Bush and his hawks such as Tony Blair want war. Global public opinion now wants peace and wants it massively. I would ask the minister across the way, which side is his government on, peace or war?

Iraq
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Toronto Centre—Rosedale
Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, clearly the government, ever since the Prime Minister met with the President of the United States back last fall, has been acting within the United Nations in a way which is the best way to guarantee peace.

We continue to do that with our recent proposal, because our proposal is one which enables the Security Council to come to grips with the problem of how to disarm Saddam Hussein within a time limit that will be satisfactory to all the powers, not just the great powers, and that is where we will continue to make our efforts.

Iraq
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Lorne Nystrom Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, clearly the government is waffling. It is sitting on the fence and getting slivers. It is rushing to the mushy middle.

I want to ask the minister whether or not it will stop waffling, whether or not it will stop running toward that mushy middle? Will it support the position of France and Germany, and support the position of increasing the number of inspectors and giving them adequate time to finish the job? Will it support the French-German position or not? Or will it continue to waffle until the cows come home?

Iraq
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Toronto Centre—Rosedale
Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I think waffle was the name that was applied to the NDP some time ago so the member should know what he speaks of.

We have not been waffling. We have been clear in supporting the inspection process. We support Dr. Blix and a clear, credible process by the United Nations. Everybody in this country and other foreign countries understand that. I am sorry that the opposition cannot understand that.

I reject the idea that we are waffling. On the contrary, we have had a clear position and will continue to maintain it in the interest of peace.

Ethics
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Joe Clark Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, the ethics counsellor has assumed the role of scheduling assistant to the member for LaSalle—Émard. Yet, under the law, as the law is, that ethics counsellor reports only to the Prime Minister. The code stipulates that the Prime Minister has a personal responsibility to ensure that ministers obey the code.

The member for LaSalle—Émard had regular meetings with his giant shipping company.

Did the ethics counsellor provide regular and detailed briefings to the Prime Minister on those meetings? If not, how did the Prime Minister honour his personal obligation to enforce the--

Ethics
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. Minister of Transport.

Ethics
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Don Valley East
Ontario

Liberal

David Collenette Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, discussions between the former minister of finance and Mr. Wilson, the ethics counsellor, were private conversations. No one is entitled to know what was going on unless either of those two gentlemen made the information public and spoke about the process.

The Prime Minister put in place a code of conduct based on a code of conduct developed by the government of which the right hon. member was a member of and the recommendations of the Parker committee. All the rules were followed.

Foreign Affairs
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Joe Clark Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, the minister knows that last allegation is false. But if he believes it is true, he could always table the documents on the floor of the House of Commons that prove its veracity.

I have a question for the foreign minister.

The New York Times reports this morning that the Pentagon is preparing contingency plans for a possible U.S. attack on nuclear power stations in North Korea.

Can the foreign minister confirm that the Government of Canada has information to that effect? Will he indicate whether the Government of Canada is aware of such plans? Will he outline what Canada's position will be?

Foreign Affairs
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Toronto Centre—Rosedale
Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I am aware of the reports to which the right hon. member makes reference, but I cannot verify them from a direct contact with the United States government. I can tell the right hon. member, however, that the situation in North Korea remains a preoccupation for us, of course.

I had a long conversation with the foreign minister of China last night. We spent a long time trying to work together to see how the international community can bring the United States and North Korea together, and how we can diffuse this. I find it difficult to believe the United States would be contemplating anything which would disturb the delicate equilibrium there, but we will continue to work with all parties to ensure this crisis is diffused peacefully.

National Defence
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Deborah Grey Edmonton North, AB

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister will soon be back from Mexico. I am sure he will be red-faced, but it probably will not be from a sunburn. His face should be burning with embarrassment as a result of the Sea King crash yesterday.

The Prime Minister and the Liberal government have put Canadian lives at risk by cancelling, 10 years ago, the EH-101 contract and delaying the purchase of Maritime helicopter replacements. Now we face international embarrassment because our allies cannot even rely on our 40 year old equipment.

Why does the Prime Minister continue to put saving face before saving lives?

National Defence
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Beauséjour—Petitcodiac
New Brunswick

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, the Maritime helicopter procurement project has been a priority for the Minister of National Defence and for the government. We have said that our goal is to obtain the best aircraft as quickly as possible.

To simply make outrageous allegations about unsafe aircraft which simply are not true does not help the confidence of the men and women of our Canadian Forces. At no time do we operate unsafe aircraft.

National Defence
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Deborah Grey Edmonton North, AB

They certainly have their confidence undermined, Mr. Speaker. He says it is a priority for the government. It surely is, but it is a pathetically low priority.

This week the defence minister said that he could not just snap his fingers and get new helicopter replacements. Oddly enough it took only days to get a luxury Challenger jet for the Prime Minister and his Challenger chums. That was untendered.

We now learn that the frigate HMCS Fredericton is on its way to replace the HMCS Iroquois when the government said not long ago that those frigates were just too small for command ships. The government does not know what it is doing.

Why does it take years for our troops to get what they need, but only days for the Prime Minister to get what he wants?

National Defence
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Beauséjour—Petitcodiac
New Brunswick

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, surely the hon. member is not suggesting that the Maritime helicopter project proceed by way of an untendered contract.

The Environment
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the House of Commons debated a motion sponsored by the Bloc Quebecois, calling on the federal government to ratify the Cartagena protocol on biosafety as soon as possible.

Can the Minister of the Environment tell us whether his government intends to ratify the protocol under the precautionary principle that he himself supported in 1992?

The Environment
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Vancouver South—Burnaby
B.C.

Liberal

Herb Dhaliwal Minister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, the government is looking at the Cartagena agreement. At this time we are working with farmers who have certain concerns. We want to ensure that we make a well informed decision, and work with the stakeholders and farmers of this country. We are working at other ways to ensure we comply with the principles of that agreement and we will continue to work in that way.

The Environment
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, on January 27, 2000, the Minister of the Environment said that he believed, and I quote, “—that a strong Biosafety Protocol under the Biodiversity Convention is in the interests of all nations.”

Can the Minister of the Environment tell us what has changed in three years and why he is not committed to joining the list of 44 countries that have ratified the Cartagena protocol?

The Environment
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Vancouver South—Burnaby
B.C.

Liberal

Herb Dhaliwal Minister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, as I have said, we agree with the principles outlined in the Cartagena biosafety agreement. We must ensure that we consult with farmers and have their views. Nothing has changed. We are also working on a bilateral agreement so that we can ensure that we comply with those principles.

I am sure the hon. member will want to ensure that we take into consideration the views and concerns of farmers, and that we continue to work with them. We very much support the principles outlined in Cartagena and our position has not changed.

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, Liberal leadership candidate, the Minister of Canadian Heritage, has close to $1 billion a year to spend on pet projects. One of those projects is the HMCS Haida that is to end up in Hamilton harbour as a floating museum. Here is a surprise, CSE Marine Services Inc., a subsidiary of Canada Steamship Lines, has the contract.

Can the minister of heritage explain why she is funnelling money to the former finance minister's not so blind empire?

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Don Valley East
Ontario

Liberal

David Collenette Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, the removal of HMCS Haida from Toronto to Hamilton was part of the establishment of a waterfront park and marine facility at Hamilton harbour. It is something which is quite laudable. Funds were granted from Canadian Heritage for this restoration. As to who did the contract, as we know, companies, whether they are CSL or others, are private companies and do work based on the proper tendering process.

Technology Partnerships Canada
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Rajotte Edmonton Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, in October 1997 technology partnerships Canada gave nearly $9 million to Western Star Trucks. It was justified at that time on the basis that it would create more than 1,000 jobs across Canada over a 10 year period. Last June Western Star Trucks moved its manufacturing, engineering, customer support, operations and staff to Portland, Oregon.

Can the industry minister explain why taxpayer dollars are being used to subsidize the movement of Canadian jobs to the United States?

Technology Partnerships Canada
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Etobicoke Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Allan Rock Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, technology partnerships Canada is an instrument by which we help Canadian companies compete in world markets. In addition to the $2 billion we have invested in this program, $8 billion has been furnished by private sources. We have leveraged private money to create over 38,000 jobs here in Canada.

This enables us to compete with every other country in the world that does similar things to encourage research and development in their economy. The hon. member should know that this is an essential instrument for economic growth.

Taxation
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, in his budget the Minister of Finance announced his intention to retroactively change the provisions of the Excise Tax Act with regard to school transportation.

Even worse, the minister could establish a new rate for school boards despite all the court decisions handed down since December 21, 2001.

Does the minister agree that his proposed change will completely set aside judgments in the school boards' favour on the issue of GST rebates for school transportation?

Taxation
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Vaughan—King—Aurora
Ontario

Liberal

Maurizio Bevilacqua Secretary of State (International Financial Institutions)

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member would know that on December 21, 2001, in response to a Federal Court of Appeal decision the government announced a proposed GST amendment to clarify that the provision of student transportation services would continue to be an exempt activity for which school boards would be entitled to a 68% rebate of tax and not a 100% input tax credit.

Taxation
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, is the minister aware that this retroactive measure is an extremely serious infringement of the rule of law and the authority of a judgment, which probably constitutes a precedent in the Canadian parliamentary system?

Taxation
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Vaughan—King—Aurora
Ontario

Liberal

Maurizio Bevilacqua Secretary of State (International Financial Institutions)

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member should know that if the school boards were only entitled to a 68% tax rebate, they would obviously not be entitled to 100%. This is in keeping with the announcement that reaffirms the long standing policy that the GST has applied since the inception of the tax. The government's policy intent has not changed in this particular instance.

Agriculture
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Scott Reid Lanark—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, in recent years Canadian farmers have been plagued by floods, drought, grasshoppers, the U.S. congress, and a Liberal government that just does not care.

Now the minister, with his new APF program, is expecting farmers to provide an initial deposit of $3 billion to ensure adequate coverage.

My question is simple this, where does the minister expect that cash strapped Canadian farmers will get this money?

Agriculture
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Vancouver South—Burnaby
B.C.

Liberal

Herb Dhaliwal Minister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food announced a program worth $5.3 billion to help farmers across this country.

This is the amount of money we have provided to support farmers. The Alliance Party members said that farmers should not be provided with support and that they should not be subsidized. They should stand up and congratulate the good work that the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food has been doing for many years.

Agriculture
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food is trying to apply a one size fits all approach when he designed the APF for the entire agricultural industry. This will not address the different problems faced by the various regions in Canada. The gradual removal of federal money from the companion programs will leave farmers with ineffective coverage.

Does the minister think it is fair to withdraw money from programs that are already working for farmers?

Agriculture
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Vancouver South—Burnaby
B.C.

Liberal

Herb Dhaliwal Minister of Natural Resources

Mr. Speaker, we are not withdrawing programs. In fact, we have a new framework to improve the programs. We are having a transition period to move from the current programs to the better, more improved programs to provide better protection. The transition period will be over the next three years. The hon. member should take that into consideration when she asks her question.

Veterans Affairs
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

John Harvard Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia, MB

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Veterans Affairs.

In 1917 Canada defined itself as a nation at the Battle of Vimy Ridge. Today, the Canadian national Vimy memorial is in bad need of repair.

Can the minister please tell the House today what the government is doing to address this issue?

Veterans Affairs
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Oshawa
Ontario

Liberal

Ivan Grose Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, Vimy Ridge is one of Canada's most important historic sites, honouring the Canadians who lost their lives at this important battle during the first world war.

I am pleased to inform the House that the Minister of Veterans Affairs and Minister of Public Works and Government Services recently announced the awarding of a contract for $1.8 million for architectural and engineering services for the restoration of the Vimy memorial. This is part of the battlefield memorial restoration project which also includes the restoration and rehabilitation of 12 other first world war battlefield memorials and sites.

If I might add something I heard at the Canadian Defence Association yesterday, our soldiers went up that hill--

Veterans Affairs
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member for Windsor--St. Clair.

Border Security
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Mr. Speaker, we continue to hear of numerous incidents of racial profiling at our borders and airports.

Last year the Minister of Foreign Affairs told Canadians that he had assurances from Colin Powell and the U.S. attorney general that the practice of systemic racial profiling would end. Well, it has not. There was a recent incident at the Toronto airport where both a customs officer and his supervisor told a Canadian citizen that dual citizens of specific countries had to be registered, that it was the law, and that he had to comply.

I ask the government, will it impose and order a travel advisory--

Border Security
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Border Security
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Toronto Centre—Rosedale
Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I certainly would hesitate to order a travel advisory based on a single very unfortunate incident. These are matters which we have constantly brought to the attention of the American authorities.

I have been assured by the ambassador and by Secretary Powell himself that profiling of the nature that is described in the hon. member's question is not being practised by the United States authorities, but that there are other circumstances which they may choose to consider when making a decision whether to admit someone into the United States. This matter can be raised with them, but we will obviously work with the United States to remove this type of--

Border Security
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member for Palliser.

Health
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Dick Proctor Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, there is still no accountability in the latest health accord and public funds continue to pay for the privatization of health care. Indeed, on page 37 of this year's income tax guide, expenses can now be claimed for staying in a licensed private hospital.

Will the acting prime minister explain why, instead of dedicating all of the $1.5 billion on diagnostic equipment like CAT scans and MRIs, federal taxpayers will almost certainly end up buying more icemakers, floor scrubbers, delivery trucks, sewing machines and lawnmowers for certain provinces?

Health
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Saint-Laurent—Cartierville
Québec

Liberal

Stéphane Dion President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada and Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, in the last agreement with the provinces, it was agreed that we would have rules of accountability that would be much stronger than in the past. We are very confident that at the end of the day the great announcement that we have equipment will be good for all Canadians.

