House of Commons Hansard #75 of the 37th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was children.

Topics

Business of the House

10:05 a.m.

The Speaker

Pursuant to Standing Order 81(14), it is my duty to inform the House of the motion to be addressed Monday in studying the business of supply. The motion reads as follows:

That this House:

(1) Endorse the decision of the allied international coalition of military forces to enforce Iraq's compliance with its international obligations under the successive resolutions of the United Nations Security Council, with a view to restoring international peace and security in the Middle East region;

(2) Express its unequivocal support for the Canadian servicemen and women, and other personnel serving in an exchange program with the United States and for those servicemen and women performing escort duties for British and United States ships, our full confidence in them and the hope that all will return safely to their homes;

(3) Extend to the innocent people of Iraq its support and sympathy during the military action to disarm Iraq of its weapons of mass destruction and the reconstruction period that will follow; and

(4) Urge the government to commit itself to help the Iraqi people, including through humanitarian assistance, to build a new Iraq at peace with itself and its neighbours.

This motion, standing in the name of the hon. member for Okanagan—Coquihalla, is votable.

Copies of the motion are available at the Table.

The House resumed from March 19, consideration of the motion that Bill C-26, An Act to amend the Canada Transportation Act and the Railway Safety Act, to enact the VIA Rail Canada Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Transportation Amendment Act
Government Orders

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to Bill C-26.

I have been waiting for this day for a long time because I represent a community that for many years has been affected by the noise from trains in shunting yards close to a residential area. Other communities across Canada have also been very negatively affected by this issue. From the experience of my own community in east Vancouver in the Burrardview area, up until now there has been virtually no recourse or process to allow local communities to resolve these longstanding grievances against various rail companies around noise and the impact of that noise in adjacent residential neighbourhoods.

I was very pleased to see that Bill C-26 finally addresses some of these issues. To be specific, my understanding of the bill, if it is approved, is it would give the Canadian Transportation Agency authority to review railway noise complaints and require that the railways keep any adverse noise to a minimum when constructing or operating a railway, taking into consideration the requirements of railway operations and services and the interests of local communities.

The bill also develops a mediation process through the Canadian Transportation Agency. Public guidelines for the resolution of noise complaints will be developed. This is a huge relief for people who every single night have been experiencing sleep deprivation as a result of enduring excessive noise levels from the operation of trains, engines, coupling, decoupling and shunting, and so on.

As one constituent in this Vancouver neighbourhood said, “As always, we have no complaint with the railway in general, we just want to sleep”. I would wholeheartedly support that sentiment. For residents in communities such as the one I am describing in Burrardview, there is a recognition that railways, and of course the services they provide, are hugely important in our country.

However, there also has to be a recognition that when these services operate in very close proximity to urban areas and residential neighbourhoods, there has to be very careful consideration and we have to be sensitive and ensure that the processes are in place to deal with problems effectively and quickly. I would emphasize doing it quickly because I know that Burrardview residents have had to resort to phoning at 2 o'clock or 3 o'clock in the morning because they have not been able to go to sleep because of the noise just a few hundred feet from them.

In our situation in east Vancouver we have worked with the local health department. We have had noise testing done. Residents have gone to city council to try to apply the noise bylaw. Residents have tried every single thing they could to generate some relief so that they could go about their daily lives and not be completely disrupted. This has been to no avail so this bill is very important.

I recognize the outstanding efforts of a key group of residents in east Vancouver in the Burrardview neighbourhood. Jim Campbell and Barbara Fousek, Shane Simpson, John Lynn, Terry Bulwer and Torsten Kehler have acted as leaders on this issue. They have informed other residents about what they could do. They have monitored the situation and have stayed on top of it.

In our case it involves CPR. I want to congratulate those people for being so diligent in not only keeping me informed of what is taking place but in staying on top of the railroad company itself. We have actually gone out on the tracks. We did a tour on the tracks. We went to visit the various locations along the lines that were causing all of the problems.

I am sure some members of the House will remember my predecessor, Margaret Mitchell, very well, the wonderful member of Parliament for Vancouver East from 1979 to 1993. She too was dealing with this issue. That is how far back it goes.

I hope very much that the provision in Bill C-26 will strengthen what the CTA can accomplish in providing relief to local residents and ensuring that there is an environment of peace and quiet at critical times. People need to sleep and they want to enjoy their homes and neighbourhoods.

I want to speak to another aspect of the bill which is also very important. This is an omnibus bill, so there are many provisions. There is another part that interests me particularly as a member of Parliament who represents an urban community.

The bill will also modify the current provisions governing how rail companies can dispose of railway lines that are no longer required for freight service. The changes would allow urban transit authorities to receive offers where they would be able to acquire corridors that could be used for urban transit. This is something that is very pertinent to urban communities.

Certainly in Vancouver there is an ongoing debate about the critical need for rapid transit. It could be light rapid transit but certainly what is needed is a public transit system and structure that will allow people easy access to rapid transit that is affordable and which will also take account of our environment. This is critical as we face rising rates of asthma and as we see the smog hanging over our cities. As we try to meet the implementation agreements around Kyoto, this is a very key piece.

The rail lines and corridors exist. They sit there for years and years unused and they could be used for public transit. It seems to me we are missing a fabulous opportunity.

I was very pleased to see the provision in the bill that will allow urban transit authorities to look at specific corridors that may be suitable for public urban transit. I hope this will happen in Vancouver because we are surely suffering from congestion and smog and a complete overload of mostly single occupant vehicles on Vancouver streets.

Those are my comments on the bill. The NDP is supporting the bill in principle. We are happy to see it go to the committee where it will have thorough debate and review.

I hope that residents from east Vancouver will be among the witnesses who will be heard so they can put on the record firsthand some of the terrible situations they have had to endure in dealing with train noise. It is hoped that their issues can be addressed in the bill and finally the Canadian Transportation Agency can deal with the issue in a way that is fair, equitable and efficient to ensure that people can enjoy living in peace in their neighbourhoods.

Transportation Amendment Act
Government Orders

10:10 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Darrel Stinson Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the member's speech very closely. I can well appreciate her concerns about the noise level in communities with regard to trains, especially when it comes to shunting and the times of the day, or the night in a lot of cases, that the shunting takes place.

She mentions that they have tried everything, and I know other communities have too, with regard to noise bylaws and that studies have been done. I do not want the member to have a false sense of security that the bill would address these matters. As I have sat in the House, as has the hon. member, I have come to the conclusion that when they say that things will be studied, it could take up to years.

My first question would be this. Does the member not think that there should have been a time frame built into the bill as to when this had to be enacted upon by everybody involved?

I would also like to caution her with regard to opening up vacant corridors. In one aspect, it is a great idea that the corridors should be used by anybody who can take that on. However, when VIA ran into a large problem in the Rockies, a group came in and took over the VIA problem, because of the financial situation it was in, turned it around and turned it into a very profitable tourist attraction, which is making money, thriving and creating business. Now that the railroad has seen the profit margin in this, it wants it back.

To get investors to go into these empty corridors and to put up their own funds, the government should have to give some sort of assurance to them that when the profit margin starts to turn in their favour, it will not decide to take it back.

Transportation Amendment Act
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I certainly appreciate and welcome the questions from the hon. member from the Canadian Alliance.

On the timing issue, as we get to committee we will have to get into this issue in a lot more detail. We will want to ensure that there are, hopefully, deadlines and that the government will agree that deadlines should be established so that the proposal does not just sit on the books, so to speak, and nothing happens.

However, what I am particularly interested in, is the proposal includes a proposed mediation process that the CTA would be able to engage in with respect to matters affecting noise, or maybe other matters as well. I think from a resident's point of view, this would be a much more effective way of dealing with this kind of issue than having to hire lawyers. This happened in one case and maybe in the member's case as well. In many communities local residents do not have those resources.

I would certainly agree that we should be pushing as much as we can so that the government is held to account to set out some clear timelines and deadlines for when this will be implemented.

On the second question, I am little familiar with the situation that the member raises. In speaking to the corridors that are no longer being used, I was referencing mostly the situation in urban communities and what opportunities there were for public transit.

However in other situations where a contract has been established and then all of a sudden VIA Rail decides to yank it back because something has become profitable, maybe that needs to be looked at by the committee. There has to be a fair process. We cannot allow a decision to be made and then have it unilaterally changed at some point because the company has decided there is some profit there and maybe it had better take another look at it. Maybe can look at that issue in committee.

Overall some of the proposals in this bill, not all of them but many of them, are good proposals. I am being optimistic but I hope that they will address some longstanding grievances that people have had.

Transportation Amendment Act
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to ask my hon. colleague in the NDP a question that relates to our province.

On Vancouver Island we have the Esquimalt and Nanaimo Railway that has been deliberately run inefficiently on the part of VIA in an effort to get VIA out of it. For years and years the community on Vancouver Island and MPs on the island have asked the Minister of Transport to work with VIA, work with its current owners, RailAmerica, and work with the people on the island to put this railway in the hands of a private company that will be able to run it in a profitable fashion while keeping ownership in the hands of the public.

I would like my friend's views on whether she would support allowing this railway to be in the hands of a private company that can run it in a profitable fashion for the benefit of the people of Vancouver Island and whether she will ask the Minister of Transport to follow along those lines.

Transportation Amendment Act
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, as we can see there is a lot of interest in what happens in particular rail lines across the country. We think of Canada as being a place that, in the last hundred years or so, was drawn together by rail service. I think many of us in the House look with a sense of dismay to what has happened over many decades with our rail and passenger service, which connected many communities.

The member from Esquimalt has mentioned one such route from Esquimalt to Nanaimo. Even though I am in Vancouver, I have seen some of the stories about how people have campaigned to save these lines and to maintain this vital service that they have connecting very important communities.

On principle, we very much support the need to maintain and improve and increase these service levels. The NDP does not support the privatization of these services, however, and I think the hon. member knows that. We want to see the public infrastructure. We want to see VIA Rail do a better job of providing these services.

I am not aware of the private company to which the member the refers. However on the principle of the issue, which is to keep these services operating, to strengthen them, improve them and make them more accessible for people, I would say absolutely we have to do that. We have to pressure the government.

Over the years the service we have seen in these passenger lines has been abysmal. We have seen a complete undermining and eroding of these services. Canadians have a very strong view that we should be looking to Europe or even the U.S. where there is a much better passenger rail service. I am familiar with that line. I do not know the details of it. The NDP would not support a privatization but we do support an improvement and an increased capacity for passenger rail.

Transportation Amendment Act
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

The Speaker

Is the House ready for the question?

Transportation Amendment Act
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Transportation Amendment Act
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

The Speaker

The question is on second reading of Bill C-26. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Transportation Amendment Act
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Transportation Amendment Act
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Transportation Amendment Act
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

The Speaker

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

Transportation Amendment Act
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Transportation Amendment Act
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

The Speaker

All those opposed will please say nay.

Transportation Amendment Act
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Transportation Amendment Act
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

The Speaker

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Transportation Amendment Act
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

The Speaker

Accordingly pursuant to Standing Order 45 the division stands deferred until Monday, March 24 at the ordinary hour of daily adjournment.

The House resumed from February 27 consideration of the motion that Bill C-20, an act to amend the Criminal Code (protection of children and other vulnerable persons) and the Canada Evidence Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Duncan Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-20, which is the government's attempt to deal with the issues of child pornography and sexual exploitation of children.

Almost one year ago the Canadian Alliance put forth an opposition motion that was debated in the House. I believe it was last April 23. At that time, the government defeated what I think was a very informed motion. I will read that for the benefit of people who are watching today. That motion reads:

That the government immediately introduce legislation to protect children from sexual predators including measures that raise the legal age of consent to at least sixteen, and measures that prohibit the creation or use of sexually explicit materials exploiting children or materials that appear to depict or describe children engaged in sexual activity.

We went through an extended period of time where we continued to pressure the government to come forward with legislation to address these very pressing issues. We had the overwhelming national interest in removing the exploitation of young children, particularly by sexual predators, pimps and others. The movement toward raising the age of sexual consent from 14 to at least 16 had prompted hundreds of thousands of letters, e-mails and petitions.

On the day of the debate of the motion last year, and I can recall, Mr. Speaker, you were in the chair, I had 8,681 petitions on my desk to present. Of course that was denied by members on the government side, but they did end up in the minister's office later that day.

The point is none of those people are satisfied with the current legislation. The current legislation continues to fail to address the issues appropriately, those issues of the fact that artistic merit continues to be an adequate defence and a huge loophole, which basically makes child pornography a continuing problem in the country.

In terms of the police, victims, advocates, all kinds of other organizations, the enforcement of our laws preventing the exploitation of 14 and 15 year old children is completely inadequate. Until the government raises the legal age of sexual consent, this situation will continue.

What this legislation actually does is create a very complex and convoluted set of terms of reference. Opinions of many experts and common sense would indicate, first, that the existing defences of child pornography are actually broadened rather than narrowed by the legislation. What has really happened is there is not a substantive difference between this defence in this legislation and what was in the previous legislation on artistic merit.

The other defences have been rolled into something called the public good defence which now has several avenues in which the Supreme Court will have great difficulty unless the normal avenues of defence used by defence lawyers are addressed. They are not addressed. They are simply one broad thing called the public good test.

Therefore, what we really have is a very unacceptable situation, a situation that will lead to a vacuum in the courts from the standpoint of the ability of police to enforce the law, uncertainty in the courts and a cornucopia of opportunity for lawyers and for people who would carry out activities that are not in the public good and exploitive of children. Those situations will all occur.

The most mind-numbing of all is the fact that the age of sexual consent has not been raised from 14 to 16. What has happened is that we have another very complex arrangement, totally subject to the whims of judges or others. What we really need is what we call a truth in sentencing. We need to eliminate statutory release. We need to eliminate conditional sentencing for sex offenders and we must have minimum sentences in order to deter child predators.

There is one aspect of the bill that I think we all concur in and that is the fact that it creates one new offence called voyeurism and the distribution of voyeuristic material. This is obviously a positive step and has been done on a relatively timely basis.

What is so puzzling is that Canada remains one of the only western democratic jurisdictions that continues to pursue a minimum age of consent of 14. This is clearly unacceptable.

I want to read what the large social conservative organization in Vancouver, which sent me last year's petitions, had to say about all of this after our motion failed last year. It stated:

Parents, police and social service agencies are hindered in protecting children as young as 14 who are coerced into sex with adults. Children as young as 14 can be exposed to the risks associated with sexual activity such as emotional distress, unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases including AIDS. Recent years have seen a significant increase in crimes of a sexual nature against children. Child prostitution, child pornography etc. are increasing at an alarming rate. The low age of consent encourages societal acceptance of early sexual behaviour and appetite for pedophiles. Problems associated with low age of consent to sex are deep emotional and mental health problems, STDS, cervical cancer, teen pregnancies, school drop-outs and criminal behaviour.

I am appalled that such a crucial and important issue, which deals with the fundamental fabric of our society, is being treated so dismally by the government.

I want to talk a little about the child pornography legislation as well. When the Supreme Court of British Columbia in February 2002 found that the written works of Robin Sharpe had artistic merit and acquitted him of the charges this created a vacuum.

I see my time is up, therefore, I move:

That the motion be amended by deleting all the words after the word “That” and substituting the following therefore:

Bill C-20, an act to amend the Criminal Code (protection of children and other vulnerable persons) and the Canada Evidence Act, be not now read a second time but that it be read a second time this day six months hence.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

The Speaker

The question is on the amendment.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure today to speak to the amendment to Bill C-20.