Foreign Affairs
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Bill Casey Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Solicitor General confirmed that the RCMP had conducted an investigation which related to the treason charges against the leader of the opposition in Zimbabwe. These charges could result in the death penalty. The Solicitor General also confirmed that the information had been given to the Department of Foreign Affairs, but he did not confirm that this crucial information had been sent to Zimbabwe.

Will the Solicitor General commit to send this information to the defence counsel in Zimbabwe like he would if this trial was in Canada?

Foreign Affairs
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Toronto Centre—Rosedale
Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member should know, and I checked with the department this morning, that these materials were given to our department some time this month. On February 20 they were forwarded to our high commission in Zimbabwe for transfer to the defence counsel for the accused. We have provided to the accused all information which we can possibly do under Canadian law. We have forwarded it to them.

We certainly sympathize with the prosecution. We do not agree with that prosecution and will do everything we can to help the defence of the leader of the opposition in Zimbabwe.

Drugs and Pharmaceuticals
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, recent news reports reveal that the tax evasion office of Revenue Quebec is preparing to launch an investigation into an alleged discount scheme involving generic drug companies and the province's pharmacists. Those same reports reveal that such practices, which may well be keeping drug prices unnecessarily high, might be going on across Canada.

Will the Minister of National Revenue tell the House whether her department is aware of the issue and is she contemplating following Quebec's lead and launching her own investigation?

Drugs and Pharmaceuticals
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Thornhill
Ontario

Liberal

Elinor Caplan Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, while I cannot comment on individual cases, I can tell the member that we work very closely with the provinces and that whenever evidence is brought forward of non-compliance or inappropriate activity, action is taken.

Goods and Services Tax
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rahim Jaffer Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of National Revenue has said that the total of GST fraud which had been identified was $60 million. Let us see if that is correct. She said that $25 million had been lost to previous cases and about $75 million was currently before the courts. That seems to equal $100 million. Clearly she does not know what the real amount is or she is afraid to tell Canadians how much has been stolen.

When will the minister end her creative accounting practices and give an accurate report to Parliament and Canadians?

Goods and Services Tax
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Thornhill
Ontario

Liberal

Elinor Caplan Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, I would say to the member opposite that everything that I have said in the House has been completely accurate. I look forward to appearing at committee toward the end of March so that I can explain more fully, in a way that perhaps he will understand, the situation which has existed since the Conservative Party brought in the GST.

We have received in revenues over $500 billion. As I told him, confirmed by the courts to this point in time there have been $60 million attributed to fraud.

Goods and Services Tax
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Val Meredith South Surrey—White Rock—Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, we have been down this path before. For years, ministers of the government withheld the true cost of the firearms registry from Parliament.

The Minister of National Revenue seems to agree that what Canadians do not know cannot harm the Liberals. Before the minister appears before the public accounts committee, will she reveal the true cost of the GST fraud to Parliament?

Goods and Services Tax
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Thornhill
Ontario

Liberal

Elinor Caplan Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, let me be really clear. I said to the members opposite that it is fraud when the courts say it is fraud. That is the number that I provided for the House. I went all the way back to 1991. I say to them, prove some evidence, bring forward some evidence to suggest it is a billion dollar number. There is nothing to suggest that is correct.

There has been $550 billion collected and to this point in time the courts have determined that the total GST fraud in Canada, which I agree is a lot of money, is $60 million.

Oil and Gas Prices
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Bloc

Gérard Asselin Charlevoix, QC

Mr. Speaker, every time we raise the issue of the cost of heating oil, the Minister of Industry tells us that he cannot intervene because he needs to respect provincial areas of jurisdiction.

Can he explain to us how this situation is any different than in October 2000, when the government did intervene, announcing that it was sending out cheques to everybody? Is the difference that oil cost 10¢ less a litre at that time, or did an impending election have something to do with it?

Oil and Gas Prices
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Vaughan—King—Aurora
Ontario

Liberal

Maurizio Bevilacqua Secretary of State (International Financial Institutions)

Mr. Speaker, the tax cut that Canadians received was a $100 billion worth, the largest tax cut in Canadian history. It has brought about tax relief to the average family of approximately 27%.

It might not be good news for the opposition but it is certainly good news for the people of Canada.

Oil and Gas Prices
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Bloc

Gérard Asselin Charlevoix, QC

Mr. Speaker, instead of making ironic comments, I think the minister needs to face up to his responsibilities and demand an investigation by the Competition Bureau. Otherwise we will be forced to conclude that the minister is thumbing his nose at the public. Will the minister tell us which it is?

Oil and Gas Prices
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Etobicoke Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Allan Rock Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, 18 months ago, the Competition Bureau carried out a thorough investigation. It concluded that there is no collusion between the oil and gas companies. In the weeks to come, the Standing Committee on Industry will be looking into this as well. In the meantime, if the hon. member wants to see retail price control, that is up to the provinces.

Health
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rob Merrifield Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, with war looming, the smallpox threat has never been greater and that is why the United States is aggressively proceeding with its vaccination programs.

Reports have it that our government has not yet ordered or made a deal for the 10 million new doses. I have a very simple question. When will the deal be signed and when will the first order be filled?

Health
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, my department is responsible for the purchase of the vaccine. The government will indeed be procuring 10 million doses of smallpox vaccine from a Canadian supplier for use in the case of an emergency. The contract will also contain the necessary options to procure more if that is necessary, and the negotiations are indeed underway.

Human Rights
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Betty Hinton Kamloops, Thompson And Highland Valleys, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is unacceptable that the government waffles and dodges as it has been doing since last October. The opportunity was there in October for Canada to speak out on behalf of oppressed people in Iran.

Nothing was said to, or about, the regime that buries women up to their necks and stones them to death. We are approaching another deadline this March when the Human Rights Commission will meet again in Geneva.

What message on behalf of outraged Canadians does the government intend to take to Geneva next month to halt the atrocities against Iranian people?

Human Rights
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Toronto Centre—Rosedale
Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I agree with the hon. member's description of these events as being horrible and unacceptable in a civilized country's behaviour. We brought this to the attention of the Iranian government. We will continue to raise these matters at the United Nations Human Rights Commission, as we have done in the past.

I assure the House and the hon. member that when we meet with our Iranian counterparts, if we have any discussions with them, we raise our human rights concerns with them. These are actively pursued by our government. We believe strongly in pursuing them internationally and bilaterally with Iran.

The Environment
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Mac Harb Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of the Environment. The commissioner of the environment recently released a report stating that there are literally thousands of contaminated federally owned sites across the country.

Could the minister tell us when we will see some action on this file? Has his department had a chance to review it and what can he tell us today?

The Environment
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Victoria
B.C.

Liberal

David Anderson Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, it is true that the commissioner issued a report on contaminated sites. Therefore, in partial response, the budget has included $175 million over two years, which is an indication of our determination to deal with the issue. That is in addition to the $100 million that is spent annually prior to this money.

I can report to the House that today in Sydney, Nova Scotia the Deputy Prime Minister announced that the federal government would be supporting the cleanup of the Sydney tar ponds with financial support up to the federal share.

Organized Crime
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Cadman Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, Statistics Canada reports that auto theft has been increasing for years. The annual cost to Canadians is at least $600 million.

The police and the courts need help to investigate and prosecute organized auto theft rings. The Criminal Code does not specifically address vehicle identification numbers. This creates a giant loophole for organized crime. Tampering with a vehicle identification number must be made a criminal offence. Police have said so for years.

Is the Minister of Justice even aware of this loophole and when is he going to close it?

Organized Crime
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Outremont
Québec

Liberal

Martin Cauchon Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, as the hon. member knows very well, we are in touch with members of the justice departments from across Canada with regard to the Criminal Code.

He knows as well that we are planning to move ahead with reform of the Criminal Code. We will proceed in stages of course. Each and every time that there is something in regard to the Criminal Code, we address those questions around the table at the federal-provincial meetings that we have. Therefore, we will have a look into that.

Firearms Registry
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Philip Mayfield Cariboo—Chilcotin, BC

Mr. Speaker, according to the latest spending estimates, the Canadian firearms program will be spending yet another $21.5 million to develop a new computer system. This is in addition to a $35 million contract with CGI Group Inc. for a new off-the-shelf system. The justice department had already paid $400 million to EDS. It modified that some 12,000 times before deciding to ditch it.

Did EDS compete with CGI in a public tendering for this new off-the-shelf system?

Firearms Registry
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Outremont
Québec

Liberal

Martin Cauchon Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I just do not know why they keeping asking questions on that notion of gun control. First, they should listen to the Canadian people. The polls that we have seen lately tell us exactly where they are, and they strongly support the gun control program that we put in place back in 1995.

As well, they should start to look at the statistics. They should listen to what stakeholders have said over the past few days. However, when they have a colleague such as the member for Yorkton—Melville saying that gun control will result in more crime, more injuries and more death of course we cannot support--

Firearms Registry
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member for Verchères—Les-Patriotes.

Foreign Affairs
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Bloc

Stéphane Bergeron Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, recent media reports have highlighted the case of Simon (name redacted), a 17 year old from Varennes, who has been incarcerated in New Jersey, where both the language and culture are completely foreign to him and he has no family, for two years now. He has already served more than half of his sentence and could have been released on parole, or at least transferred to a Canadian prison.

Will the Minister of Foreign Affairs give us an update on what the Government of Canada has done, both at home and in the United States, to have this young man brought home as soon as possible?

Foreign Affairs
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Toronto Centre—Rosedale
Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I would first like to thank the member for his question and his interest in the welfare of the young Mr. Chevarie-Dudemaine and his family. His situation is obviously very difficult. We sympathize a great deal with his situation. We have done our job by visiting him and by providing this young prisoner with consular access.

However, I must point out that the process for transferring inmates between Canada and the United States is solely managed by Correctional Service Canada. As for the United States, the decision is made by the Governor of New Jersey. We will work together in order to—

Foreign Affairs
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member for Skeena.

The Environment
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Andy Burton Skeena, BC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday I asked the environment minister why he is so negative toward offshore oil and gas development in B.C.

Does the minister not know that the offshore oil and gas industry has a history of success around the world, from Alaska to California, Hibernia, and Aberdeen in Norway? For example, comments made in the B.C. legislature last week made it clear that the minister had no credibility with the B.C. Liberal government.

Why will he not admit that he is a major stumbling block toward development in B.C. and just sail off into the sunset?

The Environment
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Victoria
B.C.

Liberal

David Anderson Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, the principle the government accepts and holds dear is that we do not embark upon industrial ventures, oil and gas development, without a proper analysis of the social, economic and environmental impacts of any such development.

It is not a question of saying no to the development. It is saying that if we wish to have development, we have to analyze what the benefits and costs from an environmental point of view might be. That is all I have asked for, that we have a proper assessment of the potential impact of this industry on the environment of the west coast.

Fisheries and Oceans
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Charles Caccia Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and it is based upon media reports from British Columbia. Because of salmon aquaculture operations, wild salmon are exposed to severe sea lice infestations which in turn have led to a drastic plunge in the number of pink salmon.

Will the minister set firm rules banning the bad practice of net-cage salmon farming which is the root cause of sea lice outbreaks, and also not resort to the use of pesticides?

Fisheries and Oceans
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

West Nova
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Robert Thibault Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his question and for his genuine interest in the matter of the protection of wild salmon stocks. It is a matter we are taking very seriously in light of the recent problems that have been outlined with the Broughton Archipelago.

We have a five point program to do a study to make sure that we understand fully whether the sea lice problem is increased by aquaculture in those areas and to make sure that we minimize the risk. It is our belief that we can have both an aquaculture industry and at the same time protect the wild salmon resource. It is very important that our first priority be the wild salmon resource.

Citizenship and Immigration
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, on Sunday, Citizenship and Immigration Canada, demonstrating a complete lack of compassion, will deport Fatima Marhfoul to Morocco, her country of origin, where she faces the threat of a severe prison sentence because her application for permanent residence in Canada is considered an insult to Morocco's monarchy.

Knowing that Fatima Marhfoul was shamefully exploited as a domestic in Canada for 10 years, does the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration not feel that he should demonstrate humanity in her case and cancel the deportation procedure before it is too late?

Citizenship and Immigration
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Brampton Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Sarkis Assadourian Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, as members know, we cannot comment on specific cases in the House. However, I would like to inform the member that the information she has and the information the department has are different. We have to make sure the case proceeds appropriately so we can make a final judgment which will be appropriate for the government and for the individual concerned.

Government Appointments
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Wendy Lill Dartmouth, NS

Mr. Speaker, today we hear that former Cape Breton MP David Dingwall will become the president of the Royal Canadian Mint, which includes an annual salary of $250,000, a car and a chauffeur. It is a nice gift from the Prime Minister to his former minister of health who was rejected by his Cape Breton constituents and who presided over billions of dollars of cuts to health services, leaving our health care system in the state it is today.

Is this the first in a long string of patronage postings to be handed out by the Prime Minister to Liberal loyalists, or will he consent to having a public process for this type of appointment?

Government Appointments
Oral Question Period

Noon

Don Valley East
Ontario

Liberal

David Collenette Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I could not think of anyone better qualified to be master of the mint than the former minister, who was minister of public works and who understands the mint, has a good grasp of its issues and of marketing its products around the world.

I would have thought the hon. member would have been happy, as a Nova Scotian, that someone from that province, and especially from Cape Breton, has been recognized by the board of the Royal Canadian Mint. He will serve with distinction.

Zimbabwe
Oral Question Period

Noon

Progressive Conservative

Bill Casey Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Mr. Speaker, on February 18 the member for Esquimalt--Juan de Fuca asked if Canada would oppose the reinstatement of Zimbabwe to the Commonwealth. The Minister of Foreign Affairs outlined the position of South Africa, Nigeria and several others, but did not indicate the position of Canada.

Will the minister clarify Canada's position and confirm that Canada will oppose the reinstatement of Zimbabwe to the Commonwealth?

Zimbabwe
Oral Question Period

Noon

Toronto Centre—Rosedale
Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I would like to inform the House and the hon. member that we are working closely with the Commonwealth secretariat, particularly the right hon. Donald McKinnon who is the secretary-general of the Commonwealth and the members of the troika to see if we can resolve this matter through the troika.

We recognize that the conduct of Zimbabwe and President Mugabe at this time is totally inconsistent with their Commonwealth obligations. However, we wish to work through the Commonwealth process before we make any clear decisions as to what should take place at the Commonwealth leaders meeting where this matter will be considered.

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

Noon

Don Valley East
Ontario

Liberal

David Collenette Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, earlier in question period, the right hon. member for Calgary Centre accused me of uttering a false statement in reply to one of his questions that the conflict of interest guidelines emanated from the Parker commission and the former Mulroney government, of which he was a member.

He challenged me to put documents on the table to prove my answer. I do not need to do that. This was confirmed by Mr. Mulroney himself in a published statement this week when he said he thought a blind management agreement might have been used for a public servant who worked on the free trade agreement.

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

Noon

Progressive Conservative

Joe Clark Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Transport will know that there is a world of difference between a statement outside the House saying something might have happened and the document that I requested saying it did happen.

If the Minister of Transport believes that he has a document which proves his case, let him not rely on testimony from outside the House; let him have the courage to come to this Parliament and lay upon the table the document itself.

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

Noon

The Deputy Speaker

I think I heard a difference of opinion which amounts to a debate in this place. It is not a point of order.

I have a notice of a question of privilege from the hon. Minister of State and Leader for the Government in the House of Commons.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

Noon

Glengarry—Prescott—Russell
Ontario

Liberal

Don Boudria Minister of State and Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, this is in fact not a new question of privilege. It refers to something that was raised in the House yesterday. I committed yesterday to return to the House on the question of privilege at the earliest opportunity, which of course is today.

Yesterday the hon. member for St. Albert asked about details on the firearms funding in the supplementary estimates by way of a question of privilege.

A total of $77.5 million was requested for Justice in the supplementary estimates. Of this amount, $59.4 million was requested in support of the Canadian firearms program, of which $50.5 million is in Justice vote 1, operating, and $8.8 is in vote 5, contributions. The remaining $18 million is to cover four additional items, namely: incremental funding--which has an asterisk beside it and I will get back to that in a moment--to address core operational requirements, $16.4 million; public security and anti-terrorism initiatives, $.4 million; additional operating costs, $1 million; and partnering with the voluntary sector, $.2 million.

On the use of Treasury Board vote 5 for Justice, as it was alleged yesterday, in the 2002-03 supplementary estimates part B, the member for St. Albert also asked whether Treasury Board vote 5 was used for firearms funding. As I answered yesterday, and I am willing to provide more detail now, the answer is no.

As I indicated yesterday, $14 million was provided from Treasury Board vote 5 specifically for prosecution and legal costs associated with an increased workload in drug prosecution. When the minister appears before committee he can give details of that. That is the custom. The remainder is for aboriginal litigation cases.

The asterisk in the supplementary estimates denotes the fact that the request was made by the Minister of Justice for access to vote 5 for this specific item only. The department will use this temporary allocation only for this purpose.

It should be noted that all departmental expenditures in either the main or supplementary estimates are approved by Parliament and reported in the public accounts, which of course ultimately is the verification method. They are subsequently reviewed, as we know, and verified by the Office of the Auditor General.

I am pleased to inform the House on this. I hope it will assist the Chair in making its decision as to whether or not the privileges have been breached, which of course we maintain they have not.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

12:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Williams St. Albert, AB

Mr. Speaker, I think the government House leader is just trying to deflect the whole issue.

The point of my question of privilege was that he gave information, and he repeated some of that information today, that is not in the main estimates for 2003-04 that was supplied by the spokesperson for the Department of Justice outside this chamber to the general public, referring to the fact that the House would be advised of this information later when the plans and priorities, the part IIIs, were tabled in the House later this month.

This is information that first belongs here before it goes out there, not the other way around. That was my question of privilege.

Privilege
Oral Question Period

12:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Of course, this original question of privilege was heard yesterday by our hon. Speaker himself. He has undertaken to review the matter so I am sure that today's information will again give him more subject matter for reflection. His decision will be brought to the House at the appropriate time.

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

12:05 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Joe Clark Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Transport in his capacity as acting prime minister referred to documents which he said had respect to a blind management agreement entered into by the former government. He knows that he has the authority of the prime minister of that former government to lay upon table documents which might otherwise be unavailable to the House that pertain to that particular matter. I think it would be in the interest of debate in the House that if the hon. minister has documents that prove his case he table them now in the House of Commons.

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

12:05 p.m.

Don Valley East
Ontario

Liberal

David Collenette Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, the guidelines we have codified a practice that developed with the Mulroney government, which followed on from the commission of Mr. Parker.

The right hon. member says he speaks for the former prime minister in this matter. I would like to hear from the former prime minister himself. He also said in an earlier point of order that the statements made by Mr. Mulroney outside the House could not be regarded. I regard his statements at face value and I will accept them. I am sorry that he does not.

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

12:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Respectfully to both hon. gentlemen, I believe this is a continuation of an earlier debate as the words were already spelled out, so I still arrive at the same conclusion.

Report of the Canadian Forces Housing Agency
Routine proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Beauséjour—Petitcodiac
New Brunswick

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Madam Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 32(2) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, two copies of the 2001-02 annual report of the Canadian Forces Housing Agency.

Interparliamentary Delegations
Routine proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Barrie—Simcoe—Bradford
Ontario

Liberal

Aileen Carroll Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Madam Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34(1) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the report of the delegation from the Canada-Europe Parliamentary Association at the meeting of the Committee on Economic Affairs and Development, held in London, England, January 23 and 24, 2003, and at the first part of the 2003 ordinary session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe held in Strasbourg, France, from January 27 to January 31, 2003.

Committees of the House
Routine proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Eugène Bellemare Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Madam Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the second report of the Standing Committee on Human Resources Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities entitled “Taking the Necessary Measures to Enhance the Integrity of the Social Insurance Number: A Review of the Action Plan”.

I wish to read one of the many recommendations of the committee. The committee recommends that: “Human Resources Development Canada immediately require all new applicants for a social insurance number to provide, in addition to one of the currently accepted primary documents, one other document that contains a photograph of the applicant (e.g. passport, driver's licence, etc.) or, if photo identification is not possible, at least two other identification documents”.

Committees of the House
Routine proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Kilger Stormont—Dundas—Charlottenburgh, ON

Madam Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the third report of the Special Committee on Modernization and Improvement of the Procedures of the House of Commons. The report contains the provisional Standing Orders for Private Members' Business to come into force upon our return March 17.

Income Tax Act
Routine proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Bill Casey Cumberland—Colchester, NS

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-407, an act to amend the Income Tax Act (disability tax credit).

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank my seconder, the very distinguished member for Brandon—Souris, for helping me with this.It is a very simple bill. It proposes to change the Income Tax Act to require the government to have a doctor overrule a doctor's report. Currently a disabled person applying for a disability tax credit is required to have a doctor's report. Revenue Canada should be held to the same standard. Only a doctor should ever be able to overrule another doctor's report. That is not the case now.

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

Committees of the House
Routine proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Kilger Stormont—Dundas—Charlottenburgh, ON

Madam Speaker, there have been discussions between the parties with regard to the third report of the special committee on modernization. I understand that there would be unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:

First, that the hon. member for St. John's West be permitted to table today an addendum to the report.

Second, that a motion to concur in the report be deemed to have been moved and put and deemed adopted at the time the House meets on March 17.

Committees of the House
Routine proceedings

12:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Committees of the House
Routine proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

Committees of the House
Routine proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn St. John's West, NL

Madam Speaker, I wish to table an addendum to the report for the benefit of members of the House.

Petitions
Routine proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Deepak Obhrai Calgary East, AB

Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to present a petition signed by 142 people from Calgary East. The petitioners call upon Parliament to protect our children by taking all necessary steps to ensure that all materials which promote or glorify pedophilia or other activities involving pedophilia are outlawed in Canada.

Petitions
Routine proceedings

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Wendy Lill Dartmouth, NS

Madam Speaker, I want to table a petition today on behalf of a great number of constituents from Dartmouth, Fletchers Lake and Halifax who are deeply concerned with the spread of child pornography in Canada and the damage it is causing to young lives. The petitioners are calling on Parliament to protect our children and take necessary steps to ensure that materials which promote pedophilia and sado-masochism are outlawed.

Petitions
Routine proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Bill Casey Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Madam Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36 it is my pleasure to present a petition signed by approximately 100 residents of Truro, Nova Scotia and area. The petitioners ask the government to repeal section 13(5) of the Canada Post Corporation Act, because they feel that their rural route mail couriers are discriminated against and are not allowed to bargain collectively to improve their wages.

Petitions
Routine proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rahim Jaffer Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Madam Speaker, I too have a petition I would like to present on behalf of a number of people in Alberta. The petitioners urge Parliament to protect our children by taking all necessary steps to ensure that all materials which promote or glorify pedophilia and other activities involving children are outlawed.

Petitions
Routine proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Madam Speaker, I am here to present a petition on behalf of the people of Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, particularly those from Arnprior, Braeside, Renfrew and Kinburn. The petitioners are requesting that Parliament recognize that the Canadian Emergency Preparedness College is essential to training Canadians for emergency situations, that the facility should stay in Arnprior, that the money promised to them for these facilities should be allocated there, and that the government should upgrade the facilities in order to provide the necessary training for Canadians.

Petitions
Routine proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rob Anders Calgary West, AB

Madam Speaker, these petitioners note that March 10 marks the anniversary of Tibetan uprising day. In 1959, Tibetans rose up against the invading Chinese and about 100,000 were massacred, and some 1.2 million have lost their lives in the past five decades. Authorities continue to detain 13 year old Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the Panchen Lama, whose detention is now approaching its eighth year.

The petitioners say that the Human Rights Commission should adopt a resolution on the situation of human rights in China, East Turkestan and Tibet, with a view to ending specific human rights abuses. Further, the petitioners call upon the Canadian government to sponsor a resolution at the upcoming United Nations Commission on Human Rights to petition Chinese authorities for permission to visit the Panchen Lama for the purpose of ascertaining his safety and well-being

Petitions
Routine proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Rick Borotsik Brandon—Souris, MB

Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to present a petition on behalf of some constituents in my area. It has to do with a proposed amendment to Criminal Code sections 318 and 319 which these constituents believe will lead to individuals being unable to exercise their religious freedoms, their rights under the charter of rights. Therefore, they wish to petition this Parliament to protect the right of Canadians to be free to share their religious beliefs without fear of prosecution.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Beauséjour—Petitcodiac
New Brunswick

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Madam Speaker, the following questions will be answered today: Nos. 45 and 105.

Question No. 45
Routine proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John M. Cummins Delta—South Richmond, BC

Following the Mefloquine adverse event monitoring report received on August 26, 2002 by Health Canada indicating a murder and an attempted suicide: ( a ) what investigation has been carried out by Health Canada and other government agencies; and ( b ) what was the result of these investigations?

Question No. 45
Routine proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Halifax West
Nova Scotia

Liberal

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

I am informed as follows:

Health Canada:

The Canadian Adverse Drug Reporting Monitoring Program, CADRMP, in Health Canada is responsible for the collection and assessment of adverse reactions that have been submitted by health professionals or consumers, either directly or through manufacturers. Information on all reported adverse reactions is maintained in a computerized database and is used as part of the continuing assessment of marketed health products. It is important to remember that reports to the CADRMP represent the suspicion, opinion or observation of the individual reporter. Cause and effect relationships have not been established. Adverse reaction information is used to help ensure the benefits of a marketed health product continue to outweigh the risks, to continuously update the labelling and product information for a marketed health product and to inform health care professionals and consumers about adverse reactions.

Since mefloquine was marketed in Canada, 1993 to October 8, 2002, the Canadian Adverse Reaction Monitoring Program, CADRMP, has received a total of 65 reports in which mefloquine was listed as suspected or interacting drug.

Health Canada analyzes adverse reaction reports to discover potential health product safety signals. A signal is considered to be the preliminary indication of a product related issue, for example a report of an unusual or unexpected adverse event, or an increase in the number of reports of a particular adverse event. The identification of a signal is not by itself the proof of the association of an adverse reaction to a health product but it triggers the need to further investigate a potential association. Health Canada’s regulatory actions are based on a scientific analysis of cases and are taken according to the regulatory framework in place. This includes updating the product monograph. Since Lariam, mefloquine, was approved in 1993, the Product Monograph has been revised seven times.

Health Canada continues to monitor the adverse reaction profile of mefloquine. The Marketed Health Products and Therapeutic Products Directorates are working in collaboration to ensure that measures are taken to address safety issues and make sure that the information in the Canadian Product Monograph is accurate, current and reflective of the Canadian experience. With regard to Lariam, mefloquine, there was a communique in the Canadian Adverse Reactions Newsletter, Volume 8, No 1, January 1998, on the neuropsychiatric reactions with the prophylactic use of this antimalarial drug. The Canadian Product Monograph of Lariam, mefloquine, contains all information on very rare neuropsychiatric reactions reported in some patients as well as cautions to be considered by physicians when prescribing this drug.

Because information that could identify the patient or the reporter in an adverse reaction report is confidential as per section 19(1) of the Access to Information Act, Health Canada cannot comment on investigations of any case by Health Canada or other government agencies.

National Defence:

a) The Department of National Defence reviewed the report.

b) Given that the report deals with incidents that the Department examined in the past, no further investigation is deemed warranted.