Our problems with the bill are many and varied. Let us back up for a moment. If the objective of our justice system is the protection of innocent civilians, then surely the protection of children must be at the forefront of our justice system.

For 10 years people in my party and in others have asked, pushed, cajoled and coerced the government to implement solutions that will protect children from that most egregious crime: the sexual, violent abuse at the hands of a predator or a pedophile.

To understand why we are so adamant about this, let us look at pedophilia for a moment. It is an incurable problem. Pedophiles, by and large, are not cured of this. When somebody comes before our justice system to be tried and sometimes convicted for these offences, it is usually not the first time the person has sexually abused a child. In fact, studies show that when an individual comes before the court charged with the sexual abuse of a child, generally the person has abused at least 12 children before that.

Hon. members should think about that for a moment. When a person comes before a court for the very first time, the person has sexually raped and abused at least 12 children, not once but generally over a prolonged period of time. As my colleague has mentioned, that has profound implications upon the life of a child for the entire length of the child's life. It is something that they never, ever get over.

As a result, we are aghast and appalled that the government has not adopted the constructive solutions that we put forth that would have strengthened our justice system, protected children and enabled our courts to do the job they were supposed to do: protect the Canadian public.

It is also without a doubt the responsibility of the courts and our justice system to implement solutions that will help in the rehabilitation of the convicted. We make no dispute about that and, in fact. we encourage that. How can we have a society where those who have made mistakes and who have committed offences do not have the hope of retribution or of being cured of their problem?

Pedophilia is in a category very different from all others, with the exception, I would say, of individuals who commit violent sexual abuses against other individuals. Violent sexual behaviour, pedophilia, is in a class unto itself. Most of those people do not get cured. It is true that most of those people, it is sad to say, have endured sexual abuse, violent or otherwise, themselves. That is a profound tragedy and we have great sympathy for those individuals. However it does not exonerate them from committing acts of violent sexual abuse against others during their lives.

Therefore it is our responsibility here in the House to ensure that our justice system, our courts and our police have the tools to not only protect civilians, but also to ensure that to the best of our ability we can give the individuals who committed those offences as much treatment as possible to ensure that when or if they get out we can be confident that they will not reoffend again.

Herein lies the problem. The court system gives individuals a sentence. They finish their sentence and then they are released. We are fairly confident that some of those people will not reoffend but, having worked in jails, I can tell the House that a lot of those people, whether they are sexual predators or violent offenders, are being released with the full knowledge and awareness that they will commit that type of offence again. Those who work in our penal institutions, those who are part of our court system and those who are part of our police forces are aghast, appalled, saddened and often demoralized by the fact that our system does not at the end of the day, at its heart, protect our society from those individuals who commit the most violent, appalling and egregious offences against innocent civilians.

These people are predators. I will provide an example. Friends of mine, a couple, were living in Vancouver. An individual moved in beside them and befriended them. He came over with gifts and food. One day the wife of this friend of mine was at home and suddenly found their next door neighbour in their home, uninvited, with candies for their daughter, who was seven years old at the time. Subsequent to that they found out that this individual, their neighbour who they thought was perfectly fine, had a long history of violent sexual abuses against children. He was and is a predator and was an individual who was trying to sexually abuse their seven year old daughter.

When this friend of mine went to the police, the police said they could do nothing about this since the person had not committed a crime. What do we have to wait for? Do we have to wait for that individual to rape that seven year old girl so the police can say they have a crime and therefore can incarcerate that individual?

Certainly a crime has to be committed before someone is incarcerated, to be sure, but on the other hand, does that family not have a right to know that the person living next door to them is an individual with a long history of violent sexual abuses, an individual who the police know is fully expected to reoffend? Does that family not have a right to know that its next door neighbour has a very high chance of sexually abusing another child? The hands of the police were tied in that case, as they are tied in other cases around the country.

We understand and are fully cognizant of the fact that all individuals have rights, but at the end of the day the rights of a child have to trump the rights of a sexual predator. That has to happen. That is what we in our party are trying to do. We are trying to change the laws of the land to ensure that children are not going to be preyed on by pedophiles who have a long history of these actions and, by and large, as I said before, are incurable. Some can be controlled and should be allowed out after serving their sentences, but those who cannot should be kept in jail until such time as the judicial system is confident that these individuals will not reoffend.

We also know that on the international stage there are pedophile tours. These adults, working underground, get together to go on tours to Colombia and southeast Asia where they are taken to brothels and children are presented in front of them so that they can rape them. That is what is happening now. It is an underground system. The international judicial system is aghast and appalled that collectively we have been unable to prosecute these individuals who go on these tours to sexually abuse the children of people in faraway countries.

I know that the Thai government and the Malaysian government are aghast because many of these pedophiles selectively go there to sexually abuse children. This cannot be allowed to happen. Our Minister of Justice must work with other ministers of justice and international policing organizations to develop a system for the identification and prosecution of individuals who actively go after children on these international sex tours.

My colleague has mentioned the issue of child porn. I will not belabour the issue because my colleagues have spoken eloquently about it. Suffice it to say that we are not talking about some individual who accidentally pulls something off a computer. We are talking about individuals who have a long history of pulling up and using child pornography. What adults do among themselves is adults' business, but when people are actually buying child pornography, attached to that must be victims, and the victims are children who had absolutely no say whatsoever in being part and parcel of those movies or photographs that show them being sexually abused by adults.

As for solutions, we have spoken about heavier penalties and minimum sentencing for people convicted of pedophilia. Release should be conditional upon the knowledge that individuals who are pedophiles, and I would extend this to people who commit rape, are violent sexual offenders. We must be certain that those individuals and people who commit pedophilia and sexual and violent offences are not going to reoffend. That category of offences is very different from others because at the end of the day the victims of those offences are individuals who have to sustain and endure terrible penalties that they have to live with for the rest of their lives.

Dangerous offender status should be more liberally applied to those individuals who are pedophiles. As I said before, it is an incurable problem.

I know my time is up, but I hope the government listens to the constructive solutions my party has put forward. We are very willing to work with the government to implement a constructive Bill C-20 that will protect our children from predation by violent sexual offenders.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Monte Solberg Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to rise and debate Bill C-20 today. I want to say at the outset that members of the Canadian Alliance have spoken out forcefully on this and that is because we reflect where our constituents are at. Many of us have received petitions on this issue. People are very concerned about court rulings that seem to indicate some kind of a tolerance for child pornography in some form.

However, I want people who are watching today to understand that the Canadian Alliance feels it is completely wrong to give any kind of nod of approval to any form of child pornography, any form. I want to underline how pervasive the attitude is, at least among some people, that it is okay to tolerate some kinds of child pornography by pointing to something that was said in this place back at the end of January by a member of the NDP. This is what the member for Palliser said:

Mr. Speaker, in response to the member's specific questions, the position that I take, and I believe would be shared by a majority if not all of my caucus colleagues--

These are his colleagues in the NDP.

--is that if it has not specifically hurt a minor in the production of it, if it is created by people's visual imaginations and if the main purpose of it is not simply about pornography and sexual exploitation, then under the laws people do have a right to their own imaginations and thoughts, however perverse the member and I might think they are.

My concern, which I think is shared by police officers across the country, is that if we open the door a crack to allowing these “artistic” versions of child pornography or what the courts have ruled are stories that may have artistic merit, then really we give the seal of approval to child pornography.

We want to shut that down. We are saying that there is no such thing as child pornography having any kind of public good. That of course is what is at the heart of the debate over Bill C-20 and we want to make it very clear that our party is completely opposed to that notion.

This is such a broad subject and there are so many different aspects to it, but suffice it to say that the Alliance believes that child pornography in Canada today is a scourge. We know that there has been a lot of publicity about this issue recently. There has been a worldwide crackdown by police forces on child pornography.

One of the things that concerns us, beyond the flaws in Bill C-20, is the fact that the police are not given adequate resources to deal with the issue of child pornography. When we had the recent crackdown around the world, which resulted in people being charged in the United States, Great Britain and some in Canada, we found that in Canada we had a woeful lack of resources when it came to having enough people to go out and check on people who initially were caught with child pornography, to check and make sure that we actually had enough evidence to prosecute them.

That is a concern. If the government maintains, and I think that it would, that the protection of children has to be the highest possible priority of a police force and a justice system in Canadian society, then they have to have adequate resources to do that. They need to have good laws and they need to have adequate resources. I am afraid to say that we have neither in Canada today.

The idea of artistic merit as a defence for child pornography, or even now the idea of public good as Bill C-20 states, I think to most people is contrary to common sense.

The government has not just failed when it comes to those issues, but it has failed in other ways as well, which are related to this. Some members already have spoken about the government's failure to adopt legislation that would raise the age of consent for engaging in sexual relations. Right now the age is 14, which I think would strike most people as being too young. We are talking here about relations between adults and children as young as the age of 14 and that is what concerns us.

Last year when we brought this forward as a motion in the House of Commons I was surprised, in fact, very frustrated, that the government voted against our motion to raise the age of consent from 14 to at least 16. The government trotted out all kinds of red herrings that it had not been able to get the provinces onside and that it was working with the provinces. That is a red herring because it is the federal government alone that sets the Criminal Code. The provinces administer it, but it is the federal government that has sole responsibility for changing the laws when it comes to the Criminal Code of Canada. We are concerned about that.

Another indication that the government does not take these issues seriously enough is its ridiculous sex offender registry which it is now proposing to bring in. The sex offender registry would only list people as of now who have committed a sexual offence. They would be the only ones who would be listed.

If somebody had been guilty of all kinds of sexual offences in the past, they would not be listed in the sex offender registry. That calls into question the government's commitment of ensuring that the public's protection is put ahead of the protection of privacy for people who have records as sexual offenders. To me that is simply wrong.

We are concerned that the government is not taking seriously enough what should be the first priority of any government which is the protection of its citizens. Why were governments formed? They were formed to protect the rights and freedoms of citizens and one of those freedoms is the freedom to not be interfered with, sexually. The government has not addressed these issues in a serious enough manner. There have been thousands of names on petitions that have come into the House. These people say they want these sorts of laws strengthened.

For reasons that are not apparent to me, the government drags its heels at every turn and comes up with all kinds of excuses for not doing it. I think that is simply wrong.

I want to make reference to an article that a previous member mentioned that was written by a Winnipeg lawyer who talked about the artistic merit defence and the new legislation, Bill C-20. He argued that the artistic merit defence, or the old legislation governing child pornography, was actually stricter than the new legislation that the government is bringing in. He pointed to all kinds of possible ways that the government could put some strict limits on child pornography to ensure that the next time this law is challenged it will not be thrown out again by the courts.

I would argue that if the government is not prepared to listen to the opposition then it should listen to people like David Matas, a Winnipeg Lawyer. He has provided some common sense suggestions for ways to limit the current definition of child pornography to ensure that we do not have to go through this again and that Canada's young people are protected.

About a year and a little bit ago my colleague from Lethbridge and I went down to the Canada-U.S. border and spent some time with customs officials on both sides of the border. One thing that came up on both sides of the border was how they have to be so vigilant today to ensure that when young people are travelling across the border with an older person, that they are not doing so because they have been lured by older people for the purposes of sexual exploitation. The impression they left with me is that this is not just a problem, it is a crisis.

We hear Toronto police officers talking about the crisis that they are facing now with respect to child pornography. We hear people talking today about the fact that Canada is becoming somewhat of a destination for sex tourism.

This is a serious issue and I am concerned that the government is not taking its responsibilities for protecting young people seriously. We have laid down a number of examples today of how it is failing in those responsibilities. Not only does it have to do with Bill C-20, but it has to do with its inability to summon the courage to raise the age of sexual consent from 14 to 16 and it is has to do with bringing in a sex offender registry that captures on that registry people who have committed sexual offences in the past and not just as of today.

I will conclude by urging the government to consider these remarks and to change this legislation.

Energy
Statements By Members

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Julian Reed Halton, ON

Mr. Speaker, as the House is well aware, I have been interested in renewable energy for many years. The war in Iraq, the potential danger to our environment by nuclear waste, and the challenge of climate change compel me today to offer a vision for Canada.

A future where Canada has a secure supply of energy, where fossil fuels are just one source, and the supply is diverse, using a combination of proven technologies, like water power, together with renewable and sustainable forms of energy that we are starting to use today, like alternative fuels, wind power, solar power, and sources of energy we have not even thought of yet.

We must support our scientists and commercial enterprises by investing in their research and development so we can have high tech jobs for our Canadian youth, clean air to breathe, and security for our energy future.

Fisheries
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Andy Burton Skeena, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is common knowledge that Canada's east coast fishery is in trouble. The resident population of some six million to seven million seals, each destroying a tonne of fish annually, clearly contributes significantly to this problem. The annual commercial harvest of 350,000 animals is a balanced approach.

Not common knowledge is that the west coast has a similar problem. Salmon populations have been significantly reduced by huge seal populations.

I believe that a seal hunt on a commercial basis will introduce a badly needed new economy on the B.C. coast and will also aid in the revival of healthy returns on salmon and trout.

I would like to encourage the minister to seriously consider establishing a commercial seal hunt on the west coast of Canada.

CIS Hockey
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Andy Scott Fredericton, NB

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise today to congratulate the new Atlantic conference hockey champions, the University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds, on their dramatic 4-3 win over St. FX last weekend.

UNB has been playing extremely well of late which brings me to a matter of a friendly challenge that I have put to two of my colleagues. I have challenged the members for Edmonton West and Thunder Bay—Superior North that when UNB wins the University Cup this weekend in Fredericton, the member for Edmonton West will provide the Varsity Reds with a steak dinner and will come to Fredericton to serve it, and the member for Thunder Bay—Superior North will do the same but with a pickerel dinner. Should Alberta or Lakehead win I will provide them with a lobster dinner and go to Edmonton or Thunder Bay to serve it.

Mr. Speaker, in case you are concerned about the possible expense to me in providing lobster dinners to two entire hockey teams, do not worry about it. Go Varsity Reds.

Racial Discrimination
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Mark Eyking Sydney—Victoria, NS

Mr. Speaker, the United Nations chose March 21 as International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

On this day in 1960, anti-apartheid demonstrators conducted a peaceful demonstration in Sharpeville, South Africa, and were shot and killed by police. In 1989, Canada became the first country in the world to have a national March 21st campaign to raise awareness about racism, and to encourage individuals and organizations to take steps to eliminate discrimination.

Around the world, Canada has gained the reputation of being a country that places high value on social justice, diversity and equality. We need to be vigilant to ensure that racism has no place in our society or in the world. The campaign is an annual reminder that every one of us has a role to play in putting an end to racism.

Let us renew our commitment to work with all Canadians to create a society where every citizen contributes to the equality of all.

Human Resources Development
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Mark Assad Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, thanks to a winter skills project, Mission Compétence Hiver 2003, 16 young people between the ages of 17 and 30 in the Saint-Hyacinthe area will be able to acquire the skills sought by today's employers in a work experience setting.

Human Resources Development Canada is proud to provide $15,000 in financial assistance to Gilles Poulin Consultant, a company that plans and carries out activities to assist the young people in that region in entering the work force. The project sponsor has a proven track record of successfully coordinating such projects in the past.

Good luck to all these young participants.

Iraq
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jason Kenney Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, today I held a news conference with members of the Iraqi-Canadian community who detailed the long nightmare of Saddam Hussein's regime, which human rights groups call one of the most brutal dictatorships of the last 50 years.