Question No. 105
Routine proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jim Pankiw Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

With respect to cancer and cancer research in Canada for each of the previously recorded nine fiscal years, what has Health Canada determined to be: ( a ) the incidence and fatality rates for breast cancer within the female population expressed as a percentage of all Canadian women; ( b ) the incidence and fatality rates for prostate cancer within the male population expressed as a percentage of all Canadian men; ( c ) the total amount of federal tax dollars put towards breast cancer research; ( d ) the total amount of federal tax dollars put towards prostate cancer research; ( e ) the provinces and territories in which mammograms are paid for by publicly-funded health care insurance when used as a tool in the early detection of breast cancer; and ( f ) the provinces and territories in which prostate specific antigen tests are paid for by publicly-funded health care insurance when used as a tool in the early detection of prostate cancer?

Question No. 105
Routine proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Edmonton West
Alberta

Liberal

Anne McLellan Minister of Health

The answer is as follows:

(a) Breast cancer continues to be the most frequently diagnosed cancer for women. One in nine women are expected to develop breast cancer and one in twenty-seven are expected to die of the disease. Following small but steady annual increases over three decades, breast cancer incidence among women levelled off in 1993. Mortality rates for breast cancer have declined steadily since 1986. This pattern of divergent trends is consistent with the benefits being achieved through screening programs and improved treatments.

The table below indicates the incidence and mortality* rates for breast cancer, female only, in Canada for the years 1990 to 1999.

  • Age-standardized rate: The number of new cases of cancer or cancer deaths per 100,000 that would have occurred in the standard population, 1991 Canadian population, if the actual age-specific rates observed in a given population had prevailed in the standard population.

(b) Prostate cancer will continue to be the most frequently occurring cancer for Canadian men. One in eight men will develop prostate cancer during their lifetime, mostly after age 70 and one in twenty-eight will die of the disease. Beginning in 1994, incidence rates* for prostate cancer began to decline after having increased rapidly for several years. Mortality rates for prostate cancer peaked between 1991 and 1995 and have fallen since. Increases in prostate cancer incidence in the early 1990's were likely due to the rapid increase in the use of early detection techniques.

The table below indicates the incidence and mortality* rates for prostate cancer in Canadian men for the years 1990 to 1999.

  • Age-standardized rate: The number of new cases of cancer or cancer deaths per 100,000 that would have occurred in the standard population, 1991 Canadian population, if the actual age-specific rates observed in a given population had prevailed in the standard population.

(c) The table below describes the Federal contributions towards breast cancer research. Partners include the Canadian Institutes for Health Research, CIHR, and Health Canada, HC.

(d) Federal tax dollars contributed towards prostate cancer research is as follows:

(e) Mammograms are paid for by publicly funded health care insurance in all provinces and territories when used as a tool in the early detection of breast cancer.

(f) Currently, Saskatchewan is the only province in which prostate specific antigen, PSA, tests are paid for by publicly funded health care insurance when used for screening asymptomatic men. However, prostate specific antigen tests are paid for by publicly funded health care insurance in all provinces and territories when used for diagnostic and monitoring purposes.

Due to a lack of evidence that PSA screening reduces death from prostate cancer, it is not a proven tool in the early detection of prostate cancer. The Canadian Task Force on Preventive Health Care recommends against the use of PSA test for routine screening purposes.

Question No. 105
Routine proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Beauséjour—Petitcodiac, NB

I ask, Madam Speaker, that the remaining questions be allowed to stand.

Question No. 105
Routine proceedings

12:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Is that agreed?

Question No. 105
Routine proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-2, an act to establish a process for assessing the environmental and socio-economic effects of certain activities in Yukon, be read the third time and passed.

Question No. 105
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—St. Clair, ON

Madam Speaker, I can assure my Progressive Conservative Party friend from Manitoba, my friends from the opposite side of the House, and you, Madam Speaker, that I do not intend to use all of the 27 minutes.

I did wish to raise one additional point. There is another concern that I believe the Yukon Territory is going to have to confront, assuming this legislation does proceed. That is the conflict in the territories with regard to outstanding land claims. The land claim issue of course is a problem across the country. Yukon is no exception to that, but there is a particular concern in Yukon because of the pressure that is being exerted on that territory in terms of the demands that we have for fossil fuel and the building of a pipeline that would cross the Yukon Territory.

As we know, there were various proposals outstanding for different pipelines, but one proposal would have fuel flow out of Alaska through the southern part of Yukon down through British Columbia and Alberta. The land that is in the area in the southern part of the Yukon Territory is subject to a land claim that, like so many others, has been outstanding for quite some time. This legislation, if it is applied to the proposal for the pipeline to run through that area, is also going to be confronted with how we deal with that proposal when we have an outstanding land claim. What role does that first nation play? It is not the only area in the territory where this is a potential problem. It obviously behooves this government to move as quickly as possible to resolve those land claims. On behalf of the NDP, I highlight this as a concern as to how this legislation is going to be implemented.

By way of summary, let me say that the NDP is in support of this legislation. We believe it has some innovative features which make it mandatory that it be supported. I have expressed today, as has the member for Winnipeg Centre in the past, certain concerns about the legislation, but it does enhance significantly the role that the first nations will play in the environmental assessment process. It introduces to a much more significant degree socio-economic issues, particularly cultural and heritage matters. It brings into play the cumulative impact principle. Finally, this legislation has had a significant amount of consultation with the first nations, with the government of the Yukon Territory and with local communities in Yukon. On that basis we will be supporting the legislation.

Question No. 105
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Rick Borotsik Brandon—Souris, MB

Madam Speaker, I am speaking to legislation that was taken through committee by my colleague from Dauphin--Swan River who, unfortunately, cannot be here today. He has been absent from the House and committee in the past while, although I know members of the committee miss his important influence and input into the committee work. I know they miss him because he does have a good grasp on what is happening with regard to first nations issues.

I have stood in the House and spoken in favour of Bill C-2 previously on behalf of my colleague from Dauphin--Swan River, and I will again reiterate the support of the Progressive Conservative Party for Bill C-2.

This past Tuesday a vote was held in the House on an amendment to Bill C-2. The original amendment was proposed by the member for Dauphin--Swan River and passed at the committee. It said that any future changes to regulations were to be brought before the standing committee before being published in the Canada Gazette or before coming into force. Effectively the committee agreed with this as being a good amendment, that before any of the regulation changes were to go forward and be gazetted they would come back to the parliamentary committee. What an innovative way of doing business in the House that in fact parliamentarians and the committee, which knows how the regulations would affect this legislation, would be able to deal with it.

However, even though the committee accepted and approved the amendment, it came back to the House and the minister felt that it was a little beneath him to take an amendment from an opposition member of the committee so he decided last Tuesday to do away with it.

I am somewhat disappointed with the member for Yukon. I respect him and his ability to bring this legislation to the House. I respect the passion by which he has dealt with this legislation. However I have to admit that I am disappointed that the member for Yukon did not stand up and support what the committee had done to bring this legislation forward and support the amendment. This would be a small chastisement of the member for Yukon, an individual who has put his heart and soul into this legislation, and who, as I said earlier, I respect for what he has done in the past but perhaps cannot respect him quite that much for not supporting this amendment coming forward.

Having said that, we do support it. We believe it is a good step forward. We believe the process was a good process, right up until the committee amendment was defeated in the House, but it brought together basically three levels of government, and I say that with some trepidation, but it was the federal government, the territorial government and the Council of Yukon Indians which represented the majority of the aboriginal governments within Yukon. I believe 11 of the 14 were represented at the table. That is good, co-operative federalism at work. I wish other departments and other ministers would consider that co-operative federalism when dealing with their own portfolios. They could probably learn a lesson from the minister in this particular case when they did go out and did use the consultative process and used it well, I might add, in order to bring all those parties to the table.

What it also does is it creates the process whereby environmental and socio-economic effects of a wide range of development activities are carefully assessed and considered before a project is approved. That is also very positive. This puts a process in place that will allow developments to go forward without having all parties throwing unnecessary barriers or roadblocks in the way. The ultimate result will be increased opportunity for economic development within the Yukon territory. That in itself is extremely positive.

The bill would also establish a development assessment process which would oversee development proposals within a province, which is, as I just said, a proposal that obviously would assist the process as opposed to having roadblocks thrown in its way.

There are some concerns, as was mentioned earlier by my colleague from Windsor and by other sitting members. The fact is that the benefits of the bill certainly outweigh all the negatives. As I say, it speaks to the insensitivity of not only the minister but certainly of the member who brought it forward, in not allowing what we consider to be a very important amendment that was brought forward and accepted by the committee but which was then taken out of the system in a back door fashion.

I want it on record that the Progressive Conservative Party will support Bill C-2 in its final reading. I appreciate the fact that the first nations in Yukon have the ability to more forward as well as they should.

Question No. 105
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Is the House ready for the question?

Question No. 105
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Question No. 105
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Question No. 105
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Question No. 105
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Question No. 105
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Question No. 105
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Question No. 105
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

All those opposed will please say nay.

Question No. 105
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Question No. 105
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Question No. 105
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Pursuant to Standing Order 45, a recorded division on the motion stands deferred until Monday, March 17, 2003, at the ordinary hour of daily adjournment.

Question No. 105
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Jordan Leeds—Grenville, ON

Madam Speaker, I think if you seek it you would find consent in the House to further defer the recorded division to Tuesday, March 18 at the end of government orders.

Question No. 105
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Is it agreed?

Question No. 105
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed from February 25 consideration of the motion that Bill C-6, an act to establish the Canadian Centre for the Independent Resolution of First Nations Specific Claims to provide for the filing, negotiation and resolution of specific claims and to make related amendments to other Acts, be read the third time and passed.

Specific Claims Resolution Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Betty Hinton Kamloops, Thompson And Highland Valleys, BC

Madam Speaker, there is no party in the House that wants to speed up the resolution of land claims more than the Canadian Alliance. We have seen and experienced firsthand the awful economic impact Liberal dawdling has had on the economies of our constituencies.

There is no party in the House that wants a fair and just land claims settlement program more than the Alliance Party. We have seen and experienced firsthand the grievous financial injury done to individuals who were sideswiped by land claims and lost their grazing leases or even their private property.

No party wants an independent land claims body more than the Alliance because we know what political meddling and influence peddling can do to thwart just settlements and fair and just treatment of all concerned.

The legislation, an act to establish the Canadian centre for the independent resolution of first nations specific claims, will not speed up the resolution of claims, particularly larger, more costly claims such as in British Columbia.

All one has to do is consider the proposed process for settlement. A first nation submits a claim to the proposed commission, at which time research funding is allocated by the commission to the first nation. All interested parties are notified and preparatory meetings are facilitated. How long that first step will take is anyone's guess, but we know how slowly the wheels of commissions can turn.

Following the first step, the Crown must decide whether to accept the claim. One would think that before allocating research money to the first nation making the claim that some decision on the validity of the claim would be made before throwing money out the window. That is not the case.

Step two has not finished. If the Crown refuses the claim after having handed over the research money, the first nation can ask for dispute resolution led by the commission. Keep an eye on that wheel to see if there is any movement. If the request for dispute resolution or dispute resolution fails, the first nation can ask the commission to refer the matter to a tribunal to ponder the validity of the claim. I should note here that we are still in what the government calls step two of this process and only just completing it.

Step three is if the claim is accepted as valid by the Crown or the tribunal, then the matter reverts back to the commission which will lead the negotiations with the first nation on the amount and the amount will never be allowed to exceed $7 million. I state again, that leaves British Columbia out of the process. However, if those commission led negotiations fail, the first nation can demand that the matter be referred back to the tribunal for a binding decision on the amount of compensation to a maximum of $7 million.

Those three steps alone could take years. Whatever happened to the speedy settlement of land claims, particularly those that are worth $7 million or less? It is not speeding anything up.

In its wording, the government uses the term “independent”. We must take issue with that. The Prime Minister will appoint the chief, the vice-chief commissioners and the other five commissioners. The Prime Minister will also appoint the chief and the vice-chief adjudicators and the other five adjudicators. He will determine what they will be paid and what their travel and living allowances will be. How independent are those 14 individuals going to be if the Prime Minister appoints them? Will they be as independent as the ethics counsellor? There will be suspicions and allegations from the outset of patronage and partiality. Those accusations and suspicions will tarnish the legitimacy and the credibility of the centre before it even gets off the ground.

It is also disturbing to read that the Canadian centre for the independent resolution of first nations specific claims will determine its own staffing requirements. We have seen enough over the years to know that when a so-called independent body is left to determine its own staffing needs, there is an out of control bureaucracy in the making. I could cite several examples.

We also have to ask this. Who will represent the vast majority of Canadians in this new process, the other stakeholders? By vast majority I mean all the people who pay taxes. Who will stand up for the taxpayer?

A system like this that avoids accountability for government stonewalling and discourages alternative dispute mechanisms over costly court cases is a potentially huge waste of scarce and hard earned tax dollars.

We find fault in the clause that says that the centre will submit quarterly reports on the values of all settlements to the minister. It does not say that the minister will immediately turn those quarterly reports over to the House for parliamentary scrutiny. We have seen what happened to the firearms registry and how true costs were hidden by the justice department. We have seen billion dollar HRDC disasters that the department tried to hide from Parliament. We know that Canada Customs and Revenue is desperately trying to hide the true losses taxpayers are suffering from the GST fraud.

How can the House feel assured that the minister will pass on the true costs of all these $7 million maximum settlements? By true costs, I mean the settlements plus the bureaucratic costs. The question remains, where is there anything in the legislation that suggests the taxpayers have somebody standing up for them in this process?

We have heard a lot from the Liberal side of the House about transparency in government. Liberals seem to have a bit of difficulty determining what transparency and what translucency is. When we say transparency, we mean see through. They have a different version of that.

In reading this over it appears that lip service is being paid to transparency in government but nothing is being done about it. There is no transparency in the legislation. Government members on the Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources voted against all the amendments that would have required the government to declare openly its reasons for deciding against a claim or for holding up the claim process. Where is the transparency in that?

As for speeding up the process, why is there no mandated timeline in the process? Why are there plenty of loopholes in here so as to permit the government to delay and stonewall. Every amendment put forward in committee to discourage stonewalling and delay was defeated by the Liberal members of the committee on orders handed down by the Prime Minister's Office.

The Liberals have, for over 100 years, treated our aboriginal people with indifference and even contempt. These half measures to make amends will be seen through by the first nation people. Maybe that is where they are talking about transparency because it is the only thing transparent in the legislation.

They know that the proposed legislation will not bring speedy resolution to their claims. They have seen the wheels of government turn and they know how long it takes to even get the wheels moving. They know how agonizingly long it will take for a full revolution of those wheels.

They will rightly feel betrayed by the Prime Minister and the author of the 1993 Liberal red book who happens to be the former finance minister. He wrote the Liberal promise that an independent claims commission would be jointly appointed by first nations and the Government of Canada.

The legislation breaks the promise of the Liberals and the former finance minister because it concentrates the power in the hands of the Prime Minister by making him the only person who can appoint the members of the centre for independent resolution of first nation specific claims.

If first nations people feel betrayed, it is no surprise. It is just one more broken Liberal promise in 150 years worth of broken Liberal promises.

The legislation is not worthy of support. That is why on this side of the House the official opposition will oppose it.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Jordan Leeds—Grenville, ON

Madam Speaker, there have been consultations between the parties and I think, if you seek, it you would find there is consent in the House for the following motion. I move:

That, in relation to its study on environment and sustainable development, six members and the clerk of the Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development be authorized to travel to London, England from March 24 to 27, 2003 to meet with the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development in England and the House of Commons Committee of England on Environment and Sustainable Development.

(Motion agreed to)

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-6, an act to establish the Canadian Centre for the Independent Resolution of First Nations Specific Claims to provide for the filing, negotiation and resolution of specific claims and to make related amendments to other Acts, be read the third time and passed.

Specific Claims Resolution Act
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Wendy Lill Dartmouth, NS

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to stand today and speak to the third reading of the Bill C-6, the first nations specific resolutions claims act.

The bill aims to modify the current specific claims process by creating a new administrative body which will include a commission to facilitate claims, negotiations and dispute resolutions, as well as a tribunal to make binding decisions on the validity of claims and compensation awards to a prescribed maximum per claim.

We should try to locate the bill in the context of other bills involving aboriginal people. This is part of a series of new legislations that make up the most comprehensive review of the Indian Act in modern history.

The Indian Specific Claims Commission, the ICC, was established in 1992 by order in council as a temporary independent advisory body to review specific claims that have been rejected by government and to issue non-binding decisions. This limited mandate has frustrated commission members and aboriginal claimants.

The ICC has called for a permanent independent specific claims commission. This has been on the Liberal agenda since the 1993 pre-election agenda. As it stands now, claims are presented to the Canadian government for review and acceptance.

In 1996 a Joint First Nations-Canada task force began considering the structure and the authority of this commission and submitted a report containing a model bill for a new specific claims body. Although the new legislation in question makes massive changes to the JTF report, the proposed Bill C-6 will replace the ICC.

I listened with interest to the comments of the member before me who expressed a great deal of disappointment with the bill and a sense of betrayal for native people. New Democrats feel the same. We have a lot of difficulties with the bill and I would like to go through some of our concerns.

As with the other bills included within the ministry's suite of first nations legislation, such as Bill C-7, the governance act, and Bill C-19, the fiscal institutions act, this bill would further damage the relationship between the government and the first nations as it would arbitrarily impose legislation upon the first nations people regardless of their input and their massive objection.

Treaties are nation to nation agreements that date back over 300 years and are central building blocks to the creation of Canada. They are legally protected under section 35 of the Constitution of Canada. Bill C-6 does not respect the spirit of those treaties, and as such it is unconstitutional. The government is in conflict of interest in this instance. It is both the defence and the adjudicator.

With this bill, the government has not created the independent and impartial committee for which was asked. Instead the minister has the last say about everything in the bill.

Bill C-6 dismisses the role of the Assembly of First Nations when it comes to their inherent right to self-government. Not only does the bill dismiss the government-AFN joint task force report model bill, but nowhere does the legislation even mention the Assembly of First Nations.

In addition to dismissing the joint task force report, the consultation process regarding Bill C-6 has been a joke. The committee set aside only three weeks for Bill C-6 and this included everything from introduction to all witnesses, to clause to clause revisions.

Under the joint task force report, there is no provision in Bill C-6 for appointments, renewals and approvals to require the consent of the AFN as well as the federal government. All appointments, such as the chief executive officer, commissioners and the tribunal will be made on the recommendation of the minister alone.

What is wrong with this picture? It has to be fairly obvious. Faced with constantly being dependent upon the federal government for reappointment, members will feel the pressure of wanting to be favourably regarded by the government. Thus the members will not be seen to be free to make a decision against the very government that would be responsible for their reappointment.

There are many other flaws in this legislation. With Bill C-6, the minister also has control over the so-called independent bodies through its ability to add more members whenever he or she pleases.

First, Bill C-6 ignores the JTF report and dramatically and arbitrarily narrows the definition of specific claim in the following way. It excludes obligations arising under treaties and agreements that do not deal with lands or assets. Second, it excludes unilateral federal undertakings to provide lands or assets. Third, it excludes claims based on laws of Canada that were United Kingdom statutes or royal proclamations.

The bill also severely limits access to the tribunal by denying all claims that are over the cap of $7 million. That amount can be unilaterally defined by the federal cabinet. It can be lowered as well as raised. The majority of claims, whose content deal with land, damages or loss issues, will be seeking compensation that is above that cap. The Indian claims commission reports that out of 120 claims they have dealt with, only three were worth less than $7 million. It is not meeting the needs of claimants in this regard whatsoever.

Delay is a major problem in the current system as well. It explains much of the current backlog estimated to be over 550 claims. Bill C-6 does not create any independent or impartial body designed to clear up that huge claim backlog. Instead, it is an instrument that enables the federal government to closely control the pace of settlements and decisions by granting the minister the power to consider a claim indefinitely at an early stage in the process. There are no time limits for compliance that must be observed.

Bill C-6 authorizes the federal government to delay the claims resolution process. It does so in the following ways.

No claim can proceed to alternate dispute resolution administered by the commission or the tribunal without the consideration and the approval of the minister. Bill C-6 says that no delay in responding can ever constitute constructive denial. A first nation cannot take a claim to the tribunal unless all alternative dispute resolution is exhausted and it must wait for the minister to deem that process exhausted. The government can request additional preparatory meetings even if the first nation does not think that it is necessary. If a first nation ever amends a claim during commission proceedings, the claim cannot proceed to the commission until the minister has considered the amendment. Finally, the government can delay by unilaterally lowering the cap on the overall amount of potential awards that a tribunal can issue in a given year.

It is clear that Bill C-6 favours the government by requiring the first nation to disclose all the facts and laws it is relying on before it reaches the tribunal. It does not require the same transparency from the government. The government sets the rules and controls the system by which it governs itself. This proposed process is not an independent or impartial process.

It is extremely insulting to the Assembly of First Nations and to native people across the country that the government asked the AFN to take part in the joint task force in 1998 responsible for making recommendations in this regard and then it completely ignored the model bill which it proposed.

First nations leadership wants changes to the Indian Act and they welcome change. Yet Bill C-6 has generated an unprecedented degree of animosity and disgust. Partly because of the content, but more important because of the process that animosity has occurred.

I will finish by saying that the NDP will not be supporting Bill C-6. It is not a constructive bill at this point in time and it is causing damage to relationships with native people.

Specific Claims Resolution Act
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Rick Borotsik Brandon—Souris, MB

Madam Speaker, I find it rather ironic that I rose to speak in support of Bill C-2 just prior to Bill C-6. All of the accolades that I gave to Bill C-2 with respect to the consultative process, to all parties not only being involved in the process but being supportive of the process are absolutely and totally changed when we come to Bill C-6. In fact, it is the same minister and department, but it is like night and day.

Bill C-6 has not had a consultative process. It has not listened to the joint task force of 1998. It has not brought all of the stakeholders together in a consultative process. It is frankly one of the worst piece of legislation that the ministry could bring forward. Here we have two examples, one a good example and one a deplorable example.

Again, I rise on behalf of my colleague, the member for Dauphin--Swan River, who has been instrumental in speaking in opposition to the bill. I would like to reiterate the position of the Progressive Conservative Party that we cannot support Bill C-6 at third reading.

As has been said by the member from the NDP, there are a number of shortcomings in the bill, not the least of which is the limit of the commission of $7 million for the tribunal. We recognize when we are dealing with land claims, when we are having to make necessary commitments to those land claims, that the majority of them are well over the limit of $7 million.

It seems to me that it is simply a matter of the government putting in place another roadblock where it does not have to deal with the real issue of settling these land claims, and simply delays and delays. As usual the government feels it can stick its head in the sand often enough and long enough with whatever the issue. Whether it be EH-101 helicopters, health care, taxation, gas prices or land claims, it sticks its head in the sand and eventually it thinks that people will either forget or the issue will go away. It will not and it cannot.

In fact, in this particular case what the government would like to do with its proposals in Bill C-6 is take about 100 years to clear up the backlog of the outstanding land claims. The government may think it has 100 years, but I know the average age of the government members and I can assure the House they do not have that long to sit in the House to be able to settle those land claims.

I am also concerned with the makeup of the tribunal. We have examples now of other organizations that have government appointed members. One that comes to mind is the Canadian Wheat Board where the government has its own appointees. What they simply do is take the agenda of the government to the table and nothing changes. This is the same factor in Bill C-6 where the members of the tribunal would be appointed by the same person, the minister who is trying to reach an agreement on land claims which is a total conflict of interest.

However the government is not too concerned with conflict of interest as we have seen with other issues that are now going on in the House. It is not only not a concern for the government but it seems to be part of the norm. It seems like the government members like to put into place legislation that would perpetuate more conflicts because that is the way in their minds business is meant to be done. It seems they have done a very good job of putting in place another conflict with the land claims system which is something they probably did on purpose.

Another issue relates to animosity. There is not a stakeholder who supports the bill with the exception of the minister. The minister feels that it is the best piece of legislation contrary to whatever anybody else believes.

As I said earlier, there was no consultation and no process. Any of the people that it is trying to achieve a settlement with do not buy into the process and do not buy into the legislation.

The Progressive Conservative Party will vote against Bill C-6 at third reading. We believe strongly that bringing forward Bill C-6 would just perpetuate the problem. We believe that there must be closure. We believe that there is a need for an honest resolution to the land claims issues within the country. There is not only a need but a constitutional right to be able to settle those land claims. Unfortunately, the bill would perpetuate the problem, it would not fix it. It is more part of the problem than part of the solution. Therefore we will be voting against the bill.

Specific Claims Resolution Act
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Andy Burton Skeena, BC

Madam Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-6, an act related to the Canadian centre for the independent resolution of first nations specific claims. It is my understanding that the purpose of the bill is to create an independent institution to provide for the filing, negotiation, and resolution of specific claims.

Try as he might to say otherwise, the Prime Minister will have an everlasting legacy over his treatment of the aboriginal people of Canada. I do believe that in his heart he has tried to get it right. It is just unfortunate that aboriginal Canadians continue to pay the price for him getting it wrong.

On almost all fronts, aboriginal Canadians are the poorest, most undereducated group of people in all of Canada. Their on-reserve unemployment rates rank as high as 80% to 90%. The drug and alcohol abuse is heart breaking, and the imprisonment and reoffending rate is higher than any other group in Canada. Yes, there is a legacy here. Unfortunately, to Canadians and in particular aboriginal Canadians, it is an infamous one.

Let me first make clear what the Alliance policy is with regard to settling of aboriginal claims. Our position in land claims negotiations would be to ensure respect for existing private property rights, affordable and conclusive settlements of all claims, and an open and transparent process involving all stakeholders.

Aboriginal Canadians will not be able to move forward as individuals or as an autonomous group until the outstanding claims are settled conclusively and with finality.

The Prime Minister and the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development are living in a world that has passed them by. They refuse to acknowledge that their past attempts to resolve the many outstanding issues have all failed and yet they continue to repeat the same mistake over and over again. Fresh approaches and renewed attitudes are needed in order to see substantial change for the betterment of aboriginal Canadians.

The bill would expedite only claims for cash involving less than $7 million and not any larger claims or claims for land. In addition, the commissioner and adjudicators would not be representative of all stakeholders, as they would be appointed by the Prime Minister.

As I understand the process involved under the bill, the centre would consist of a commission and a tribunal. In turn the claims process would proceed through three stages.

First, the input and preparatory stage where the first nations would submit their claim to the commission, arrange research funding and notify interested parties of the claim. Second, the validity stage where the Crown would decide whether or not to accept the claim. If the Crown refuses the claim, the first nation can ask for dispute resolution led by the commission. If that fails, the first nation can ask the commission to refer the claim to the tribunal to decide on its validity. Third, is the negotiation stage. When the claim is accepted by the Crown, or deemed valid by the tribunal, it would enter a commission led negotiation. If negotiation fails, the first nation could ask the commission to refer the claim to the tribunal for a binding decision on cash compensation to a maximum of $7 million. Obviously, this limits the ability of many first nations, and the federal and provincial governments where involved, to resolve claims because most claims are much larger than that.

I have several concerns regarding the bill. Although the centre is slated to be in Ottawa, there appears to have been no consideration for where the most cost effective location for the centre would be.

I am pleased to note that the Auditor General of Canada would audit the financial accounts of the centre annually and the report of the audit would be made to the centre and the minister. Although there is a time lag for the reporting mechanism of the centre to the minister and a further time lag of the minister tabling the relevant documents in the House, there is the appearance of some transparency.