Saddam is responsible for the deaths of over a million people, both in wars of aggression he launched, and torture and execution of his own people. He is guilty of genocide against the Kurds, Marsh Arabs and Shiites, killing tens of thousands through the use of poison gas and mass execution. His preferred methods of torture include: eye-gouging, electric shock, raping women in front of their families, acid baths, and feeding dissidents to wild dogs.

We hope that allied forces will soon bring him to justice. But if Saddam is captured alive, I believe that he and his henchmen should be prosecuted for crimes against humanity at a special international criminal tribunal created for that purpose.

Following question period I will seek unanimous consent for a motion calling for such a tribunal. I hope that all members will agree that the time has come for justice to be done for the Iraqi people.

Canada Games
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Raymonde Folco Laval West, QC

Mr. Speaker, a few days ago, in all parts of Canada, young athletes were returning home from the 19th Canada Games.

One young athlete, Alexandre Tremblay of Lachenaie, brought two golds home, one of them won in badminton doubles partnered with Mathieu Laforest.

I extend my congratulations and those of all the people of Terrebonne—Blainville to the athletes who competed so ably in the 19th Canada Games.

I hope Alexandre Tremblay will be able to continue excelling in his sport for many years to come, and I am sure that one day his Olympic dream will come true.

Claude Roy
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, we want to pay tribute today to a great advocate for social housing, Claude Roy, an urban planning advisor with the Société d'habitation du Québec.

Honoured by one of the leading American housing associations, Claude Roy was awarded the John D. Lange award for the international impact of his work.

The first Quebecker and non-American to receive such an award, this man of conviction does far more than perform his role as a manager. Over the past 15 years, he has advocated the promotion of a healthy living environment and emphasized the need to recognize the connection between housing and the social needs of the disadvantaged, including the homeless.

On behalf of my colleagues from the Bloc Quebecois, I want to commend Mr. Roy on his social commitment and express our deep gratitude to him for his commitment to the advancement of wellness in our society.

Racial Discrimination
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, today is International Day for the Elimination of Racism.

I rise today to remind all Canadians about the meaning of tolerance and respect for one another. Particularly in these troubling and difficult times, when war and fears of terrorism are ever present, the issue of racial discrimination has become even more prominent.

Canada proudly stands as a model for diversity and openness, which has been a fundamental part of the Canadian mosaic since its beginning. Our national identity is linked to our cultural and linguistic heritage, where people from all backgrounds and cultures make Canada their home.

Threats to the physical and emotional safety of individuals cannot be allowed if we are to maintain the principles of acceptance that defines the spirit of our great nation. No one's identity or cultural heritage should be compromised.

I ask that all members of the House join with me to promote the fundamental belief that all Canadians are equal.

Racial Discrimination
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Betty Hinton Kamloops, Thompson And Highland Valleys, BC

Mr. speaker, today we join citizens around the world in declaring our support for the noble effort of eliminating racism.

Racial and religious discrimination have been the cause of too many wars and too much human suffering and any effort, be it by the United Nations or by individuals, to eliminate those two scourges should be applauded.

We pride ourselves in Canada on our ethnic racial diversity and tolerance, and well we should. Canada should continue to hold itself up as a shining example of what racial and religious tolerance should be like.

I am proud that in my constituency there are people from every corner of the earth and we live peacefully together and enjoy our differences.

I salute the United Nations and suggest the motto for Canada should be, “It does not matter where we came from as individuals. What does matter is where we are going together as Canadians.”

Racial Discrimination
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I would like to call your attention to the fact that today, March 21, is the International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

The Secretary of State for Multiculturalism and the Status of Women will be presenting the young winners of the “Racism. Stop It!” national video competition with their awards.

This year we honour 10 teams of 12 to 18 year old students: from Quebec, le Collège Jean de la Mennais et le Cégep du Vieux-Montréal; from Ontario, Norwich District High School and Glendale Secondary School; from Manitoba, Shaughnessy Park School; from Alberta, Amiskawiy Academy and Southview Community School; from Nova Scotia, Bedford Junior High School; and from the Northwest Territories, Sir John Franklin High School.

I would like to congratulate these young people for their stand against racism and for expressing their view with such great creativity.

Racial Discrimination
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, on this International Day for the Elimination of Racism, we remember the memory of those ant-apartheid protestors who were so brutally slaughtered in 1960 in Johannesburg, South Africa.

This March 21st is especially important as the grievous and devastating consequences of war on Iraq begin to unfold. State instituted racial profiling at the Canada-U.S. border crossings, harassment, interrogation, new visa requirements by the U.S. based on country of origin and targeting of members of the Canada Arab and Muslim communities and other minority groups are intolerable violations of human rights.

Federal New Democrats will continue to speak out against this racism fuelled by a war and anti-terrorism agenda that has even seen innocent people incarcerated.

We call on the Canadian government to uphold human rights, both internationally and here at home.

World Water Day
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, tomorrow, March 22, has been proclaimed World Water Day by the United Nations.

It is an opportunity to remember that water is not something we can take for granted. It is frightening to think that, in this day and age, some people do not have access to drinking water. On this day, countries are invited to organize activities to raise public awareness of the importance and value of water.

This week, the Third World Water Forum was held in Kyoto. At the forum, which is also an important event in the International Year of Freshwater, the United Nations presented the World Water Development Report.

Each of us must do our part to preserve water quality. We must also realize that climate change, too, could have a serious impact on water levels. So, if the level of the St. Lawrence drops, pollutant levels will rise and water quality could be compromised.

Water is like the air we breathe; we need it to survive. Help us to preserve it.

Exchange Students
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Mac Harb Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, today I have the pleasure to welcome to Ottawa students from Guilford Park Secondary School who travelled here all the way from Surrey, British Columbia. They are in Ottawa this week on an exchange with students from D'Arcy McGee Secondary School.

These students have been given a wonderful opportunity to visit another part of our great country while practising their abilities in the secondary language.

I hope that they have a great stay here in Ottawa and I thank them for the great Vancouver weather that they clearly brought along with them.

Fisheries and Oceans
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, government giveth and government taketh away. In the budget the government bragged about all the money it was giving out for the various departments. While this was unfolding, it was asking departments to cut a billion dollars from existing programs.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has been asked to find between $15 million and $20 million. This means significant cuts to small crafts and harbours, the science branch and the Coast Guard, all divisions currently in dire need of funding.

This is inconceivable. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans at present cannot afford to deliver existing programs and further cuts will be devastating.

Putting money into one's pocket with one hand is always popular but taking it out with the other is only an action the government would take. Government giveth and government taketh away at its own risk.

Prix Montfort
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Carole-Marie Allard Laval East, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday evening, the first Prix Montfort gala was held to honour outstanding contributions to the Francophonie. All the award winners deserve our thanks.

The Canadian Francophonie can certainly point to a remarkable trail of achievements. Consider the winner of the Prix Montfort for cultural diversity, Rwandan-born singer Corneille, who fled the genocide, who reminded us how war destroys the dreams of thousands of children.

Consider Antonine Maillet, winner of the Prix Montfort for literature, who constantly nurtures our hope for a better Canada.

The creator of the Festival Juste pour rire , Gilbert Rozon, who won the Prix Montfort for event of the year, expressed his great admiration for all of humanity in these troubled times.

And what about the mayor of Moncton, winner of the Montfort of the Year award. He reminded us of our ability to meet the challenges of bilingualism.

I want to thank all the artists who helped make this evening a success.

Iraq
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Peter Goldring Edmonton Centre-East, AB

Mr. Speaker, as we speak, Saddam Hussein's Iraq is under siege. The “Butcher of Baghdad” has scant days left to his evil rule.

Saddam has for too long been a harbourer of terrorists, a killer of his own citizens and a user and purveyor of weapons of mass destruction. Saddam personifies the new world's most evil threat, post-September 11.

While Great Britain, the United States and Australia together do their part to rout Saddam, we do not stand with our allies today. We stand in the shadow of the United Nations' failure to act. We stand aside because of a Prime Minister who failed to help. We stand aside, due to a Prime Minister interested more in personal popularity polls than safe, secure world order.

Shamefully, our Prime Minister is more ready to continue the “Butcher of Baghdad” and his evil threats, than to accept and help the most and the best of the free world marching to end Saddam's reign. God save the Queen and God bless America.

Iraq
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Grant Hill Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, France has been one of the countries most opposed to military intervention in Iraq. It has said, however, that if Saddam uses chemical or biological weapons, it would change its position.

If Saddam uses chemical or biological weapons, will that change Canada's position?

Iraq
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Toronto Centre—Rosedale
Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, we will analyze any situation of any change of any kind in the future and we will take action in the light of Canada's interest, bearing in mind our responsibility for peace and security, dealing with our allies and the preservation of the international framework and system that we have worked so hard to date to build. We will take action as is required in the light of all of those considerations.

Iraq
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Grant Hill Macleod, AB

Mr. Speaker, France did not have to analyze a thing. It was able to put its position out plainly for everyone to see.

I attended a state visit to Mexico with the Prime Minister three weeks ago. While there he said to give credit to the Americans and that any movement on disarmament by Saddam Hussein was a result of their troops at the border.

Why is that message not being spoken loud and clear here in Canada?

Iraq
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Toronto Centre—Rosedale
Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, the message is being spoken loud and clear but it is very difficult to get a message through to people who are ideologically disposed not to listen to it.

Iraq
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Grant Hill Macleod, AB

The arrogance is incredible, Mr. Speaker. Of the 10 missiles fired at Kuwait, 2 have now been identified as Saddam Hussein's scuds. He said to everyone, he said to the world, “But I don't have them. They've all been destroyed”.

Does that change Canada's position? Does Canada now regret abandoning our allies, when the evidence is there that Saddam Hussein had scuds all along?

Iraq
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Toronto Centre—Rosedale
Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, it may well demonstrate that the work of Dr. Blix should have been continued and all these things would have been found out. We can draw many conclusions on what is taking place at this time. That is not the point.

It is that the United States has engaged itself in action today, and what we believe is we would like to see this action terminated as quickly as possible with as few casualties as possible. That is the important consideration at this time.

Iraq
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Stockwell Day Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, a number of nations are now calling for the expulsion of Saddam's representatives from allied countries. This would further diminish Saddam, it would demoralize his lieutenants and raise the possibility of defections or maybe even early surrender.

The Liberals have decided to do nothing militarily to help disarm Saddam or to liberate the people of Iraq, but it is not too late to help diplomatically.

Why will the government not do the right thing and expel Saddam's front men from our country?

Iraq
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Toronto Centre—Rosedale
Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham Minister of Foreign Affairs

The first point, Mr. Speaker, is we have received no request from the United States to expel the one--

Iraq
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Carol Skelton Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar, SK

Where is your backbone?

Iraq
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Stockwell Day Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Are you waiting for marching orders from the U.S.?

Iraq
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

Iraq
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

The Speaker

Order, please. The hon. member for Okanagan—Coquihalla will have a chance to ask a supplementary question in due course, but we have to be able to hear the answer to the first one. I urge all hon. members to pay some attention to the member who has the floor, in this case the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Iraq
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Bill Graham Toronto Centre—Rosedale, ON

Mr. Speaker, there is one Iraqi diplomat in Canada today. Earlier in December of last year, we had a diplomat removed at our request. We will of course monitor the situation and make a decision in respect of Canada's interest and whether it is in the best interest in these circumstances to take that action.

Iraq
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Stockwell Day Okanagan—Coquihalla, BC

Mr. Speaker, the U.S. government seized $1.74 billion in foreign assets of Saddam's regime, money which will now be committed to the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people. This type of action will ensure that neither Saddam nor his henchmen can run off with the money, the wealth of the Iraqi people.

Why will our government not show true compassion to the Iraqi people by seizing the assets of Saddam's regimes that may be parked right here in Canada? Why will it not at least do that?

Iraq
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Toronto Centre—Rosedale
Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, we will not take any immediate action to do that because we already did it many years ago.

Canada has had it in place since 1990, if the member will listen to the answer, under the United Nations Iraq regulations which impose a freeze on Iraqi assets in Canada. Pursuant to UN security council resolutions, there is already a freeze on Iraqi assets in Canada.

Iraq
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the prompt restoration of peace in Iraq is legitimate, justified and desirable, as opposed to the war, which is not. In addition to the humanitarian dimension, we need to prepare for the post-war period now.

There will be a regime change, but Iraq must not become an American protectorate. It is up to the UN to set up a provisional administration.

Can the Minister of Foreign Affairs tell the House what diplomatic action has been taken by Canada to ensure that the reconstruction of Iraq will be carried out under the auspices of the UN?

Iraq
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Toronto Centre—Rosedale
Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, obviously this is an extremely important question. Canada's position is that Iraq's post-war administration should be established by the United Nations.

We will be working toward this with all of the other countries involved.

Iraq
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, the war in Iraq will not only be hard on Iraqi civilians, but it will poison an already tense situation throughout the entire Middle East.

Can the Minister of Foreign Affairs tell us if Canada will support an international conference on the Middle East, as proposed by France?

Iraq
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Toronto Centre—Rosedale
Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, this is obviously a proposal. We are studying all of the proposals made by France with the respect they deserve.

Accordingly, we are considering whether such a conference would be appropriate in the coming days. However, obviously we have to study this kind of proposal very carefully. We will do so from the perspective that we have already mentioned in the House, in terms of international interest, with a view to resolving this crisis as soon as possible.

Iraq
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Stéphane Bergeron Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, the U.S. has seized Iraqi assets in U.S. banks and has also decided to allocate this money to humanitarian aid.

Will the Minister of Foreign Affairs agree that it would be much better to leave it up to the UN to determine how this money should be used, rather than letting the U.S. be the sole arbiter?

Iraq
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Toronto Centre—Rosedale
Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, all I can say is that the freeze on Iraqi assets in Canada, which has been in place—as I just mentioned to the House—since 1990, is in accordance with UN regulations.

Naturally this will continue to be the case and we will handle any such assets in accordance with Security Council regulations and Canadian law.

Iraq
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Stéphane Bergeron Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, several organizations will join in the humanitarian effort in Iraq.

Does the minister agree that again, the UN is the best placed to coordinate all the humanitarian work in Iraq?

Iraq
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Toronto Centre—Rosedale
Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, obviously we intend to promote this point of view, namely that it would be appropriate and even preferable for the administration of humanitarian aid and the reconstruction of Iraq to be carried out under an international mandate rather than the mandate of one single power.

We are trying to convince our American friends that it would be in their best interest to adopt a UN-type system. I think they will see our point of view.

Iraq
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is clear that Canadian ships are escorting ships involved in an illegal war, without authorization from Parliament. My question is for the Minister of National Defence. He has authorized Canadian ships to escort warships as far north as Kuwait, involving us in this war. Could he assure Canadians that our sailors have the same level of protection as the sailors they are escorting?

Iraq
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Markham
Ontario

Liberal

John McCallum Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, one must always be extraordinarily cautious in releasing information that may involve the security of our men and women at sea. As they say, loose lips can sink ships.

However, I am able to inform the House that all of our sailors are equipped with protective equipment to defend themselves against biological and chemical attack. Not only that, but our ships have the capacity to seal themselves in the event of a biological or chemical attack. I am pleased to be able to inform the House of these facts today.

Iraq
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, Canadian surveillance planes are supplying data to the U.S. fifth fleet. Our ships are escorting warships. Yet supposedly Canada is not involved in Bush's war. To ensure that we are not involved, could the defence minister tell us where Operation Apollo ends and Bush's war begins for our 1,300 armed forces personnel in the gulf?