What concerns me is that the minister would not be presenting the quarterly reports from the centre to Parliament. This is wrong and they should be tabled, thus keeping parliamentarians fully apprised of the centre's financial well-being. Let us not have another gun registry on our hands as Canadians cannot afford that.

Another of my concerns relates to the efficiency of the process. The government needs to re-examine its approach to defining access to the proposed claims centre. If it were to be more efficient, the minister would need to determine how to allow more access for legitimate claims. The government must ensure that transparency exists throughout the entire process. It is not reasonable to give government the right to hold up the process as it decides whether or not to hear a claim because it provides no timelines or final deadlines for government to provide an answer. Furthermore, it would provide no mechanism for the commission or the claimant to move the process forward in the event of extended delay by the government.

The government appears determined to continue to hold on to all of its dictatorial power, all the while paying lip service to aboriginal Canadians.

Clause 32 would allow the government to require the claimant to meet an excessive threshold of proof of having used all available mediation mechanisms before allowing the first nation to request a move to the tribunal in the case of an unresolved claim. This appears to be nothing less than another stalling mechanism for the government. Of special note is that this clause would also impose a cap on the validity stage of the process.

I am concerned about the arbitrary $7 million cap for compensation approval by the centre. I understand there were other proposals, as high as $25 million, however the amendment was defeated. Furthermore, the process used to determine the actual compensation is difficult, if not impossible, to determine.

One of my greatest concerns surrounds clause 77. This clause reads:

The Governor in Council may make regulations

(a) adding to Part 2 of the schedule the name of any agreement related to aboriginal self-government; and

(b) prescribing anything that may, under this Act, be prescribed.

Once again this appears to be a loophole that would allow the government to fill in the blanks after the bill has passed under the watchful eye of Parliament. Although the Prime Minister talks the talk about parliamentary democracy, he is unable to walk the walk. Legislation should not be something that can be added to arbitrarily after the fact.

Let me confirm that the Canadian Alliance supports the fair and expeditious resolution of claims in a manner that benefits relations between aboriginal Canadians and the federal government, and in fact all Canadians. The bill would not achieve that goal. The federal government has it all wrong with timing. Under this draft of the bill, first nations could not file claims based on events that occurred within the 15 years immediately preceding the filing of a claim.

The bill would raise false hopes and open the floodgates for more claims that first nations have held back. The centre risks being overwhelmed by cases, just like the Liberal gun registry, resulting in an even larger backlog and ultimately higher costs.

In the past three decades the government has settled only 230 claims. Some 500 claims are still waiting to be heard. First nations representatives tell us they expect up to 1,000 more claims to be filed. At the current rate it would take 200 years to deal with all of these claims. That is totally ridiculous.

In 1993 the Liberal red book promised an independent claims commission jointly appointed by first nations and the Government of Canada. The bill breaks that promise by concentrating the power to make appointments in the PMO.

Bill C-6 requires change and amendments before being ratified. I would ask all members of the House to support the current amendment that would send the bill back to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources. This legislation is flawed and requires serious change before becoming law.

Specific Claims Resolution Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

Madam Speaker, it will probably surprise you that my speech will be a little longer than those of the other members. I could actually speak from now till 5:30 p.m. I will not bother asking for unanimous consent for that because I rather suspect there would be at least one member here who would decline.

There is so much to be said on this topic. It is one of those issues where again, we ought to be paying a great deal more attention to the facts of the matter than we actually are.

I would like to begin by laying some groundwork. I have had some experience, but not a great amount, in working with native people. When I was in the math department at the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology, one of the very good projects in which I was involved was setting up a program for students who had dropped out of high school so that we could get them back into the educational route and hopefully retrieve their lost years. We would get them into a program and give them training so that they could obtain employment.

The institute had a program called pretechnology where we taught the basics of mathematics, the English language and science. There was a course in chemistry and a course in physics for them. On those subjects we actually went back all the way to the very basics. We started probably at the grade 2 or 3 level in math. We did not spend a great deal of time at that level because they were adult students, but we laid the foundation and we built on that.

At the end of one year we had taken those students right through to having completed high school equivalency. They did not get a high school diploma from us but we gave them enough education in those basic areas so that the following year they could enter a post-secondary program, just as those who had gone through grade 12 in high school.

Most of the students in that program for one reason or another had dropped out of school any time after grade 9 or 10. They had forgotten everything they may have known, so it was a major task.

I am indicating that today because when I was working in that program, I was also one of the instructors. Even though I was the head of the mathematics department in those years, I also chose to work as an instructor in that program.

In that program we had a small number of native students. I always felt that somehow these students were not anywhere near the potential that was contained in them. For the most part that was true. When I would talk to them individually about this, I would find out that most of them had had very poor opportunities and very poor discipline and learning in the schools that they had attended. There was a big attendance problem. The students were never really properly motivated, whether or not it was because their parents did not support their going to school adequately.

Many of them were involved in cultural things. In the fall they would go hunting. I always felt that if that is what they wanted to do, that was fine, but surely we could devise an education program that worked around that. Their vacation time could be during hunting season if need be. These young people could go out with their dads and learn how to hunt and do all of those things. That would be great, but let us not stop their education.

As a result these students came to NAIT very often with a very poor elementary and lower high school background. They were wonderful people to work with. I say that unequivocally. I found them to be very gentle, if I can make a generalization, and very eager to please.

I actually met one of the students on the airplane not very long ago. He had been in my class. Amazingly I remembered him but he did not remember me, which was quite a curiosity. Usually students remember me because I was the guy up front and they would recall that I had been their instructor. He also was one of my students and we did a little reminiscing about that experience.

What I am trying to say by preamble is that I have a real soft spot in my heart for the natives of Canada because of the situation that they have been in for many decades. I believe primarily it is because of the fact that governments have really done wrong by them, they really have, and it is time to correct it. It is time to put that behind us and start moving forward in huge leaps and bounds in order to allow native Canadians to realize their full potential. That is a goal I think we really need to seek out.

As the House may or may not know, for a time I was also involved in a small business. I remember that one of the young men who was hired to work for us was a first nations person. He was a fine young man. He worked diligently and people could count on him. If he said he was going to be there, he would be there. Unfortunately I have to say that was not true of all of the employees, but for him it was.

I remember as well one occasion, and this is a dead giveaway, when I stopped at one of the Kentucky Fried Chicken places in Edmonton. I was hungry for Kentucky Fried Chicken. This is a free ad for it and everyone can see it had a good, long term effect on me. I was eating my meal in the car. I used to pick up my food, sit in the car at noon time and listen to the radio before I would head back to work.

I was doing that when a young native came to the door of my car and asked for money. Instead of giving him money, I asked him what he needed it for. When I found out that he needed bus money in order to get home, I told him to get in and that I would drive him home. I had an opportunity to talk to him. I found out about what a sad plight he was in. Here he was in the big city and he did not have a job or any means of support. He really was very desperate.

That is not acceptable. It is not acceptable that for years and years these people have been undertrained, undereducated and underemployed. We need to correct that. One of the ways of correcting it is to treat them with the dignity with which they should be treated.

When we come to the topic of Bill C-6, I think this is an area where the federal Liberal government, which loves to crow about its compassionate attitude, has so totally blown it. It has blown it over decades. The Prime Minister likes to brag about the fact that he held all sorts of portfolios, that way back he was the minister of Indian and northern affairs. In all areas where those people have been trying to work with our first nations people they have utterly and totally failed. Now they have deluded themselves into thinking that if they keep on doing the same thing a little more often, they are going to get different results. I do not think so.

I look at the many provisions in Bill C-6. I am rather appalled by the mediocrity of the bill, by the fact that the Minister of Finance under the direction of the Prime Minister and all of the people in that department could not come up with something better than Bill C-6 with all of its flaws.

Another thing that really annoys me is that in the next election campaign, and I can already see it, there is going to be an election platform where the Liberals are going to say, “Do not vote for the Canadian Alliance. It voted against the natives”. That is how they will message it. That is very annoying.

The reason that we in the Alliance are against this bill is it is so totally inadequate. The Liberals will twist it. Instead of saying that we are against this bill in order to improve it for the natives, they will twist it so that Canadian people will be led to believe that we are against the natives. It is exactly the opposite.

It is the Liberals who are against them because of the inadequacy of legislation such as this bill. A careful reading of the bill would prove that what I am saying is correct.

Some of the previous speakers have already drawn attention to the fact that if the goal is to provide for speedy resolutions of claims, the bill would be one of the major hindrances to achieving that goal. How ironic to state that is the goal of the bill and then to design the bill so that it does exactly the opposite.

Madam Speaker, it is as if we were in a race. In order to help you, I as the young engineer, want to get your car going really fast and I say that we should tie a bunch of rocks on the back of the car and then drag them along. You would say, “Okay, you are the engineer, go ahead and do it”. But it would not help. I could say this would help you to go faster, but just because I say it would help does not make it so. In fact it would be just the opposite.

The same is true with the bill. When the Liberals say the purpose is to provide for speedy resolution of claims, it is just the opposite.

I would like to talk a little about some of the specifics of the bill. One that comes to mind is the promise of independence.

One of the reasons the natives of our country feel so downtrodden is that they have had governments lord it over them for too long. Here we have a process in place which again uses a label which is totally opposite to the result. They are talking about having an independent commission, an independent tribunal. Maybe the Liberals should get out the good old dictionary. They should have a look at what it means to be independent. They have missed the boat entirely on it.

I have used this example before in some speeches but it bears repeating here. It is the same as someone who gets into the ring to have a boxing match and the opponent also happens to be the referee. I wish that person luck in winning the match.

The natives are looking for an independent and fair resolution mechanism and what do they get? They get more of the same from the past, the Liberal government lording it over them.

The Liberals do not know the meaning of the word “independent”. If they do, they sure do not give any demonstration of understanding the meaning by the legislation they have here, in terms of appointments to the commission and to the tribunal. It is absolutely incredible that independence is a word only to them.

Of course we know that they do not understand it. Way back in 1993 we were promised an independent ethics counsellor. We have seen in the last nine and half to ten years how independent an ethics counsellor is, who is appointed by the Prime Minister, whose salary is determined by the Prime Minister, who answers to the Prime Minister, who reports to the Prime Minister and who, in effect, has been drawn into becoming part of the Prime Minister's damage control team every time anything goes wrong. We do not get independence by having a close tie like that to the government, to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.

It is really a shame that they could not arrange for, as our amendment stated in committee, true independence, people on the board who would be agreed to by both the government and the first nations people. Why could that not be done? Surely they could agree. There must be about 15 million or 20 million adults in Canada. Among those, surely we could find 14 people who would be mutually agreeable.

That would take a little bit of work, perhaps. But the government simply says that it will appoint, and that is what this legislation does, but the actual wording is something like order in council. We in Parliament of course understand that is by order of the governor in council of the executive branch of our government, which means the Prime Minister and the minister and they will appoint whomever they will.

The legislation is so offensive in that regard. They will be appointed by the Prime Minister. Their salaries will be determined by the Prime Minister or by a minister of the department; their working conditions; any bonuses; and the extent to which expenses are paid. Where do the first nations people come into this? Nowhere.

The government will have a person or a group of people who will be adjudicating and determining the basis on which these claims are processed and the whole process will be done by people who are beholden to the government.

What is the probability of commissioners making a fair judgment, which might go against the government, if they know their appointment is to serve during pleasure, which means the Prime Minister and the minister are pleased with their work? How can they ever come up with something that displeases the government?

Why can the Liberals not simply build into that appointment process, that hiring process and that benefit process a way of having an independent appointment process, just simply, as I said, to make sure those individuals who are appointed are mutually agreeable? That should not be difficult.

As I said before, and this is a very small sample, but in my dealings with native Canadians I have found them so co-operative. They seem to be a group of people who have a gentle spirit. I find it unfathomable that in this country we would be taking more and more of them away from their natural ways and training them to become almost militant and to have to stand up so strongly for their rights because they have been put down so long.

Let us look at the appointment of the chief executive officer. The bill states:

The Chief Executive Officer may be appointed to hold office for a term of not more than five years and may be removed for cause by the Governor in Council.

It is right in the bill. What is ironic is that the appointment is for a term not exceeding five years, but the very next paragraph states:

The Chief Executive Officer is eligible for re-appointment on the expiration of any term of office.

There is a flaw in that. I realize members are all paying very close attention to what I am saying, all 170 of them out there. I want to point out the flaw in the fact that the individual would be subject to re-appointment. That puts in another reason that a commissioner would have to make sure he or she did not offend the sensibilities of the Prime Minister or the minister of the department in order to keep the job. And it is a fine paying job. It is ranked at the level of deputy minister and the salary is higher than members of Parliament, if I am not mistaken. There is a very fine pension plan and all that stuff. Of course those commissioners would want to keep their job. They will not rule against the government. Where do the natives stand in this? They come out on the short end of it once again.

Subclause 8(3) states:

The Chief Executive Officer shall be paid the remuneration that is fixed by the Governor in Council.

Everything would be done by governor in council, no mutual agreement at all.

To skip a few points, it is interesting that under subclause 8(6) it states:

The Chief Executive Officer shall not accept or hold any office or employment or carry on any activity inconsistent with the duties and functions of that office--

And then, in a most bizarre continuation of the sentence, it states:

--but, for greater certainty, the Chief Executive Officer may also hold the office of Chief Commissioner.

The bill states that the chief executive officer of the organization specifically can be a member--

Specific Claims Resolution Act
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

I apologize to the hon. member but his time is up.

Is the House ready for the question?

Specific Claims Resolution Act
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

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Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The question is on the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

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Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Specific Claims Resolution Act
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

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Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

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Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

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Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

All those opposed will please say nay.

Specific Claims Resolution Act
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

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Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

In my opinion the nays have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Specific Claims Resolution Act
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Pursuant to Standing Order 45 the division stands deferred until Monday, March 17 at the ordinary hour of daily adjournment.

Specific Claims Resolution Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Jordan Leeds—Grenville, ON

Madam Speaker, I think if you seek it you would find consent to further defer the recorded division to Tuesday, March 18 at the end of government orders.

Specific Claims Resolution Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Is it agreed?

Specific Claims Resolution Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Specific Claims Resolution Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Jordan Leeds—Grenville, ON

Madam Speaker, I think if you would seek it you would find consent to see the clock at 1.30 so we can begin private members' business.

Specific Claims Resolution Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Is it agreed?

Specific Claims Resolution Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Specific Claims Resolution Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

It being 1:30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's Order Paper.

Falun Gong
Private Members' Business

1:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Scott Reid Lanark—Carleton, ON

moved:

Motion No. 236

That, in the opinion of this House, the Prime Minister should take advantage of his upcoming meeting with President Jiang Zemin of China at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Conference to privately raise the issue of the continued imprisonment in China of thirteen Falun Gong practitioners who have close family ties to Canada, and to emphasize that Canadians would be more willing to strengthen existing trade and aid ties between Canada and China if these individuals (namely, Lizhi He; Xiuzhen Lu; Tianxiong Peng; Zhanzhong Wu; Xiuchao Huang; Bo Qiu; Yueli Yang; Yangtao Jin; Jiangang Huang; Guangshou Huang; Mingli Lin; Zhou Zheng; and Changzheng Sun) were re-united with their families in Canada.

Madam Speaker, I assure you that I have made many pronunciation mistakes of the same sort, but the people of Falun Gong are very tolerant of those of us who are not perfect in our Chinese pronunciation.

The motion that was just read was unanimously passed, with a slight change in wording, by the House on October 24. The motion that we are debating today is identical in all practical purposes to that motion.

It is very unusual, to say the least, to debate a motion in the House of Commons that has been adopted, for all intents and purposes, four months after the fact of its adoption. This provides us with the unique opportunity to review the unanimous action of the House on October 24, and to see what results it has borne.

At that time, as the wording of the motion indicates, the Prime Minister was departing for Mexico to meet with leaders of the Asia-Pacific Economic Conference, including the president of China. I drafted and introduced this motion in the belief that any clear signal from the Prime Minister to the president of China, whether delivered in public or in private conversation, as the motion anticipates, would result in an improvement in the treatment of the 13 prisoners of conscience who are named in the motion.

As I imagined it then, the process would have worked something like this: the Prime Minister would spend a moment during his private time with President Jiang Zemin, drawing the attention of the president toward the unanimous will of the House of Commons. The president would probably regard this as an annoyance, but probably he would nevertheless, following this conversation, pass on this information to some underling with the instruction to make this minor irritation go away, so that China's relations with its valued Canadian trading partners might not be impeded by the peculiarly Canadian habit of obsessing over the individual human rights of particular individuals. And in the bowels of the vast Chinese bureaucracy, through a sort of trickle down effect, the appropriate administrators would probably in turn, so I imagined, be advised at the least to improve the conditions and the treatment of the prisoners of conscience and perhaps even to cause the release of some of the individuals named in this motion, simply in order to make this irritation go away.

Other hon. members seem to have agreed with the logic of the scenario that I had imagined and so the motion was passed without the opposition of a single member of Parliament. This kind of unanimous consent is a very rare occurrence in the House. I must say that it makes me proud of all my 300 colleagues and proud to be a member of the same institution as all my 300 colleagues in the House of all parties.

I am happy to report that the unanimous adoption of the motion seems to have resulted in at least the partial achievement of its intended goal. Of the 13 prisoners of conscience named in the motion, 5 have been freed.

Bo Qiu, a 27 year old photographer whose mother lives in Canada, has been released from the Liuchangshan labour camp. Yueli Yang, a 62 year old aerospace engineer and the mother of Zhendong Yang of Toronto, is now out of prison. Tianxiong Peng, whose twin sister lives right here in Ontario, was freed and on Christmas eve was reunited with her two year old daughter.

I would like to quote, if I may, from her twin sister, Helen Peng, who lives in Canada and who writes as follows:

My wish (for my sister's release) [came true] on Christmas Eve. It is like a dream...I truly appreciate the Canadian [Parliament] and all the others for their kind help and I wish them the very best. I hope each government will help the Falun Gong practitioners persecuted in China and help end this persecution which should never have occurred.

Even more encouraging in the three names that I have mentioned is the news about Changzheng Sun and Guangshou Huang, both of whom have been freed, and allowed to leave the country. I am happy to report that both Mrs. Sun and Mr. Huang have been reunited with their families here in Canada.

Reports from China indicate that the treatment of some of the other prisoners mentioned in the motion appear to have improved since October, and the evidence suggests that this is the direct result of the fact that the motion was passed in the House on October 24.

Looking back at a distance of four months, it seems to me pretty clear that from a technical or mechanical point of view what actually transpired to cause these positive developments, after the motion was passed in the House of Commons, was something very different from what I had imagined would take place.

Based on reports that I have received from contacts here in Canada, who are themselves in contact with friends and family in China and who have been monitoring the situation of loved ones within the Chinese penal system, it seems that the most important factor was not so much the internal pressure trickling down from on high, but rather the external pressure that the Canadian embassy in Beijing was able to bring to bear with regard to these 13 specific cases.

Canadian embassy officials, acting with impressive energy and efficiency, made it clear to the relevant Chinese authorities, that is to say the governors of the prisons and the administrators of the labour camps in which the 13 practitioners have been imprisoned, that Canada's Parliament and Canada's diplomatic corps was watching. In one particularly colourful and effective gesture, the embassy mailed Chinese New Year cards last month to each of the prisoners of conscience which made a dramatic impression, as members can imagine, upon the administrators who intercepted this mail. It made the point that they were not forgotten, that people were watching and that people in positions of authority cared very much about what happened to them. In the words of one Chinese Canadian with whom I recently talked, “It was as if the people at the Canadian embassy had been given a green light to do all the things they needed to do”. It is that which has been the most effective in getting the results that we see today.

To illustrate this point, I would like to read from a letter that I recently received from a Canadian living in Toronto whose 63 year old mother was freed from prison three weeks ago, probably as a result of this motion. He writes:

At one point, [my mother] was incarcerated in [a] notorious.... Forced Labour Camp... where lots of [Falun Gong] practitioners [have been] killed. I was really worried about her, but there was no way to know if she was still alive...

The strong reaction of the international community made those in China that started the crackdown very nervous and afraid. It was from then on, that I started to hear about my mother's situation in the labour camp.

The labour camp where my mom was imprisoned started to make a list of all those who have overseas connections...

Because of the efforts of our government, our parliament, as well as the Canadian Embassy in Beijing, my mother was finally released.

...She asked me to pass on her gratitude to all those who have helped with her release. She told me that the rescue efforts overseas have had a great impact in China. Whenever there is any sign of support from outside of China, those in charge of the labour camp became very nervous... and they would go and talk to her about it.

There was one other remarkable action taken as a result of alert Canadian diplomatic officials in the wake of the October 24 resolution, which we are discussing here today. This involved Ms. Yuzmi Wang, who today resides safely in Toronto following a remarkable rescue.

As seems so often to be the case with Falun Gong practitioners, Mrs. Wang had led a quiet and productive life prior to her arrest. She owned a small computer store in Harbin, the capital of Manchuria. When she was arrested and imprisoned several years ago, Mrs. Wang was tortured and force fed.

When she came to Ottawa following her release, I had the opportunity to talk with Mrs. Wang and she described a bit of what was involved in some of the torture that she experienced. Force feeding is really a way of imposing a form of torture on someone. Whether they are on a starvation diet, it is done to torture them without officially being engaged in torture. Their mouths are forced open, a rubber hose is forced down their throat and cold water mixed with wheat flour is poured down their throat. This results in gagging, retching, severe cramps and in some cases vomiting and nausea. Its actual benefits in terms of delivering nutrition to the person in question is highly questionable.

As I said, Mrs. Wang was imprisoned and tortured. She was released from her first sentence in prison when her death as a result of her treatment seemed inevitable. To avoid taking responsibility for her death, the Chinese authorities shipped Mrs. Wang to the United Arab Emirates where she had family members who nursed her back to health. A new warrant for her arrest was issued after Mrs. Wang was sighted at the United Arab Emirates airport by Chinese authorities and it became clear that her health had recovered and that she would not remain meek and quiet about the conditions that she had suffered while in prison.

Local authorities in the United Arab Emirates were contacted by Chinese authorities and were preparing to deport Mrs. Wang back to China on the basis of this warrant for her arrest. Members of the Falun Gong Association of Canada rallied to support her and compiled the relevant documentation to present to the authorities in the United Arab Emirates to save her from deportation and from certain imprisonment, which Mrs. Wang does not believe she would have survived.

Included among the documents that were presented, both to United Arab Emirates authorities and also to Canadian consular authorities in the UAE, was a copy of the motion that had been adopted in the House on October 24. The package of materials seems to have been decisive in causing Canadian consular officials to arrange a ministerial permit for Mrs. Wang to come safely to this country where she now resides.

I would like to dwell for a moment on the question of ministerial permits and the good that they could do in the case of individuals named in this motion who remain in China, whether still in prison or in that curious state of quasi freedom that exists for someone who, like Mrs. Wang following her release, is in perpetual danger of renewed incarceration.

The importance of getting these people out of China whenever possible and to the safety of Canada where they all have family members, husbands, wives, sons or daughters, parents in some cases, waiting to greet them, cannot be overemphasized.

I would like to quote again from Helen Peng, whose twin sister is in China, out of prison but under close observation. She says, “I am sad for the tribulations my sister has endured and I hope she can come soon to the safe environment in Canada”. I hope she can too.

The only way to ensure that the treatment of these individuals and other individuals in similar circumstances, including others not mentioned in the motion who also have close family ties to Canada, and to ensure that their rights are respected is to continue to have vigilance, to continue to draw attention to them and to be prepared to issue ministerial permits to allow them to come to this country where they can become productive citizens, as have many other individuals who have been persecuted in China for their spiritual beliefs.

I want to conclude with one individual whose story came to my attention after the motion had already been placed before the House and whose story is particularly sad.

Yunhe Zhang, whose sister lives in Vancouver, is currently in prison. She has a three year old child who never got to see her father. Her father was also in prison and died there a couple of years ago. Yunhe Zhang remains in prison, separated from her child who is being raised by relatives. Her mother-in-law died, a death that members of their family believe was premature, due to the conditions that her son and her daughter-in-law were suffering in prison in China and the stress that was involved in it.

This individual has done no harm to anybody. She believes, as do all members of the Falun Gong movement, in the values that are central to the Chinese culture and to all civilized society. The principles of Falun Gong, an apolitical movement, are a belief in tolerance, compassion and truth.

These individuals have always been productive members of the Chinese society. I am confident that those who would be allowed to come here to Canada on ministerial permits would also be productive members of our society.

I want to take this moment to thank all members of the House who voted in favour of the motion when it was before the House on October 24, 2002 and made it possible for several of these individuals to find their freedom again.

Falun Gong
Private Members' Business

1:40 p.m.

Barrie—Simcoe—Bradford
Ontario

Liberal

Aileen Carroll Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Madam Speaker, we continue to raise human rights concerns and to urge Chinese leaders to respect internationally agreed upon human rights standards during meetings with Chinese ministers and officials. We will continue to register Canadian concerns about human rights abuses both in general terms and with respect to specific cases where appropriate.

Canada also continues to make reference to China in annual country situation public statements at the United Nations General Assembly Third Committee, the latest occurrence which took place in November 2002, and also at the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, and equally to support multilateral initiatives which promote our human rights objectives.

We believe that engagement, rather than isolation, will effect a sustained improvement in the human rights situation in China. The Canada-China human rights dialogue is an example of how engagement has allowed Canada access to Chinese agencies whose co-operation is essential if human rights practices are to improve in China. Canada plans to continue to express its concern on a range of issues which include freedom of religion, expression, association, women's rights, children's rights, good governance and minority rights among others.

The major components of Canada's human rights dialogue include the Joint Committee on Human Rights, JCHR, and the Plurilateral Human Rights Symposium co-hosted by Canada, Norway and China.

Last year's JCHR took place in Beijing and Xinjiang, China from November 4 to 8. The topics on the agenda included: recent progress in promotion and protection of human rights in China and Canada; conditions of detention, special concern for female prisoners and detainees; police training and international co-operation in human rights in the multilateral context. A frank and open discussion allowed for the free exchange of ideas and issues of concerns to both countries. In addition both China and Canada expressed belief in the value of the JCHR and its continuation to permit the ongoing exchange of issues and points of view.

Last year's Canada-China-Norway Plurilateral Symposium on Human Rights took place in Jakarta from March 11 to 12. The meeting brought delegations from the three co-sponsoring governments together with delegations from Bangladesh, Cambodia, Indonesia, Korea, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan and others. The meeting succeeded in achieving its immediate objectives which were a discussion of mutual human rights concerns, an exchange of strategies and policies to address them and confidence building among the participants so as to facilitate possible joint activities.

In so doing, the meeting again proved its value as a non-confrontational venue to discuss sensitive human rights issues in great depth than is possible in larger human rights fora.

Canada also tries to improve the human rights situation in China through CIDA programming. Some of CIDA's projects include training of senior Chinese judges; a women's law program to assist in understanding and exercising legal rights; the development of a national legal aid system; an international human rights implementation project to assist China's efforts in implementing international conventions; a civil society program to strengthen the functioning of autonomous people based voluntary community organizations; co-operation between the Canadian Bar Association and the All China Lawyers Association to promote the rule of law and links between the two legal professions; and a criminal law and criminal justice co-operation program to assist in the development of the rule of law in criminal procedure.