Iraq
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Markham
Ontario

Liberal

John McCallum Minister of National Defence

I just mentioned security concerns, Mr. Speaker, and I am certainly not going to reveal to the world exactly where our ships are operating, but I would say that the NDP does not seem to get it. We had a resolution on this matter from the Bloc which was defeated overwhelmingly yesterday. The fact of the matter is that there is absolutely no way Canada is going to withdraw from the war against terrorism, to cut and run at a moment when our allies are at greatest risk. Indeed, we are fully committed to the war against terrorism and are proud of what we are doing in the gulf.

Iraq
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Joe Clark Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, before last night the government was able to argue that Canada would not participate in Iraq at this time. Canada was as flexible as France. But the Prime Minister and his government last night voted in favour of a much more categoric resolution that absolutely shuts the door on any subsequent United Nations action. Either that vote means nothing or Canada is not now free to respond to Saddam's use of weapons of mass destruction. Which is it?

Iraq
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Toronto Centre—Rosedale
Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, it is not our view that the vote last night, which clearly was the opinion of the House, was that we should not be sending troops to be a part of this intervention. It would determine all future possibilities for all future time and no Parliament seeks to bind its government in such a way. The government will take its responsibility and take the actions that are necessary for the protection of the Canadian people and the establishment of international peace and order, as it has always done in the past and will continue to do in the future.

Iraq
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Joe Clark Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, the minister sucks and blows at the same time. That means that in his view the vote he cast last night means absolutely nothing at all.

I am pleased to hear that he is finally talking about reconstruction after ignoring that for the first several days of this debate. He knows that the United Nations has authority to deal with humanitarian actions but that it needs a new resolution to deal with reconstruction. Is Canada acting actively to have a new resolution drafted and, more importantly, to build the kind of consensus that would ensure such a resolution would be adopted by the Security Council?

Iraq
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Toronto Centre—Rosedale
Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham Minister of Foreign Affairs

To be fair, Mr. Speaker, I must say that I appreciate the hon. member's interest in the issue of reconstruction, but it is not correct to say we have taken no interest in this up until now. We have been extremely aware of it, but the question is, how does one act reasonably and in a way that is going to make a positive contribution to this issue?

The Prime Minister made it clear that before the intervention took place talk of reconstruction might have caused other political issues to arise. That is now there. We will do our part. We are acting at the United Nations. We agree with the members of the House that this would be best managed through a United Nations process and we will actively pursue that agenda.

Canada-U.S. Relations
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Monte Solberg Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, a new poll says that 52% of Canadians are worried about the damage to our relationship with the United States created by the government's self-indulgent anti-American ranting. Now even the cabinet is getting into the act.

Does the foreign affairs minister understand that the steady stream of poison coming from his own caucus cannot help but undermine our relationship with our best friends in the United States?

Canada-U.S. Relations
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Toronto Centre—Rosedale
Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I have always taken the position and the government's position has always been that the United States is acting in these circumstances in a review of its own sovereign interest, the protection of its citizens and the establishment of peace and order as it sees it. We have chosen to take another path, but that does not mean that we criticize the path chosen by our American colleagues.

I accept what all members of the House accept, which is that we will act in this way, in a way to preserve the friendship with the United States, the access across the border and the best relations we have. I am confident that we will be able to do it. I urge the hon. members opposite not to envenom--

Canada-U.S. Relations
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Medicine Hat.

Canada-U.S. Relations
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Monte Solberg Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, the fish rots from the head down. What we have seen from the caucus across the way is the Prime Minister giving tacit approval to what some of his caucus members are saying by not taking them to task for it. Very often the Prime Minister will dress down his members when they hurt his party. When is he going to start to dress them down when they are hurting his country?

Canada-U.S. Relations
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Toronto Centre—Rosedale
Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I hope that the hon. member will agree with me that the Prime Minister's comportment in this matter has been very careful and very wise. This is not a wisdom that comes from anything except a respect for our United States colleagues, a respect that he owes President Bush, that I owe Secretary Powell, that the Deputy Prime Minister owes Mr. Ridge, and right through the system to Mr. Ashcroft and the good relations we have both with the administration and the American people.

I promise the House that the government will continue to be guided in that light. We have good relations with the United States. We will continue to have good relations with the United States.

Iraq
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Bloc

Caroline St-Hilaire Longueuil, QC

Mr. Speaker, since the war in Iraq began, the Minister of National Defence keeps saying that maintaining Canadian troops in the Persian Gulf region is essential to the fight against terrorism. Yet, yesterday in the House, he confirmed that the Canadian ships escorting the allied ships would have to respond if any of them were attacked.

Does maintaining troops in the region not contradict Canada's stated anti-war position?

Iraq
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Markham
Ontario

Liberal

John McCallum Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I said that the NDP does not get it, and it seems that neither does the Bloc Quebecois. What happened last night is that the Bloc's amendment, seeking to pull out our ships, was very soundly defeated. As I said several minutes ago, we are proud of the role our ships continue to play in the Gulf in the fight against terrorism. We are proud that we are there to protect our allies from potential terrorist attacks.

Iraq
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Bloc

Caroline St-Hilaire Longueuil, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of National Defence must realize that his message is extremely ambiguous. On one hand, he talks about working for peace, and on the other, he says that he will defend his belligerent allies if they are attacked.

How can the Minister of National Defence reconcile two such contradictory approaches?

Iraq
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Markham
Ontario

Liberal

John McCallum Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, contrary to what the Bloc Quebecois says, our message is extremely clear, and it is based on two principles.

First, we respect the right of the United States, but we also have the right to decide for ourselves. That is what we have done in deciding not to participate in the war. But the second principle, which is just as important, is that Canada has been a full partner in the war against terrorism since September 11. The risk is greater than ever before, and our efforts continue.

National Defence
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Leon Benoit Lakeland, AB

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the defence minister dismissed the concerns of Sea King crews about the danger of flying Sea Kings without proper night vision equipment while at the same time he is looking at buying a new building for head office staff.

Good government is about setting priorities, about knowing what is important and what is not as important. Does the minister think it is good government to purchase a new building for headquarters staff while he will not buy night vision equipment which could improve the safety of our Sea King crews?

National Defence
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Markham
Ontario

Liberal

John McCallum Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I did not dismiss the concerns of helicopter pilots yesterday. I dismissed the unwarranted comments of the member across the way. Indeed, I said that I had received assurances regarding safety from the Chief of Defence Staff, a former helicopter pilot, and I had spoken to three helicopter pilots myself in the morning who assured me of the safety. It is also the case that we have equipment to provide night vision. Our new helicopters will have superior equipment and we are in the process of developing improvements in that area.

National Defence
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, post-9/11 the downtown Ottawa Department of National Defence headquarters location became a security risk, according to the minister, yet the minister is insisting on moving the Emergency Preparedness College from Arnprior, outside Ottawa, where it was designed to serve an alternate disaster operations centre, to Ottawa. Since the national capital has been identified as a potential target for terrorists, why is the government moving the logical alternate command centre site from Arnprior to ground zero?

National Defence
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Markham
Ontario

Liberal

John McCallum Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I must say I have a little difficulty following that convoluted logic, but my first responsibility is to ensure the preparedness of first responders to potential terrorist attack. That responsibility has if anything augmented as a consequence of events in Iraq and, as the member well knows, the facilities in Arnprior were not appropriate to carry out those fundamental responsibilities of the government. It is for that reason that the decision to move was taken.

Immigration and Refugee Board
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral Laval Centre, QC

Mr. Speaker, according to yesterday's Toronto Star , the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration is preparing to make some major changes to the Immigration and Refugee Board. It would appear that he is, in fact, contemplating replacing the board members, currently appointed by the governor in council, with Citizenship and Immigration Canada officials.

Can the minister explain why he wants to abolish an independent system and replace it with one in which public servants would be simultaneously judge and jury?

Immigration and Refugee Board
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Brampton Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Sarkis Assadourian Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member read the article like everybody else. The minister did not propose anything. He just suggested ways to improve the deal we had in 1989. Anything that can improve on that system I think is a job to look forward to. I hope in the future the hon. member supports the streamlining of refugees so we can make it easier, faster and cheaper.

Immigration and Refugee Board
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Madeleine Dalphond-Guiral Laval Centre, QC

Mr. Speaker, in its 2000 election platform, the Bloc Quebecois proposed replacing the present political appointment process for Immigration and Refugee Board members with a transparent appointment procedure based on candidates' professional qualifications and experience.

Can the minister explain to us why he has not gone with an option that would ensure an appointment process based, not on political connections, but professional qualifications and experience?

Immigration and Refugee Board
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Brampton Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Sarkis Assadourian Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, the assumption is totally wrong. Every appointment the government has made in the last nine and a half years has been fantastic, based on the ability of the person, nothing more, nothing less.

Child Pornography
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Vic Toews Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal government may talk about protecting children, but it does exactly the opposite.

Prominent human rights lawyer David Matas has recently stated that Bill C-20, the proposed child pornography legislation, goes in exactly the wrong direction. Instead of narrowing the defence of artistic merit, indeed it broadens the defence.

When will the government finally find the courage to protect children, rather than siding with the interests of child pornographers?

Child Pornography
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Northumberland
Ontario

Liberal

Paul MacKlin Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, on the issue of child pornography, clearly we have brought forward a bill that we believe will be very effective in dealing with the concerns that were raised by the Sharpe case. We believe that eliminating the artistic merit defence will in fact be in the best interests of the children of our community. We are very interested in maintaining the priority of children as part of the government's process of making sure that children are safe within our community.

Sex Offender Registry
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Kevin Sorenson Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, the snail's pace at which the national sex offender registry bill is proceeding through the House speaks volumes about the priority the government places on the safety of our society and of our children. At this speed, it is very likely that we will not have the sex offender registry before next Christmas, or even before the next election.

I ask the Solicitor General, will he immediately ensure that Bill C-23 is made a priority and is brought before the House sooner rather than later?

Sex Offender Registry
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Malpeque
P.E.I.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Solicitor General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, maybe the member has not looked at the projected order of business, but the fact of the matter is it is before the House today.

First, we had to bring the provinces on side in terms of the sex offender registry. We have done that. We are pushing it with due haste. If we get the right kind of cooperation from the members on the other side rather than playing games, we would get the bill through the House so it can do what it is intended to do, which is to protect children in this country.

Child Care
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Judi Longfield Whitby—Ajax, ON

Mr. Speaker, last week the Minister of Human Resources Development successfully negotiated Canada's first ever national child care program. Her provincial and territorial colleagues agreed to her plan to allocate some $900 million to regulated child care spaces across the country.

Can the minister tell the House what this means in practical terms for working parents?

Child Care
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Brant
Ontario

Liberal

Jane Stewart Minister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, last week I was thrilled to reach agreement with provinces and territories on a national plan to improve the quality and accessibility of regulated early learning and child care in Canada.

Provinces and territories have agreed to invest the $900 million announced in the recent federal budget to create new spaces in regulated child care centres, private homes and nurseries, to increase subsidies that assist parents in meeting the costs of this care, or to increase compensation for givers of regulated care.

This is another example of the Government of Canada's commitment to make sure that our youngest citizens have the very best possible first start in their lives.

Iraq
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, the finance minister is very good on so-called sovereign decisions, but not so hot on international law, judging by what he said yesterday and reiterated again today in the House. Yesterday in speaking about Bush's war, he said, “We have made our decision. They have made their sovereign decision. We respect that”.

When Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990, that too was a sovereign decision. Surely the point of international law is to stop sovereign decisions that are illegal.

I ask the minister again, does Bush's war violate international law, yes or no?

Iraq
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Toronto Centre—Rosedale
Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I am not in a position to give a legal opinion on behalf of the United States of America, but Secretary Powell and the British government have been saying that their intervention in these circumstances is fully justified under a series of Security Council resolutions, terminating with Security Council resolution 1441.

We would have preferred a different political solution, but I think that is an interpretation which we have to respect and recognize that it is in their sovereign right to take action based on their analysis of the legal opinion such as they see it.

Iraq
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, maybe the minister should take a refresher course at law school.

Yesterday he said, “They are taking steps in self-defence which are authorized under UN resolutions which they have cited”. Clearly the UN has not authorized Bush's war. It is in fact pre-emptive and not self-defence.

Mr. Bush can cite whatever he wants. The very simple question is, does the minister think that his citations are correct, yes or no? Is the war legal or illegal in the minister's view? Why will he not answer that question?

Iraq
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Toronto Centre—Rosedale
Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I read the declaration of the attorney general of the United Kingdom. I read the legal opinion and listened carefully to what Secretary of State Powell said. They referred to a series of resolutions. Those resolutions I believe were correct, the resolutions they referred to.

The fact that the hon. member draws a different conclusion from them, maybe she and I and all of us should go back for refresher courses at law school.

I think what we are trying to achieve here is a political issue which is of great importance to the future of the world. This government will continue to be motivated by its determination to work in the best interests of Canada and of Canadians and the world in finding the right solutions.

Fisheries
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, while an all party committee from Newfoundland and Labrador was developing a plan to make sure the cod fishery in the region was maintained and enhanced, the federal government was planning also. Instead of assisting the province, the federal government, without the involvement of DFO, was having HRDC and ACOA make plans to address the fallout of another fishery closure through EI extensions and make work programs.

Why did the government go behind everybody's back and pull the rug out from under its own fisheries minister and the all party committee in Newfoundland and Labrador?

Fisheries
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

West Nova
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Robert Thibault Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, perhaps the member should go back and talk to the government of his province. It would indicate to him that in discussions with the provincial government, it was agreed that we would get together federally and provincially to see what the impact of potential closures would be and to see what kind of measures we could take at the federal level and at the provincial level to assist those communities in the event of such an action.

The Economy
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, according to recent Statistics Canada figures, the outlying regions of this country appear to be in a major demographic and economic decline. I saw this for myself during recent trips in Quebec and other parts of Canada.

Last November, the young people of Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik were demanding to see the Prime Minister. Will he go to Abitibi-Témiscamingue in order to see for himself the economic problems besetting that region?

The Economy
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Etobicoke Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Allan Rock Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, we are very proud of our regional economic development program, not only in Quebec but elsewhere in Canada as well. We are working hard with caucus and the provincial governments to ensure the fair and equal distribution of economic opportunities throughout Canada.

Sex Offender Registry
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gerry Ritz Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Mr. Speaker, last week a convicted child molester was turned loose on the streets of my riding. Dennis Richard Gladue preys on young girls. His victims range in age from 11 to one and a half years. Can you believe that, Mr. Speaker? This predator's name will not show up on the minister's phony new sex offender registry.

Like the justice minister, Gladue shows no remorse for his actions either. Why does the Liberal government refuse to put these existing monsters in a national registry so we can protect our children and keep this scum off our streets? Why will it not--

Sex Offender Registry
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. Solicitor General.

Sex Offender Registry
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Malpeque
P.E.I.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Solicitor General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I have explained in the House actually several times in the past how the new sex offender registry will improve safety on the streets in this country.

As I said earlier, we have talked with the federal, provincial and territorial ministers of justice and others about this legislation. They are quite supportive of the legislation. If we could have the members on the other side of the aisle cooperate with us, we could get that legislation through the House of Commons faster. The legislation is designed to make the streets safer and it will.

Sex Offender Registry
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Dick Harris Prince George—Bulkley Valley, BC

What nonsense, Mr. Speaker. The fact is that not one single name of a person who has committed a sex offence prior to the passing of the legislation will be on the sex offender registry.

There comes a time when people have to stand up for what they believe in. I ask the government and the minister, why have they chosen to stand on the side of sex offenders and against the victims of these despicable crimes?

Sex Offender Registry
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Malpeque
P.E.I.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Solicitor General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, the member opposite has it all wrong. He clearly has it wrong. When we designed the legislation we wanted to ensure that it could not be challenged by the courts and tossed out.

When we put legislation in place, we want it to do its job effectively. That is why the legislation is designed the way it is, to improve safety on our streets and put those people on the sex offender registry so that police can do a better job in keeping the streets safe.

Statistics Canada
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Laurentides, QC

Mr. Speaker, the interviewers at Statistics Canada are misunderstood by their employer, which is denying them a fair and equitable contract. Their working conditions are unacceptable and the minister must intervene.

Will the Minister of Industry break his silence and ask the authorities at Statistics Canada to negotiate in good faith so that these employees can have decent working conditions?

Statistics Canada
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Etobicoke Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Allan Rock Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, the parties involved are in the process of reconciling their differences. We will wait for the results.

Statistics Canada
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Laurentides, QC

Mr. Speaker, can the minister assure us that the authorities at Statistics Canada are going to show some understanding and treat these workers fairly?

Statistics Canada
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Etobicoke Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Allan Rock Minister of Industry

Of course, Mr. Speaker, but the process has to be allowed to follow its course. We will see results shortly. I am sure of it.

G-8 Summit
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, a total of 10 businesses from the Canmore and Kananaskis area have submitted claims to the government for revenues lost during the G-8 summit last summer. Their claims have been denied or severely reduced and they have been told that they do not have any recourse. There is no appeal process for them. However, they were promised prior to the summit that a mechanism for dispute would be put in place. Why is this not happening?

G-8 Summit
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, it is my understanding that each one of these claims has been very carefully examined against the guidelines that were published before the G-8 summit.

If any of these individuals believes that the guidelines have been misapplied or not applied in the proper way, they are certainly free to draw their point of view to my attention and I will look into it. I am determined to make sure that the guidelines are properly administered as they were published in advance of the G-8 summit. I am happy to see that this in fact turns out to be the case.

G-8 Summit
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have gone over the compensation package and it is very apparent that these claims decisions are discretionary and subjective and in the hands of the bureaucrats.

These constituents are being confronted with a take it or leave it attitude from the bureaucrats. They are not having the opportunity to be in touch with the minister's department whatsoever.

All I want to know and what they want to know is whatever happened to a fair review hearing that was promised to them prior to the summit? It should be a right for these individuals to be heard. Why are they not getting it?

G-8 Summit
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, if any such individual has a problem with the process, if they think they are being dealt with unfairly, then they need merely to write to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services, House of Commons, Ottawa, K1A 0A6, and I will reply.

Human Rights
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Raymonde Folco Laval West, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Industry.

A human rights complaint has been launched against the government claiming that women are being unfairly shut out of the program to fund 2,000 Canada research chairs.

What is the government doing to ensure that women at Canadian universities have an equal chance at these prestigious positions?

Human Rights
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Etobicoke Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Allan Rock Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, it is important to let the complaint proceed before the tribunal as it will.

Let me point out that the Canadian research chairs program has drawn international attention as an innovative and effective way of keeping the best and the brightest on the campuses of this nation.

It is important that both men and women fully participate in this program. At the moment there is an insufficient number of women being nominated for the chairs. The Government of Canada is determined to do its part to make sure that is addressed.

We have, among other things, asked the secretariat to strictly enforce rules on the distribution of the chairs to both genders. We have asked universities to nominate more women. We will continue with those efforts.

Softwood Lumber
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Betty Hinton Kamloops, Thompson And Highland Valleys, BC

Mr. Speaker, the government was warned by the Canadian Alliance years ago that the softwood lumber crisis was looming. Forestry workers are now struggling to pay their mortgages and feed their families. The government promised forestry workers a compensation program. To date there has not been one thin dime.

Workers continue to be denied access to these funds. Why?

Softwood Lumber
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Brant
Ontario

Liberal

Jane Stewart Minister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, as I have said on a number of occasions, the department is following very closely the issues that are facing workers in the softwood lumber industry, particularly as a result of the dispute with the United States.

The hon. member would be interested to know that a recent Statistic Canada labour force survey indicates that in the Province of British Columbia lumber job levels increased by 14% between January 2002 and January 2003. The number of EI claims in B.C. continue to be lower than in the previous year.

That being said, we are there with programs through employment insurance and working to ensure that the workforce is supported through this difficult time.

Organized Crime
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Cadman Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, last week the Solicitor General was in my riding. He had refused my request to participate in his education about crime in Surrey North. Perhaps he is afraid to be held accountable for his future inaction.

I do know what the RCMP told him about marijuana grow ops and related violent crime in Surrey. I know he is aware that the police lack the resources and the legislation to properly address these threats to public safety. Many in Surrey suspect his little grow op photo op is nothing more smoke and mirrors.

Will he take immediate action based on what he was told by the Surrey RCMP?

Organized Crime
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Malpeque
P.E.I.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Solicitor General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, in fact, I went to the member's riding because of some of the concerns he raised in the House.

He would understand that given the way the House of Commons operates I could not have him in on a meeting where we are talking about operational police matters. That would be the wrong thing to do.

I can tell the member that marijuana grow operations on the ground in British Columbia in the area of Surrey is a serious matter. However I can tell the member that I am extremely proud of the efforts the RCMP.

Tobacco Farmers
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, Rothmans, Benson & Hedges has just ended a 25-year partnership with the flue-cured tobacco farmers of Quebec, citing reasons of climate. Oddly, Ontario tobacco farmers are stuck with a 50 million pound surplus of tobacco that they are trying to dispose of at a lower price. Some 97% of Quebec's flue-cured tobacco farmers are located in the Lanaudière area. I am extremely concerned.

Can the Minister of Agriculture implement an alternate enterprise program immediately in order to help these farmers, who now have to find a new livelihood?

Tobacco Farmers
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Portneuf
Québec

Liberal

Claude Duplain Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Mr. Speaker, the member for Joliette asks a very relevant question. Several members from Quebec and Ontario have been made aware of the tobacco farmers' situation.

I can assure you that officials are currently working with tobacco farmers and their office and I quote:

—to work within the available programs on ways to facilitate the readjustment and possible transition of the tobacco farmers.

I can assure the member that the minister is very aware of the situation.

Natural Resources
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Andy Burton Skeena, BC

Mr. Speaker, the natural resources minister is scheduled to visit Washington, D.C. next week to discuss energy trade issues with his U.S. counterparts. Given his recent disgusting comments about President Bush not being a statesman, what sort of reception does the minister expect to receive in Washington? Can he honestly expect any real results from this visit?

Natural Resources
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Don Valley East
Ontario

Liberal

David Collenette Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, this is a highly inflammatory question.

The Prime Minister made his views known on this yesterday in question period. He has every confidence in the Minister of Natural Resources. He certainly expects everyone on the government side to be very sensitive to the pressures facing the government and the people at this time in view of what is happening in the Middle East.

Taxation
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Bloc

Jocelyne Girard-Bujold Jonquière, QC

Mr. Speaker, in her last budget, the Quebec's finance minister announced a tax credit for public transit users in Quebec. This measure will increase the number of people who use public transit, thereby reducing greenhouse gas emissions and traffic jams, while allowing highway infrastructure to last longer.

Does the Minister of Finance plan on applying similar measures at the federal level?

Taxation
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Vaughan—King—Aurora
Ontario

Liberal

Maurizio Bevilacqua Secretary of State (International Financial Institutions)

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for her question. I am sure she read our budget and previous budgets very carefully and probably noticed the great investments we made on infrastructure, as well as key investments in environmental programs exceeding $3 billion. That to me shows that the government understands Canadians' priorities.

Arts and Culture
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Wendy Lill Dartmouth, NS

Mr. Speaker, this week a coalition of 50,000 TV writers, directors, actors and technicians released a report on the crisis in English language drama.

The relaxing of CRTC Can. con. rules in 1999 for private broadcasters has caused production levels of English Canadian drama to plummet. Private broadcasters are producing and showing less Canadian drama and increasing their expenditures on U.S. programming by 15%.

Will the government toughen up Canadian content policy so we can see our stories on TV, or is it fully committed to an Americanized survivor strategy for Canadian culture?

Arts and Culture
Oral Question Period

Noon

Laval East
Québec

Liberal

Carole-Marie Allard Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, I would like to reassure the House that the Government of Canada is very concerned about Canadian content on television.

However, the CRTC is an independent body that operates according to its own rules, therefore it is not up to us to interfere with its decisions.

Health
Oral Question Period

Noon

Progressive Conservative

Greg Thompson New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Mr. Speaker, international events have overshadowed some deadly events in Canada. Of course I am speaking of the deadly pneumonia strain SARS. The transmission of this unknown pathogen has many Canadians concerned.

What is the minister doing? Has she met with her provincial counterparts in terms of a strategy? Specifically, what is the department doing to reassure Canadians that everything will be okay?

Health
Oral Question Period

Noon

Madawaska—Restigouche
New Brunswick

Liberal

Jeannot Castonguay Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his question. At this time, no one really knows what this virus is. Officials suspect that it is, indeed, a virus, called a paramyxovirus, that is related to the viruses that cause measles and the parainfluenza viruses.

What are we doing in Canada at this time? We know that it is not a real threat because the virus has been traced back to Hong Kong. There have only been a few cases in Canada that have come from there.

We must ensure that we closely monitor people arriving from Hong Kong. That is what we are currently doing at the Pearson and Vancouver airports.

Obviously, it is very—

Health
Oral Question Period

Noon

The Speaker

I am sorry to have to interrupt the hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health, but we must now move on to routine proceedings.

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

Noon

Progressive Conservative

Joe Clark Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am raising a point of order with respect to an answer given today by the Minister of National Defence and the answers which he gave to me yesterday on the same question.

Yesterday I put the following question to the Minister of National Defence:

Do all Canadian troops on ships in the gulf have gas masks and chemical suits to protect them against potential chemical or biological attacks? Yes or no.

The minister answered that he had already answered the question. Then he went on to say “I do not think it is appropriate for me to deal with such issues in public”, and he offered to meet me privately. That is what he said yesterday.

Today he provided to the House of Commons, in public, the information which he deliberately denied to me yesterday in the House of Commons.

I am raising this for a variety of reasons. First, I am obliged to raise this at the most timely occasion. Second, the issue was obviously one of grave importance. We would not want Canadians in the gulf to be exposed to potential chemical weapons attacks without adequate provision.

My concern is that the minister was trying to hide behind a rule set out in Beauchesne's. I draw your attention to Beauchesne's 6th edition, page 123, citation 416(1) and (2) which says:

(1) A Minister may decline to answer a question without stating the reason...

(2) An answer to a question cannot be insisted upon if the answer be refused by the Minister on the ground of the public interest; nor can the question be replaced on the Notice Paper. The refusal of a Minister to answer on this ground cannot be raised as a matter of privilege.

Clearly what the minister was attempting to do yesterday was claiming that this was a matter that could not be responded to on the ground of the public interest.

Yesterday the public interest in his interpretation said he could not reply. Today the public interest in his interpretation said he could reply. I believe that is a breach of the rules of order of the House. We have a right to count upon the veracity and completeness of the answers of ministers in the House.

I would appreciate your judgment on this, Mr. Speaker.

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

12:05 p.m.

Markham
Ontario

Liberal

John McCallum Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, as I said in my response today, one must always be extraordinarily cautious to not release information that could jeopardize the safety and security of our sailors when they are in a difficult situation. Therefore I wanted to make sure there was nothing that would jeopardize their security in this matter.

I checked with the military people to make sure and I was assured that this could be appropriate to release. I gave the right hon. gentleman the courtesy, if I were not able to release it publicly, of telling him privately, given his history.

However, having been informed by the military that it was not jeopardizing the security of our people I was very happy to release what was essentially good news in the House today.

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

12:05 p.m.

The Speaker

I do not think there is need for any further interventions on this point. I am sure the right hon. member for Calgary Centre is thrilled to get the information today that he did not get yesterday, even though it was a day late and even though it was not delivered privately. I could tell that in his remarks earlier.

Regardless of that situation, I think he is also aware that answers given one day because of certain circumstances may change on another day. I think the minister's explanation in the circumstances is entirely satisfactory. Therefore in my view there is no point of order here.

We will now proceed to tabling of documents.

Government Response to Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Bras D'Or—Cape Breton
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister

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

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

John O'Reilly Haliburton—Victoria—Brock, ON

Madam Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the second report of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration on supplementary estimates (B), 2002-2003.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Dale Johnston Wetaskiwin, AB

Madam Speaker, there have been consultations between parties and in order to facilitate and conduct private members' business under the new rules adopted last Monday, my colleagues from Calgary—Nose Hill and Macleod have two bills on notice today. I believe, Madam Speaker, if you were to seek it, you would find unanimous consent for these bills to be introduced today.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Is there unanimous consent?

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Dale Johnston Wetaskiwin, AB

Madam Speaker, as a result of the unavoidable absences of those two members I would seek unanimous consent for me to introduce those bills on their behalf.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Is there unanimous consent?

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

There is no consent.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jason Kenney Calgary Southeast, AB

Madam Speaker, following consultations that I have had with all of the parties, I rise to seek unanimous consent for the House to adopt the following motion, that in the opinion of this House the government should endorse the formation of an international criminal tribunal for the purpose of prosecuting Saddam Hussein and all other Iraqi officials who are responsible for crimes against humanity, including unlawful use of force, crimes committed in contravention of the Geneva convention, and the crime of genocide.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Madam Speaker, I am sure this is well intentioned, but I had not been made aware of this until shortly before question period. The House leaders have not been consulted about this in the usual manner.

I say to the member that we will refuse consent at this time. If he wants to provide time for House leaders to consult early next week or if it is his wish to put it in his opposition day motion on Tuesday, of course, he has the privilege of doing so. Meanwhile, I cannot agree to this today because there has been no prior consultation among House leaders.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jason Kenney Calgary Southeast, AB

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I have consulted with the hon. Minister of Foreign Affairs on this matter. I am simply--

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Order, please. That is not a point of order.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

Madam Speaker, notwithstanding that the House leader for the government stood up, my colleague did ask for you to ask for unanimous consent and we would request that you do that.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The hon. member obviously did not hear the Chair. I did ask for unanimous consent. Unanimous consent was not given by the House. It was denied. It is on the record.

Committees of the House
Introduction Of Private Members' Bills

12:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Dale Johnston Wetaskiwin, AB

Madam Speaker, there may have been a change of heart. I would ask once again, due to the unavoidable absence of my colleagues, that you seek unanimous consent for the following motion. I move:

That the member for Wetaskiwin be permitted to introduce the private member's bills on behalf of the members for Calgary—Nose Hill and Macleod.

Committees of the House
Introduction Of Private Members' Bills

12:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Committees of the House
Introduction Of Private Members' Bills

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

Chief Actuary Act
Introduction Of Private Members' Bills

12:10 p.m.

Wetaskiwin
Alberta

Canadian Alliance

Dale Johnston for Mrs. Diane Ablonczy

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-421, an act respecting the establishment of the Office of the Chief Actuary of Canada and to amend other acts in consequence thereof.

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

Food and Drugs Act
Introduction Of Private Members' Bills

12:10 p.m.