In addition to the points that I have raised on human rights I draw the attention of my colleague and the House to Canada's trade relationship with China.

In a broad sense our continuing goal is to see an evolution toward a more transparent economic and political system in China. To use the oft-quoted phrase, we seek to “engage China”. Canada's policy of engaging China is reflected in the numerous ongoing dialogues between state and non-state actors.

It is important to underline our view that trade and human rights are not mutually exclusive. Our trade interests are not pursued at the expense of voicing our concerns about human rights or vice versa. In fact, regular high level exchanges, including the team Canada missions to China, allow Canada to reinforce our concerns on issues such as human rights.

We also believe that improving our trade ties with other countries in a rules based system can reduce isolationism and open channels that will promote social progress and respect for human rights.

Falun Gong
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Bloc

Stéphane Bergeron Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Madam Speaker, I too am pleased to speak in the debate on the motion by the hon. member for Lanark—Carleton.

First, I would like to thank and congratulate our hon. colleague from Lanark—Carleton for again drawing the House's attention to the very disturbing situation of Falun Gong practitioners in China. Based on our long discussions, especially on the expulsion of the Acadians, I know that the hon. member for Lanark—Carleton is deeply concerned with justice and respect for human rights.

Not so long ago, I had the pleasure of speaking in the House on a bill regarding China's accession to the World Trade Organization. I was very happy to speak in that debate to amend our legislation so that the People's Republic of China could join the WTO.

Members will recall that I mentioned at that time that there are a number of human rights issues in China that are currently great cause for concern. The fate of Falun Gong or Falun Dafa practitioners is one of our concerns, particularly in the context of China's accession to the WTO.

At the time, I went over the evolution of Canadian policy from the days of the Progressive Conservative government. This debate is almost like talking about the chicken or the egg. The Progressive Conservatives had decided to make respect of human rights one of the pillars of Canadian foreign policy. When the Liberals came to power in 1993, they quickly changed direction, making trade one of the new pillars of our foreign policy.

I come back to the chicken or the egg. The Progressive Conservative government claimed that the approach to take with foreign policy was to oblige States to respect a minimally acceptable human rights policy.

Members will recall the very courageous policy put forward by the Progressive Conservative government, particularly within the Commonwealth, regarding the contentious issue of apartheid in South Africa. We had decided, on the one hand, to sever diplomatic relations and on the other to boycott South African products, to introduce an embargo, to force change in South Africa.

When the Liberals came into power, they said to themselves “This may not be the way to do things. Perhaps the best approach might be to encourage trade so as to facilitate exchanges, contacts and dialogue. Through these, we could have some impact on the development of societies, serving as an example so as to be able to transmit to them our democratic values, our respect for human rights”.

I do not want to go into the intrinsic value of such a policy. Because the government has adopted it as policy, we need to work to improve the human rights situation in certain countries as much as possible by encouraging exchanges.

In my previous speech, I applauded the admission of China to the World Trade Organization for a number of quite obvious reasons, including the size of the market, since we cannot exclude over one billion people from the developing world market. I think therefore that it was highly appropriate for the People's Republic of China to be able to join the WTO.

That said, it is also a fact that the People's Republic of China did indeed gain membership in the WTO in December 2001, and has also complied with a number of treaties relating to human rights.

The People's Republic of China cannot, therefore, be surprised if the international community, and Canada in particular, is concerned about the human rights situation in that country, given its commitments within the international community in this area. The international community is therefore responsible for ensuring that the signatories of the treaties in question meet their commitments.

I must therefore say that the motion again presented by the hon. member for Lanark—Carleton has already had some positive impact, as he has mentioned. This motion, which was already unanimously adopted in this House in October 2002, appears to have brought about, or at least contributed to bringing about, the release of at least three of the Falun Gong practitioners listed in the resolution.

It therefore seems likely that focussing attention on the situation of our fellow citizens of Quebec or Canada, or of the Chinese relatives of those fellow citizens, can have a positive impact on what happens to them.

However, I think, and I am sure the member for Lanark—Carleton will agree with me, that through these specific cases we have decided to highlight here today, as we did in October, we really want to focus on the predicament of all Falun Gong practitioners and dissidents, whose human rights are being violated.

Falun Gong, as our colleague mentioned, is a peaceful and apolitical organization that promotes a spiritual approach based on three broad principles: truthfulness, compassion, and tolerance. Falun Gong tries to bring human beings closer to the fundamental nature of the universe to achieve harmony.

According to Falun Gong practitioners, the group is neither a sect nor a religious movement. The zealousness of authorities in the People's Republic of China when it comes to persecuting Falun Dafa practitioners needs to be examined. Possibly the reason for their intolerance of the group is because Chinese authorities identify it as a religious movement.

Of course we know the old saying that applies in communist regimes, which states that “religion is the opium of the masses”. We know that all religious movements have been persecuted by various communist countries.

There is also cause to wonder about what is really motivating authorities, beyond this simplistic take on the situation. They say the group wants to topple the communist regime and the powers in place. Of course, Falun Dafa followers strongly and vigorously deny this.

However, what we need to consider, and this is the fundamental issue, is that human rights and democracy go hand in hand. In a democracy, it is unacceptable that human beings be treated this way, when we know that according to figures provided by Human Rights Watch, more than 37,000 members of Falun Gong have been imprisoned since September 1999.

Falun Gong
Private Members' Business

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Wendy Lill Dartmouth, NS

Madam Speaker, on behalf of the NDP caucus it is my pleasure to speak in favour of Motion No. 236, which urges the Prime Minister to encourage the President of China to release thirteen Falun Gong practitioners.

As I understand it, these thirteen people are currently in prison solely because of their beliefs. It is no secret that China has an appalling human rights record and routinely tortures and imprisons people for their beliefs and for taking peaceful action such as publishing an article critical of government policy or assembling in Tiananmen Square to protest the lack of democracy in China. There are hundreds of stories of the Chinese government violating the human rights of the Falun Gong.

I thank the member for Burnaby--Douglas for providing me with the information that I am using today. For example, on March 14, 2002, four Swiss and twelve Hong King citizens were forcefully arrested while staging a peaceful appeal outside the Chinese liaison office in Hong Kong to raise awareness of China's escalating persecution of Falun Gong. As the number of demonstrators was less than fifty, no permit was necessary for this gathering. As video evidence clearly attests, the demonstration was small, unobtrusive and completely non-violent, yet the police used violence in disrupting the event and taking away the participants.

As well, just last week there were four deaths reported. One was that of a 37 year old woman who was arrested for distributing New Year's greeting cards with the words truth, compassion and tolerance written on them. Her husband was only informed of her death 10 days later.

Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch report that many thousands of Falun Gong practitioners have been tortured, murdered, subjected to sexual violence, including rape and forced abortions, and arbitrarily imprisoned in psychiatric facilities, labour camps and penitentiaries. As well, the government of the People's Republic of China has embarked upon a massive public campaign to breed hatred and discrimination against Falun Gong practitioners.

I cannot think of any reason that any human being should be subjected to the kind of abuse that the Chinese government has put upon the Falun Gong. The persecution of the Falun Gong violates China's own constitution as well as the international covenant on civil and political rights and the universal declaration of human rights. China is a signatory to both.

Generally it is the practice of sovereign countries not to interfere in the internal affairs of another sovereign country, yet through globalization our world is coming closer together and the artificial boundaries of nation states are fast crumbling. The Chinese efforts to persecute the Falun Gong go beyond the Chinese borders. In Canada, adherents have been victims of death threats, vandalism, harassment, cyber-attacks and other forms of intimidation and discrimination.

I think in this case Canada has a responsibility to encourage the Chinese government to stop these attacks and respect international law. What is the point of having international agreements if countries can sign on and then turn around and not respect them, without any repercussions?

In July 2002 the U.S. Congress passed a resolution that urged the U.S. government to condemn the efforts of the People's Republic of China to persecute the Falun Gong practitioners domestically and internationally and to strive to ensure that China released all imprisoned adherents of the faith in accordance with international human rights laws. Canadian protests also do make a difference, as Canadian Lin Shengli was recently rescued.

I fully support this motion and urge the Prime Minister to discuss the persecution of Falun Gong practitioners with the President of China as a matter of human rights. No one should have to suffer what these people have been through. Canada has a responsibility to help put an end to this.

Falun Gong
Private Members' Business

2 p.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Mount Royal, QC

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to support the motion of the member for Lanark--Carleton and the individual cases and underlying cause that inspire it: the ongoing prosecution and persecution of the Falun Gong in China, in a word, the criminalization of innocence that finds expression in the intimidation, harassment, arrest, detention, coercive interrogation, torture, beatings and imprisonment of people for doing nothing other than espousing ancient Chinese values, which are also universal values, of truth, compassion and tolerance.

It is instructive and encouraging to note that since the member for Lanark--Carleton spoke to a similar motion on October 24, 2002, regarding the plight of thirteen Falun Gong practitioners with close family ties in Canada, which received unanimous support at the time and for which initiative he is to be singularly congratulated, five have been released, while a sixth, Yanying Wu, has been released but remains under house arrest.

As I mentioned, the news of their release is encouraging, and the improved treatment of other of these prisoners still in detention is also encouraging, and the whole is testimony to the role that the House has played and the role of our Canadian embassy and diplomats in that regard. As the member for Lanark--Carleton put it, we made it clear that we are going to be watching, that we are going to maintain a watching brief, that the prisoners are not alone in this regard and that we stand in solidarity with them.

But while this news is encouraging, as I have just described, and as the member for Lanark--Carleton went into the individual cases and humanized the appreciation and understanding of the cases and cause, the important point that must also be appreciated today and which is the import of my remarks is that while we are pleased and indeed encouraged at the release of people who are effectively prisoners of conscience, and we extend our appreciation to all involved in this effort, we have to realize that those released should never have been arrested to begin with.

We have to realize the following: that they should never have been imprisoned, held incommunicado and subjected to coercive interrogation and beatings while in detention; that they should never have been deprived of the companionship and shared life with their loved ones; that there remain eight Falun Gong practitioners with a Canadian connection still in detention, seven of them and one under house arrest, as I mentioned; that those who have been released should also not mask the fact that thousands upon thousands of Falun Gong practitioners, as has been mentioned in the House, have been detained and imprisoned for nothing other than espousing these values of truth, compassion and tolerance. We have to realize that in addition to their false imprisonment, their fundamental values of conscience and religion, of assembly and association and of expression and information, have been systematically violated, and that, indeed, over 100,000 people have been sent to labour camps without any legal process while over 1,000 Falun Gong practitioners have been detained in psychiatric institutions.

The Chinese authorities recently have passed new rules allowing courts to try followers for subversion, separatism and leaking state secrets if they spread any information about the Falun Gong, thereby further enlarging the dragnet of the criminalization of innocence. We are witnessing in effect a systematic and sustained assault on freedom of religion in general and the rights of Christians, Buddhists, Taoists, and Muslims in particular. For example, this has even included, by the Chinese authorities' own acknowledgement, the confiscation and destruction of houses of worship and religious books and material. This also has a Falun Gong connection, for the anti-cult legislation, developed to criminalize and eliminate the Falun Gong, has been used against 16 other religious organizations that refuse to tailor their beliefs and practices to the demands of Chinese authorities.

In a word, we would be remiss if we did not make mention of all this and sound the alarm about the dramatic increase in the persecution of the Falun Gong, including the increase in the rate of arrest and detention, the increase in deaths of Falun Gong in detention, the increase in the beatings and torture, according to eyewitness testimony and documentary evidence of Falun Gong detainees, the increase in the numbers sent to psychiatric institutions, and the use of atrocity propaganda to demonize them in the eyes of their fellow citizens.

Accordingly, I call upon the Chinese authorities: to release the seven Falun Gong practitioners with a Canadian and family connection from their imprisonment, and permit them to be reunited with their loved ones here in Canada; to repeal the illegal ban on the Falun Gong; to rescind any laws or regulations specifically criminalizing the Falun Gong as an “illegal association” and prohibiting thereby the exercise of the fundamental freedoms of their members as guaranteed under Chinese law; to cease and desist from any policy or practice of torture or other degrading punishment or treatment of prisoners in detention, something that Chinese authorities undertook as well with the ratification of the international covenant on civil and political rights, with respect to which we have made representations; and to release all Falun Gong members now detained in prison, forced labour camps or psychiatric detention.

Also, I want to express my appreciation to the parliamentary secretary for her comprehensive statement. I want to join in the support of the initiatives she described on behalf of the government respecting the promotion and protection of human rights and the rule of law in China.

In the matter of trade relations with China, again I want to join in the words of the parliamentary secretary and call upon the Canadian government to reaffirm certain basic principles for the Canadian relationship with China in the matter of trade and human rights, including: first, to reaffirm that human rights is an organizing principle of Canadian foreign policy and human security as the core of our Canadian foreign policy, such that it must find expression not only as a statement of principle, but as an expression of policy in our relations with China; second, that trade and human rights are not contradictory but complementary, as the parliamentary secretary mentioned in her statement, and that indeed trade can be used as an instrument for constructive engagement in matters of human rights, just as the protection for human rights protects the integrity of trade relations; and, third, trade missions should therefore be seen as trade and human rights missions, as trade cannot be a matter of “business as usual”. Human rights must be a priority on the agenda of our trade relations with China and, indeed, of the totality of our bilateral relationship with China.

Falun Gong
Private Members' Business

2:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired. As the motion has not been designated as a votable item, the order is dropped from the Order Paper.

Shall we see the clock as 2:30 p.m.?

Falun Gong
Private Members' Business

2:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Falun Gong
Private Members' Business

2:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

It being 2:15 p.m., the House stands adjourned until Monday, March 17, 2003, at 11 a.m. pursuant to Standing Orders 28(2) and 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 2:15 p.m.)