Wetaskiwin
Alberta

Canadian Alliance

Dale Johnston for Mr. Grant Hill

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-422, an act to amend the Food and Drugs Act.

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

Petitions
Introduction Of Private Members' Bills

12:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Madam Speaker, on behalf of the people in eastern Ontario, particularly Fitzroy Harbour, Stittsville, Pakenham and Rockland, I am asking Parliament to recognize that the Canadian Emergency Preparedness College is essential to training Canadians for emergency situations, that the facility should stay in Arnprior, and that the government should upgrade the facilities, as promised, in order to provide the necessary training to Canadians.

Questions on the Order Paper
Introduction Of Private Members' Bills

12:10 p.m.

Bras D'Or—Cape Breton
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister

Madam Speaker, the following questions will be answered today: Nos. 139 and 140.

Question No. 139
Introduction Of Private Members' Bills

12:10 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Scott Brison Kings—Hants, NS

Since the creation of the Firearms Registry, on what dates and in what amounts has the Treasury Board authorized funding for or loans to the said registry, and which members of the Board were in attendance at each of these meetings?

Question No. 139
Introduction Of Private Members' Bills

12:10 p.m.

Westmount—Ville-Marie
Québec

Liberal

Lucienne Robillard President of the Treasury Board

Treasury Board meeting agendas and decisions are confidences of the Queen’s Privy Council and are exempt from release under section 69 of the Access to Information Act. We therefore cannot provide the dates of Treasury Board meetings nor with a list of members in attendance.

The following charts detail the funding provided for the Canadian firearms program, CFP, in the main and supplementary estimates by fiscal year.

Main Estimates

Supplementary Estimates

Question No. 140
Introduction Of Private Members' Bills

12:10 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

André Bachand Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

What internal audits or evaluations have been conducted since January 31, 2002 on the Technology Partnerships Canada (TPC) programme and what is the expected completion date for any planned or on-going audits or evaluations?

Question No. 140
Introduction Of Private Members' Bills

12:10 p.m.

Etobicoke Centre
Ontario

Liberal

Allan Rock Minister of Industry

The approved 2002-03 audit and evaluation plan called for an internal audit and an evaluation to be carried out of Technology Partnerships Canada, TPC. Both projects have commenced and are expected to be finalized during the first quarter of the 2003-04 fiscal year. In addition, as part of its approved audit plan, the audit and evaluation branch, AEB, of Industry Canada is conducting a department-wide audit of grants and contributions, advances, loans, receivables and unamortized discounts to provide assurance of the integrity of the amounts reported in the departmental financial statements. This audit, which includes a sample of related transactions for TPC, is also expected to be finalized during the first quarter of 2003-04.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Introduction Of Private Members' Bills

12:10 p.m.

Bras D'Or—Cape Breton
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister

Madam Speaker, if Questions Nos. 101 and 132 could be made orders for returns, these returns will be tabled immediately.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Introduction Of Private Members' Bills

12:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Is it agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Introduction Of Private Members' Bills

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Question No. 101
Introduction Of Private Members' Bills

12:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John M. Cummins Delta—South Richmond, BC

With regard to Indian fisheries policies and the effect of the government’s responses to the Marshall decisions, the van der Peet decision and the Sparrow decision of the Supreme Court of Canada regarding special aboriginal rights to fish: ( a ) what Indian Bands and other related organizations have been authorized to undertake a so-called Sparrow food fishery in each of the years 1990, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002; ( b ) what were the species and quantities authorized for each such fishery named in (a) and what was the value of the fish harvested for each year; ( c ) what was the amount of the grant or contribution to each Indian Band or other related organization in each year for the fishery named in (a); ( d ) what were the costs or expenditures by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to manage and monitor the fisheries named in (a); ( e ) which Indian Bands and other related organizations and which fisheries identified in (a) meet the test established in Sparrow and van der Peet for the recognition of such an aboriginal food fishery; ( f ) which Indian Bands, communities and other related organizations have received fishing licences, vessels, other equipment and grants and contributions as part of the government’s response to the Marshall decisions in each of the following years, 1999, 2000, 2001 and 2002; ( g ) what were the species involved and what were the quantities harvested by each Indian Band, community or related organization in (e) and what was the value of fish harvested for each species in each year; ( h ) what was the cost of licences transferred to each Indian Band, community and related organization in (e); ( i ) what was the cost of vessels transferred to each Indian Band, community and related organization in (e); ( j ) what was the cost of other fishing and related equipment received by each Indian Band, community and related organization named in (e); ( k ) what was the value of all grants and contributions to each Indian Band in (e); and ( l ) which Indian Bands, community and other related community organization named in (e) meet the tests established by the Marshall decisions (for example, having regard to having signed a treaty in 1760-61, having a traditional fishing area, having fished these species in their traditional fishing areas prior to or at the time the so-called Halifax or Marshall treaties were signed in 1760-61, and that such a fishery was in the reasonable contemplation of the parties that signed the treaty)?

(Return tabled.)

Question No. 132
Introduction Of Private Members' Bills

12:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

For each year from 1993 to 2001 what was the total amount billed to the government and it agencies by EKOS Research Associates?

(Return tabled.)

Question No. 132
Introduction Of Private Members' Bills

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Bras D'Or—Cape Breton, NS

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

Question No. 132
Introduction Of Private Members' Bills

12:10 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Is that agreed?

Question No. 132
Introduction Of Private Members' Bills

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Business of the House
Introduction Of Private Members' Bills

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Catterall Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Madam Speaker, discussions have taken place among the parties and there is an agreement pursuant to Standing Order 45(7) to further defer the recorded division scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Monday, March 24 on second reading of Bill C-26 until the end of government orders on Tuesday, March 25, 2003.

Business of the House
Introduction Of Private Members' Bills

12:15 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Is it agreed?

Business of the House
Introduction Of Private Members' Bills

12:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-20, an act to amend the Criminal Code (protection of children and other vulnerable persons) and the Canada Evidence Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee, and of the amendment.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Dick Harris Prince George—Bulkley Valley, BC

Madam Speaker, in February 2002, Mr. Justice Shaw of the Supreme Court of British Columbia, using whatever logic or rationale that may have prevailed on that particular day, ruled that the written works of acknowledged pedophile Robin Sharpe, which depicted young children in various sexual poses, depicted young children as victims of sexual violence, and depicted young children being brutally exploited sexually by adults, “had artistic merit” and acquitted Robin Sharpe of the charges of possession and distribution of child pornography.

This came as an absolutely unbelievable court decision to millions of Canadians. It fuelled the fires of doubt about whether their justice system was working for society. It fuelled the storm of protests over the decisions that we see coming out of our justice system. It fuelled the storm of protests over the mounting judicial activism that has been happening in our country for the last 10 years because governments, such as the Liberal government, do not have the guts to make controversial law and legislation in this Parliament, but rather they would take the cowardly way out and leave it to the judges to make these decisions and expect Canadians to just sit back, abide by some very sick decisions, such as this one here, and accept that because it came from the courts it must be right.

This has not happened by accident. I believe that the push to get controversial or publicly sensitive legislation out of Parliament started way back when Pierre Elliott Trudeau was the Prime Minister of Canada. He and his government put through legislation and he led the charge through the Charter of Rights and Freedoms so that Parliament would never have to make controversial decisions that would make it uncomfortable or nervous. It would be left in the hands of the courts to decide.

The government now brings in Bill C-20 that is supposed to fix this. The defence that it is trying to fix is that the representation or written material has artistic merit or is for educational, scientific or medical purposes. It was certainly the defence used in the case of Robin Sharpe, which Chief Justice Shaw accepted, for whatever insane reason, and certainly, not for the good of society.

Now instead of using the artistic merit, educational, scientific or medical purposes defence, the new bill, which is supposed to fix this thing, proposes that this defence be repealed and replaced by the defence that the material alleged to constitute child pornography serves the public good. This is amazing.

Every sane person in the country could understand that we simply could not attach the phrase “serving the public good” to materials that depict the sexual exploitation of children or the brutality of children by sexual predators either in drawn form or written word. My God, how can we imagine that Canada could accept that a defence could be used that could describe child pornography as serving the public good?

Only a Liberal government that has failed Canadian on so many justice issues since 1993, could come up with a bill like this.

They are not alone. The Liberals on the other side who support the bill, will stand up and say that we have to be careful and that we have to try to determine that maybe there might be some public good in child pornography. They will stand up and vote for the bill. They will be joined by their friends in the NDP party. The member for Palliser has already given notice on this. January 27, the member for Palliser said, and he believed that his colleagues shared his opinion, that:

--if it has not specifically hurt a minor in the production of it, if it is created by people's visual imaginations and if the main purpose of it is not simply about pornography and sexual exploitation, then under the laws people do have a right to their own imaginations and thoughts, however perverse...

That reflects the opinion of the member for Palliser and as he said, “I believe it will be shared by a majority”, of whom, I do not know. It is certainly not rational thinking Canadians but maybe that does not include supporters of the NDP party. However it will shared by a majority if not all of his colleagues. Therefore we are talking about not rationally thinking Canadians.

Mr. David Matas of Winnipeg wrote an opinion on child pornography and artistic merit. Apparently this person is a Winnipeg lawyer. He argued the Sharpe case in the Supreme Court of Canada for an organization called Beyond Borders, which is a leading fighter against child pornography in Canada. He is a very knowledgeable person.

Mr. Matas said that the defence of artistic merit, which is in the legislation now and in the court system now, needed to be narrowed so that only in the case of police officers using child pornography that was drawn or written as evidence in a case against the child pornographer or cases like that could it be allowed. Certainly not the possession by some of these perverts that are running around our country preying on our children.

I am absolutely disgusted at the lack of knowledge that the Liberal government has about how society feels about child pornography. It is a disgusting lack of leadership by the government and we certainly cannot support the bill.

Speaking of disgusting acts, I cannot sit down before I tell the House about something that happened the last two nights in the Bell Centre in Montreal. Some of the fans were booing the American national anthem and booing the presence of American based teams playing in Canada. This as one of the most disgusting and embarrassing things I have ever seen Canadians do. One has to wonder where their priorities are--

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

I apologize to the hon. member but 10 minutes does go by fast.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Greg Thompson New Brunswick Southwest, NB

Madam Speaker, I am delighted to speak to Bill C-20. I want to thank my colleague from Pictou--Antigonish--Guysborough, our justice critic, for his help on this issue. As members know, he is now campaigning to become leader of our party, which I hope he does. I do want to put some comments on the record on his behalf and on behalf of my party.

Bill C-20 is basically the Liberal answer to the John Robin Sharpe case, the pornographic case which became famous in Canada.

There are some aspects of the bill which we take some comfort from in terms of what it will do. For example, clause 5, which amends section 161(1) of the Criminal Code to expand the definition of those convicted or discharged on the conditions prescribed in a prohibition order, can be seen as a positive step. We do not dispute that.

We also believe that positive amendments have been brought forward with regard to sections 151 and 152 maintaining the indictable offence maximum of 10 years while increasing the level of punishment under summary conviction by directing the court to incarceration not exceeding 18 months.

Fundamentally, this debate and this legislation must centre around the harm caused to those most vulnerable in our society, our children. Underlying this, we must give thought to the role of the court in the context of judicial policy making as it pertains to the supremacy of Parliament. We must show how this new legislation will eradicate child pornography. It is our belief that the new legislation will not do that.

We are talking about eradicating child pornography within the context of the artistic merit defence. Unfortunately for Canadians, the legislation does not go far enough and could once again be subjected to judicial interpretation putting our children at risk. There will definitely be constitutional challenges under Bill C-20 if it is passed.

There is an inherent danger to society as a whole when we fail to recognize the detrimental effect child pornography can have at a base level. No one is suggesting that the literary works of Nabokov, who is the author of Lolita or Plato's Symposium , be removed from circulation based on the promotion of sexual contact with minors. Indeed the charter of rights provides sufficient protection for freedom of thought and expression. However the question of what constitutes a reasonable limit is central to this debate and to Bill C-20.

Clause 7(1) of Bill C-20 amends subsection 163(1) of the Criminal Code, defining child pornography to include any written material, the dominant characteristics of which is the description for a sexual purpose of sexual activity with a person under the age of 18 years of age.

While the addition of a clearer section for the purpose of specifically defining what constitutes child pornography is welcome, I suggest that the definition be altered to remove foreseeable subjectivity.

As a definition, child pornography should not be open to interpretation through intent or any other means. The thought process behind the writing and whether or not the work was produced for a sexual purpose should be of no consequence. We need simply state the definition of what is acceptable and what is not. With this clear definition, the judiciary is removed from the public-private nature of the debate. As a remedy to that, a clause was placed in the bill, within section 163, saying that:

No person shall be convicted of an offence under this section if the acts that are alleged to constitute the offence, or if the material related to those acts that is alleged to contain child pornography, serve the public good and do not extend beyond what serves the public good.

We understand the intent of the minister's legislation. I fear the manner in which it is presented will not be sufficient to protect the abhorrent creation of pornographic material depicting children. The public, along with child advocacy groups and members of the House, have called upon the government to produce a clear, concise piece of legislation which would remove completely the chance that materials of this nature would see the light of day. Once again the minister has left open to interpretation by the courts a matter that strikes at the very heart of our democracy.

The intent of this bill is to protect children from all forms of exploitation, including child pornography, sexual exploitation, abuse and neglect. Unfortunately, the definitions of public good will be vague and no level of objectivity exists which will allow a court to decide what is pornographic and what is not. Once again it will be a question of acceptability to the individual. Obviously, an argument as to what constitutes the public good will predominate leaving our children once again vulnerable.

We ask the minister why it has taken so long, and how the legion of lawyers has produced yet again an obviously flawed piece of legislation. This bill has been laying around this place for a long time but they have yet to get it right.

The overall effect of the Sharpe decision by Mr. Justice Shaw had many in society recoiling with dismay. We have heard that today in the House. That a learned judge would in fact open the door to potential pedophiles and those who take advantage of youth, who denigrate images and engage in writings that have a very corrosive effect on social norms, is a travesty.

Works of this nature go against the very fabric of what is acceptable in a moral and just society. There can be no denial that a direct correlation exists between the fantasies of sick individuals and the harm created to children. Why risk the potential danger, when the collective will of the people would see this material stricken from existence?

In handing down the Sharpe decision, Justice Shaw effectively broadened the interpretation of the current exemption or defence of artistic merit.

To remind members, section 1 of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms, “subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society”. The contention that section 1 limits are justifiable in this case are correct when weighed against the potential harm to children and the intent of Parliament to protect the rights of those most vulnerable. Simply put, it is my belief that the Supreme Court erred when it favourably interpreted the Shaw decision. Unfortunately I do not think the minister's lawyers understand that.

The Progressive Conservative Party has been supportive in the past of the law enforcement community victims' groups and child advocates who are constantly tasked and constantly struggling with a lack of resources available to them. We desperately need legislation that will protect children. We believe that this legislation is not strong enough. I urge the government and the minister to consider some of the arguments being put forward in the House today.

Again, the objective of this new bill is to protect children. It does not do that. Please allow some of the amendments suggested by this side of the House to be considered by the government. Do not just categorically deny the opposition that simply because we are the opposition.

The Government of Canada is here to protect children and that is what we want it to do.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

Madam Speaker, I have a couple of things to say on the bill. I think it would be appropriate for me to begin by making a very important announcement.

One hundred and seventy-five hours ago we saw another Epp baby come into the world. I am a grandfather for the fifth time. I will use a term which is unparliamentary but not offensive, it is my name. In the Epp tradition, the baby came into the world just perfectly. He even had a little hair over his ear to match grandpa's, which was very nice.

This grandchild is little Micah. He is the baby brother of Noah and Hannah. When I see him and his older sister and brother I cannot help but think how totally deplorable and depraved it would be for anyone to engage in any activity of a sexual nature with these innocent, young, beautiful children. Nor can I can understand how anyone would get any pleasure whatsoever from depicting, either by written words, by pictures. cartoons or whatever, that type of activity.

I find that totally deplorable. In fact, I do not know of any words in the English language or in either of my other two languages that come anywhere close to describing the absolutely horrific nature of such an activity.

Along come the Liberals and they say that they will introduce Bill C-20. It is a Criminal Code amendment designed to safeguard children from sexual exploitation. It is a very hapless title. It reminds me of the days when I drove a truck. I used to haul big loads with a big rig on the highway. Every once in a while we did not have a back haul. I would be driving the big truck empty simply to get to another destination. I had no load.

That is what the bill is. It has a fancy title but the bill is empty. It does not begin to address the issues that are before us as a society and as lawmakers in this country.

I want to be very specific because I know this is actually a bill that was brought forward to make political hay. The Liberals brought forward the bill with nothing in it to protect children so that we in opposition will have no choice but to vote against it. We will vote against it because it is ineffective. The bill does not do anything to protect children.

In the next election we probably will have brochures in our ridings asking why people would vote for that Canadian Alliance member when he voted against the protection of children. That will be the Liberals' messaging. I find that almost as offensive as the bill itself. I have seen this happen in previous election campaigns.

For the Liberals to use children in such a blatant way shows how really empty they are of any principles at all. I am really distressed about this.

We have, for example, in the bill a move that is supposed to make it easier to actually convict child pornographers. How will we do that if we stand in front of the same judges trying to make the case? In the past we went there and said that something was bad that the person should be convicted of a crime. The defence would argue, no, that this was in keeping with community standards.

It turned out that community standards basically allowed almost anything to go through because it is very difficult to define community standards. They changed that in the bill calling it “public good”. That may be a little more difficult to prove. Maybe community standards sometimes are contrary to public good but, as I see it, they are almost identical in the eyes of a judge in a law court.

The public good could be argued to be served if we simply fail to stop somebody from writing this junk. They would say “that is the public good”, and they would be arguing free speech. I am not against free speech but limitations to a certain degree are valid. In my humble opinion, when it comes to protecting our beautiful, innocent, young children, we stop at nothing.

I would be totally content to say that to depict child pornography in any form whatsoever, written, hand drawn, definitely photographs or films or videos, but even the written stuff and the hand created cartoon stuff, if it depicts children being abused, it is wrong.

We ought to have a law in this country that says that no one can do it. I would even go so far as to write into the legislation “notwithstanding anything in the charter” so that defence could not be used. I would say “notwithstanding anything in the charter, this bill provides that no one may produce or possess, in any form whatsoever, any form of child pornography”. Then perhaps we could stand tall and say that we are doing something tangible to protect our children.

I cannot let my time slip by without making a comment on a glaring omission in the bill, and that is the age of consent. I do not know how it happened in our country that we allowed the age of consent to slip down to 14.

Our goddaughter had a birthday yesterday if I am not mistaken. I know she just turned 12 but that means she finished her twelfth year of life and she is into her thirteenth year. Again, there is absolutely no justification anywhere, anytime for anyone to talk a child of that age into sexual activity. It just is wrong.

Here we have a bill that says we are going to protect children but does nothing with the age of consent. I need to explain this for anyone who may not know what it means. It means that an adult cannot stand up in court and say “I am innocent because she agreed to it”. That is all it means. No one cannot persuade a 13 year old in this country to have sex and get away with it because that is not permitted, but if she is 14, they can. I say that is way too low. The very serious omission in the bill is that it does not address that problem.

We could talk about many other things in the bill but I guess I will have only time for one more in my last minute and that has to do with minimum and maximum sentences.

In the bill the maximum sentences have been increased. Fine, but will the courts use them, or will they continue to give continual sentences?

I had a letter from an individual who actually chastised me for calling for minimum sentences. She said that she did not want minimum sentences for those creeps. She said that she wanted maximum sentences. I wrote to her and told her I understood what she was saying. She wants to punish them to the max, which is right, but, unfortunately, if a maximum sentence is given in the law it prohibits a judge from giving any sentence greater than that. A minimum sentence means that a sentence must be given of at least a set amount.

We should have minimum sentences in a bill that purports to protect children but it is not in the bill. Therefore I will be voting against the bill and my reason is that I truly want to protect children.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

I am sure that I speak on behalf of all members in congratulating the hon. member for Elk Island for his new grandchild. Thank you for letting the House know.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Darrel Stinson Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Madam Speaker, I rise today to debate Bill C-20 and the amendment to the bill. I also want to congratulate the hon. member who just spoke on his new grandchild.

I have a big problem with what exactly the government is trying to do with regard to the bill. We all know, or should know, and maybe the problem is that we do not all know, that the government's first and foremost responsibility is the protection of its law-abiding citizens. However it seems that the government has decided to take an easy way out of this. I should explain this to the people at home.

We now have in Canada what is known as judge made laws. The government has allowed that to take place because it lets the government off the hook. Governments are supposed to make laws, judges are to interpret them and lawyers are to debate them. It is easier now for the government to say that it did not intend something to happen in a law and that it was the judge who was at fault for giving that type of sentence.

Therefore, as a member of Parliament, the government in its own stupidity--I cannot put it any other way--decided to give me an out as a member of Parliament when I go home and have to face some tough questions from my constituents, such as the Sharpe decision in regard to child pornography. I can now go home and say that it was a judge who made that decision, not the government.

The fallacy is that we can now lay the blame on the judges, even though the government appoints most of them, because they are not accountable. They do not have to come up for re-election. They do not have to be voted in. They do not have to explain to the population why a decision was made.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

An hon. member

They're unelected.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Darrel Stinson Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

They're unelected and it lets the government off the hook. Some people call it smoke and mirrors but I call it total deception by the government.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

An hon. member

Cowardice.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Darrel Stinson Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Yes, cowardice is a very good word for what the government has allowed to happen.

The function of government is to create the laws. If a judge interprets a law in a way that the government did not mean for it to be interpreted, it takes only a matter of a day or so in this supposed Chamber to change the law so it can no longer be interpreted in that way. However, the government, in its cowardly acts, decided it would not do that because it might be controversial and it did not want to take any type of heat in case it impacted upon it in a coming election.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

An hon. member

Let the judges take the heat.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Darrel Stinson Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Let the judges take the heat and let the lawyers be called the dogs of the day for arguing the cases. The fact of the matter is that when we hire lawyers we want our lawyers to represent us to the best of their ability, and then the judge makes the decision.

However, when the decision goes against the good of children, of all people, certainly the government should have the intestinal fortitude or the guts to make the change to protect our children, but it does not. It goes along and tries to pass another bill, which I am sure it will get through, Bill C-20.

Bill C-20 fails to set a clear standard on the issue of the age of consent for adult-child sexual relationships. In other words, we allow our 14 year old children to be bought and paid for by some 60 year old, and we do nothing about it. We have become known in the world as protectors of the child sex trade.

I have had the unfortunate opportunity of seeing some of these programs that the police are so concerned about. Fourteen is at the high end of the age spectrum. These videos show three year olds and four year olds. They are sick and they are sickening. Yet time after time when we find these people and law enforcement collects enough evidence and is finally allowed to bring these people to court, they are let off with a slap on the wrist and we say that we can change these people or the way they do business in regard to child pornography.

I have heard the excuse of artistic merit. Nobody with any reasoning is going to argue about a drawing in a doctor's office, for God's sake, yet I have heard members, and I even have heard the minister, stand up and say that is reason the government wants to have this in the bill. What a load of garbage. It is a doctor's office. We know that doctors have drawings and pictures of body parts, so that does not wash with the public out there.

What does get the public angry is that when these people are sentenced they can go right through the whole system without treatment and be allowed to go back onto the street. They are allowed back onto the street to ply their trade, and that is all it is. These people are in it for the money and are using our children to make the money. They go through the prison system without even having to sit one day to understand what is wrong with their trade.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

An hon. member

Before they ever get to prison.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Darrel Stinson Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

Yes, many times before they ever get to prison.

Then they are pushed out the door to again go after the children, to be part of our so-called neighbourhood that the government is so worried about.

There are things going on in this country. If the government really wants to know what is going on in the country, it should get its head out of where it has it stuck.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

An hon. member

They use legal aid lawyers too.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Darrel Stinson Okanagan—Shuswap, BC

They use and they use, Madam Speaker.

I cannot believe that we have allowed this to go on for so long. I remember standing up in 1994 in the House arguing about the same thing, the exploitation of our children in this country. I am not speaking as a father because I do not have children. I have not had the good fortune to have grandchildren. I am speaking as someone who has gone with members from this side, the member for Wild Rose and the member from Bulkley Valley, to see the devastation this has created in our cities across Canada.

There is nothing worse than talking to a girl who is 12, 13 or 14 years old and whose life has been totally ruined through this. They are taken in by gangs and forced into these types of acts. They are forced and we sit here and we do nothing about it. Then I am supposed to go home, along with the other members of the House, and say that I am proud to represent Canada.

Let me say that many times I am not proud to represent Canada because of what we allow to take place in Canada. It is time the government decided to give back to parents the right to start raising their children. The government has to get out of the family business and start protecting those who need protection. It is time, long past time, and sooner or later we are going to reap what we sow.

Why do we have an overabundance of child drug addicts and sexual diseases among children in the country? This is why: The government decided it would be a parent. The trouble is that the government does not understand or realize what being a parent is about. It could care less. This is what is going on in our country. It is going on in our schools and our streets and still the government will turn a blind eye and say it is justified under artistic merit.

That is the guts this government has. It will hide behind judges and it will hide behind interpretations such as artistic merit and say when this happens that it had no idea that this could take place and that the law will be made this way and will be interpreted this way by a judge.

Yet time after time on this side of the House members have stood up and told the government exactly what is going to happen. It has still turned a deaf ear to it and decided it will pass it on by. That is a disgrace. Not only is it a disgrace for the House, it is a disgrace for the country.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Is the House ready for the question?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

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

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

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

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

All those opposed will please say nay.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Pursuant to Standing Order 45, the division stands deferred until Monday, March 24, 2003, at the ordinary hour of daily adjournment.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

Liberal

Marlene Catterall Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Discussions have taken place among all parties and there is an agreement pursuant to Standing Order 45(7) to further delay the recorded division scheduled for 6:30 p.m., Monday, March 24, until the end of government orders on Tuesday, March 25.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

Is that agreed?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed from February 21 consideration of the motion that Bill C-23, an act respecting the registration of information relating to sex offenders, to amend the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Sex Offender Information Registration Act
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Kevin Sorenson Crowfoot, AB

Madam Speaker, I rise today to take part in this important debate, which has been a long time coming. Although this issue has been debated numerous times in the House, every time initiated by the Canadian Alliance, the official opposition, it is the first time an actual bill, Bill C-23, an act respecting the registration of information relating to sex offenders, has been the topic of discussion.

I stood in the House more than two years ago in support of a Canadian Alliance motion requesting the establishment of a national sex offender registry. Two years ago, that motion resulted in the government committing to the establishment of a registry. At that time, members opposite stood unanimously in support of their government's commitment to establish a national sex offender registry by January 30, 2002.

Quite obviously the government again has failed to meet another commitment. It failed to meet its commitment of having the sex offender registry up and running by January 2002. I am confident that had we not pushed and prodded the government, it never would have met that commitment on its own accord. The time it has taken to force the government to bring Bill C-23 before the House clearly demonstrates to all Canadians and all parliamentarians the priority, or the lack thereof, that it places on the protection of our children in this country.

Ontario established a registry three years ago. Christopher's law, or Bill 31, received royal assent in April 2000. That bill established a registry to enhance public safety by providing law enforcement agencies with a modern, reliable and effective electronic tool to support services to track sex offenders in our communities and to improve the investigation of crimes of a sexual nature.

Despite the efforts of Ontario and other provincial governments, the Liberal government has failed to protect Canadian children from sexual predators.

This will be the third time that I have stood in the House quoting from a document that was produced by the Liberal Party of Canada, produced before the 1993 election. Before the election, their promise, their commitment and their vision sounded pretty good in the red book. I quote this today because it is absolutely imperative that we point out the clear justification for a national sex offender registry as recognized not just recently but 10 years ago by those who now sit across the way in government. Yet the government has moved very slowly. It has done absolutely nothing to this point but fail to once again make good on a promise. It has failed, and that is this government's record. It has a record of failure.

In 1993 the Liberals fully supported the establishment of a national sex offender registry of convicted child abusers. Their rationale, quoting directly from their own document, was this:

Sex offenders represent almost 20 per cent of the incarcerated population and 10 per cent of the conditionally released population.

Repeat sex offenders are more than twice as likely to commit further sex offences, much more likely to violate conditional release conditions and more likely than other offenders to reoffend... However, treatment programs for sexual offenders are sorely lacking.

The Liberal government recognized the chances of reoffending. It recognized that they were a threat. All those it recognized. These facts were highlighted three years prior to the publication of the Liberal document.

A 1990 report by a working group established by the Department of the Solicitor General concluded that offender treatment programs have shown limited results. The report said that they gauged and looked at the programs that were in place, followed them through, did an evaluation and the programs showed limited results. The report showed that practitioners in the field of sex offender treatment do not claim to cure sex offenders. The Solicitor General's department in 1990, in a previous government, recognized that they cannot simply claim to have 100% cured the sex offender, but rather the treatment strategy is to manage the risk of reoffending.

That document says that although they will put them in a program, although they will give them treatment, at the end of the day they recognize that basically the best they can do is risk manage. I am not sure as a parent that I am quite satisfied with the response the report brought out, although it is true. As a parent it causes me some concern that people who recognize that programs are not working and recognize the recidivism rate are saying they are going to risk manage pedophiles and sex offenders back into the communities.

The report also said that there were not enough experts to meet the demand for sex offender treatment and the limitations of treatment were recognized. This research based information, produced by the Department of the Solicitor General, clearly demonstrated well over 10 years ago why Canada needed a national sex offender registry. Yet the government and its predecessor failed to establish such a registry despite recognizing the risks, despite the ample justification to do so.

The question must be asked, recognizing the rights, recognizing the risk, why would it fail to meet such a requirement? The only plausible answer in my mind to that question is that the government has and continues to place the rights of the offender before the rights of the victim. It has continuously placed the rights of the offender above the concerns of the protection of our society. We have seen this over and over and over again.

This is evident in almost all of the justice legislation the government has brought forward in the last few years, including the establishment of the DNA database. Enacted in 1998, Bill C-3, an act respecting DNA identification, created a new statute governing the establishment and the administration of a national DNA bank. It also amended the Criminal Code to permit a judge to make a post-conviction order authorizing the taking of bodily substances from a person found guilty of a designated Criminal Code offence in order to include the offender's DNA profile in the national DNA database.

The DNA data bank was officially opened on July 5, 2000. My party, the Canadian Alliance Party, is firmly committed to restoring confidence in our justice system by providing law enforcement officers and law enforcement agencies the latest technological tools to quickly detect and apprehend criminals. The attempt to amend Bill C-3 was unsuccessful.

We live in a day and age where every sector of society is looking for the newest technology available to enhance their way of life, to enhance their business, to enhance their safety perhaps, every aspect, every area of society.

Look at some of the things that are happening in health care and the new technologies that are available. It has only been for a few years that we have been able to have laser surgery done on our eyes to repair loss of vision. That is old technology now. Now health care has the technology to do many things.

We demand high technology in travel. There are vehicles now with global positioning systems that can detect when there has been an accident. When the air bag is inflated a signal is sent automatically by satellite to an office and medical attention is called without ever making a 911 call.

Our society has moved to a place where we accept and want the latest in technology. We see it. We have turned the television on in the last few days and we have seen the latest technology in the war on Iraq. We have seen missiles being sent from hundreds of miles away. We have seen the latest in laser guided missiles.

We see it in health sciences with research and development. We want the newest in technology. However, when it comes to law enforcement, when it comes to dealing with crime, when it comes to dealing with criminal offences and offenders, the Canadian Alliance argued that DNA identification, if used to its full potential, could be one of the newest technologies. We argued that DNA identification could be one of the greatest resources in fighting crime since the introduction of dusting for fingerprints.

To deny the police agencies the full use of this technology, as Bill C-3, did was reprehensible. It was unacceptable, inasmuch as it maintains an unnecessary level of risk to the lives and safety of our citizens. We have the technology. We have the ability to fight crime. When it comes to giving those resources to our law enforcement agencies, we handcuff them and then tell them to go out and do their job. Shame on the government.

There are literally hundreds of unsolved rapes. Hundreds of murders are outstanding in the country. There are victims across the nation where one event, one criminal offence has changed their life forever.

I have looked into the faces of mothers whose children have been murdered, some who have been murdered in prison. The twinkle in their eye is gone forever. When we talk with a parent whose young child has been sexually molested or raped, it not only leaves a scar on the primary victim, the child, it scars that family and the extended family forever.

Many dangerous offenders remain on our streets because of the government's failure to deploy the DNA tool properly as requested by police across the country. Bill C-3 did not allow for the taking of DNA samples at the time of the charge. The bill did not permit samples to be taken retroactively from incarcerated criminals, other than designated dangerous offenders or multiple sex offenders or multiple murderers.

However, Bill C-3 did provide a dangerous and an unnecessary exemption that could be authorized by judges not to issue a warrant for the taking of a sample if they believed that in doing so it would impact on an individual's privacy and security. Here again we see where the courts have the ability to disallow the taking of a DNA sample if that individual's privacy or security could be jeopardized.

This misplaced consideration for the privacy of offenders is more than apparent in the bill we are debating today. It is more than apparent in Bill C-23.

Sex offenders may be excluded from the registry, according to Criminal Code section 490.03(4) as set out in clause 20, if the court is satisfied:

--that the person has established that, if the order were made, the impact on them, including on their privacy or liberty, would be grossly disproportionate to the public interest in protecting society through the effective investigation of crimes of a sexual nature, to be achieved by the registration of information relating to sex offenders.

While not all sex offenders will be successful in exempting themselves from the registry, this one thing we can be sure of: many will delay having their names put on that registry and many will not register their whereabouts, arguing in court that with regard to their privacy, their liberty and their freedom, it would be too negative an impact for them to handle. One thing we can be sure of is we will see a log jam in the court system like we have never seen before. The lawyers across the way sit back and wipe their hands and lick their chops. This becomes a lawyer's dream.

If they are not successful in convincing the judge that their names should not be on the registry, we can be sure they will take their cases to the Supreme Court of Canada and they will string out those cases for just as long as they can.

In the papers just two days ago, one headline read, “Rapist asks Supreme Court to strike down DNA law. Lawyer argues sampling bodily substances violates constitutional rights”. The article went on to say:

An Edmonton man convicted of raping and impregnating a 14-year-old girl has made the first Supreme Court of Canada challenge to laws allowing police to take DNA from suspects....The case being argued involves a man whose name is subject to a publication ban, who was boarding during the week with the victim and her family at their Hinton, Alberta trailer....The man had sex with her against her will for 30 minutes....Four months later she realized she was pregnant....The girl, described as intellectual delayed, told her mother what had happened and was taken for an abortion....Police seized the fetal tissue as evidence. In January, 1997, RCMP officers armed with a search warrant, pricked the man's finger for a blood sample to make a DNA comparison with the tissue [that they had taken]....He was found guilty of sexual assault and sentenced to six years in prison. In 2001, the Alberta Court of Appeal ruled two to one to uphold the conviction. Mr. Anderson, whose client is free on $5,000 bail, wants the Supreme Court to overturn that decision.

The defence is contending that the DNA legislation breaches the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, that it hinders the protection of his personal security and that it should be banned because it was an unreasonable search.

The convicted rapist's lawyer is not arguing his client's innocence. He is not arguing in a court of law that there has been a miscarriage of justice, that the individual was innocent of the charge that was put against him. He is arguing against how the police obtained the evidence to prove that he was guilty. He is arguing a technicality.

While the wheels of justice grind slowly or they grind to a halt, our sons and daughters may be victimized all because the government continues to stack the deck in favour of the offender and the offence over the protection of society.

A number of years ago the Supreme Court of Canada in a 5 to 4 decision held that privacy rights under the charter demanded that police obtain a warrant prior to entry into a dwelling house to arrest a suspect. The decision in response to the Feeney case resulted in evidence being thrown out because the police did not have a warrant when entering his premises. Feeney's blood soaked shirt which had been obtained by the police, and blood all over the place where this individual lived, clearly proved his guilt to the first degree murder charge. That shirt or that blood was not allowed as evidence.

In her dissenting opinion, Supreme Court Judge L'Heureux-Dubé said that while the rights of the accused people are certainly important under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, “they are not all the equation”. I like what the judge said. The judge did not question whether someone who was charged had rights under the charter. She did not question whether someone who was a suspect by the police force and who had a charge levied against them had rights. She did not question whether the Charter of Rights and Freedoms applied. She said that it was only one part of the equation and not all the equation.

That quote should be a wake-up call to the government. That quote should be a wake-up call to those who are continuously looking only at the rights of the offenders with the rights of the victims forgotten.

The judge cautioned her colleagues not to automatically exclude even illegally obtained evidence without considering the consequence for victims, the protection of society and the reputation of the justice system. She stated:

When an attacker or a murderer is acquitted in the name of the regularity of the criminal process, it is not only past victims who are ignored, but also future victims who are sacrificed.

The Supreme Court judge boldly suggested that it was time to reassess the balance the court has struck between protecting the individual rights of the accused and preserving society's capacity to protect its most vulnerable members and to bring and to expose the truth. I challenge the government today to strike the necessary balance because as Judge L'Heureuz-Dubé said:

--perhaps it is time to recall that public respect and confidence in the justice system lies not only in protection against police abuse, but also in the system's capacity to uncover the truth and ensure that, at the end of the day, it is more likely than not that justice will have been done.

I emphasize this, “it is more likely than not that justice will have been done”.

She is saying that when someone goes through the system, the public wants to look and have the faith that justice has been served. When we read about offenders back on the street because of technicalities, the public begins to question if justice was served. Did they come to justice? Although they are very seldom ever satisfied when the offender is caught, the public questions if there a degree of closure that can be brought to the victim because justice has been served. That is the question. That is the secondary part of the equation that needs to be considered.

The only way we can ensure that justice is done is to ensure that police officers in Canada have all the investigative tools necessary to do their jobs effectively and to uncover the truth through the bringing together of all the evidence that they can gather.

It will indeed be an injustice if the DNA warrant provisions are found unconstitutional. It will indeed be an injustice if it severely restricted the use of DNA as evidence.

More than 10 years ago six year old Punky Gustavson was kidnapped, sexually assaulted and then murdered. The story captivated all the country, certainly my province of Alberta. It was a story that, not only in Edmonton where it happened but throughout the province, horrified people as when they heard about little Punky Gustavson going missing.

It happened over 10 years ago. Less than a week ago, Punky Gustavson's murderer was finally charged. In November of last year, an Alberta provincial court ordered that DNA sample be taken from Clifford Mathew Sleigh, who is a prisoner in the Bowden Institution. That sample was matched with a very small sample of DNA that was taken in 1992 when Punky's body was found.

As I stated earlier, only three types of prisoners who were found guilty prior to June 2000, when the DNA data bank was created, were eligible to be included. The first were those who were listed as being dangerous offenders. The second was multiple murderers. The third was multiple sex offenders. Across Canada 2,000 such offenders were identified. Three hundred of them were in Alberta prisons. The Alberta court however had to obtain court orders for the seizure and inclusion of DNA from the 300 inmates as it was not automatic.

The Canadian Alliance Party has argued that DNA samples should be automatic, should be retroactive and should be taken from all convicted offenders. Similarly, we have argued, not so successfully apparently, to have all convicted sex offenders retroactively entered into the registry. However we will continue to push for the inclusion of all past and current sex offenders to be listed on the registry with absolutely no exceptions.

The retroactively part of the bill is of huge concern to Canadians. The fact that the government boasts of a registry with no names on it and the fact that the government boasts of a registry that for many years down the road will not help law enforcement is wrong. It is wrong for the minister to stand up in front of the House or in front of any television camera across the country and brag about how the registry, as soon as it is brought into legislation and is passed, will help. Without retroactivity on that list, absolutely nobody will benefit.

We will push to have any sex offender who fails to comply with an order to register to be held liable for a significant terms of imprisonment. Currently, clause 20 of Bill C-23 adds subsection 490.09(1). It states:

Every person who knowingly contravenes an order...is guilty of an offence and liable

(a) in the case of a first offence, on summary conviction, to a fine of not more than $10,000 or to imprisonment for a term of not more than six months, or to both.

It is absolutely outrageous and a complete insult to law-abiding firearm--

Sex Offender Information Registration Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The hon. member will have another 10 minutes and 25 seconds when we resume debate on the bill.

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

The House resumed from January 30 consideration of the motion.

Canada Pension Plan
Private Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Wendy Lill Dartmouth, NS

Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to speak on behalf of my colleague for Churchill, and her excellent Motion No. 197, which reads:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should amend the definition of “pensionable employment” in the Canada Pension Plan to include worker's compensation payments.

The motion is designed to allow injured workers who have had to take temporary leave from their workplace to, on retirement, get the same level of CPP that they would have received had they not had to leave for a certain period of time because of injury.

The idea is very simple and I believe it is very sensible. I really cannot understand why the government has not already implemented this small but significant change to the CPP.

To understand what the motion does, we have to look at the problems that injured workers face relating to the pension system.

At present, worker's compensation is not considered pensionable employment for CPP purposes. Since a retiree's CPP eligibility is based upon months of pensionable employment, each month of work a person misses due to injury counts against them when the CPP eligibility is calculated upon retirement.

In cases of severe injuries that require lengthy rehabilitation periods, such as amputations, severe burns and electrocution, these lost months of CPP eligibility can dramatically reduce an individual's retirement income or leave them ineligible for any CPP benefits at all. This is in essence a second injury.

The CPP program was created to provide Canadian workers with a secure retirement income. There is no intention in the design of the public pension plan that workers would lose their pension simply because they had the bad fortune to be injured on the job. This problem is in fact significant in size.

In the nine provinces covered by the CPP, there were over 800,000 claims via worker's compensation in 2000. The fact that these people could potentially lose or see a reduced retirement pension is, I believe, unacceptable. After all, worker's compensation systems are designed to get people back into the workforce, and most treat their clients as workers temporarily on leave from their jobs. That is of course how we should treat them.

These people want to work and they strive to work. With the proper accommodation and support, most will work. The problem is with systems the governments have in place, like the CPP, that seem to treat injured workers as individuals who have deliberately opted out of the workforce and then reduce their retirement benefits accordingly.

As the critic for persons with disabilities for the New Democrats, I see courage and determination every day and every week from people who have had to leave work due to a disability, including a workplace injury.

What is most frustrating to these people is not that they face life with a disability but that the public support systems that most Canadians take for granted, things like the CPP, public transit, health supports and income supports further penalize them on a systematic and repeated basis.

We should have a public pension plan which acknowledges that injured workers are simply on a temporary leave and therefore should not suffer a financial penalty of a reduced pension due to their injury.

Since worker's compensation programs are provincially administered, implementation of the motion would require agreements with the provinces. Passing Motion No.197 would therefore only be a first step. It would nevertheless be an important first step as it would signal to the federal and provincial executive branches that there is a legislative support for the principle that injured workers should not have to suffer the loss of pension benefits.

This is not a huge problem because the provinces already meet with the federal government over CPP issues regularly and the provinces understand injured workers better than the federal government does.

I should note that the motion would have no impact on Quebec where a separate program administered by the Quebec government, the Quebec pension plan, takes the place of the CPP which exists in the rest of Canada.

While I wholeheartedly support the motion, I want to also take the opportunity to discuss a parallel problem and situation: another group that suffers a similar penalty under the CPP, as injured workers currently do, and that is the group of caregivers.

On March 10 in The Toronto Star there was an article by Carol Goar about a woman named Marie Taylor. I will quote a bit from Ms. Goar's succinct and well written article about Ms. Taylor's situation:

She worked all her life as a legal secretary. Her husband was head of security at the Lennox generating station in eastern Ontario. They spent their spare time building a comfortable home in Napanee to share in their retirement years.

Twice during Taylor's career, she took leaves of absence. The first was to look after her gravely ill stepson. The second was to care for her dying mother.

She had no idea how costly these acts of compassion would turn out to be.

Shortly after retiring, Taylor lost her life partner. Now she's struggling to hang on to her home.

The reason her finances are so precarious is that her Canada Pension is smaller than she anticipated. The government chopped her entitlement by 20 per cent because of the two interruptions in her working life.

Ms. Taylor was not ill herself but she was caring for others who were ill. She is in the same situation that injured workers face and that Motion No. 197 is trying to address, namely, losing retirement benefits under the CPP because of temporary interruptions in a career. But in the case of Ms. Taylor, her workplace interruption was not because she was injured or ill, but because she became a caregiver during the terminal illnesses of her stepson and mother. If she had been callous and had left her family's care to the inadequacies of the Ontario health care system, then she would not have suffered this financial penalty. Instead, she did the right thing and therefore lost 20¢ on the dollar of her retirement income.

Because of caring for loved ones, she is currently at the CPP appeals tribunal fighting for sufficient income so she can stay in her modest home and keep from sliding into poverty. Most shamefully, the federal government is fighting her all the way with its lawyers through its appeal system. The federal government should stop harassing this woman and intervene so she and other caregivers do not face penalties for caring for a dying relative.

In fairness, the government has started to see that caregivers deserve support, not punishment. I acknowledge that baby steps were taken on the employment insurance front in the budget, but our overall social safety net, both federally and provincially, has to be looked at so we can take away the barriers that persecute caregivers.

We need to look at welfare and disability programs, CPP and private insurance programs, and compassionate leave systems in the workplace. We need to institute a national home care and respite care program and reform our overly bureaucratic, financially unfair and almost incomprehensible income tax system. Other countries already have brought in these common sense, compassionate policies without causing economic problems. Some have even started to directly compensate caregivers, including Britain, Norway, Sweden and Australia, so a rethinking of our overall policy for both injured workers and for caregivers is not only doable but long overdue.

In summary, I say that injured workers need our support, not our punishment, that caregivers need our support, not our punishment, and that we should reform the CPP program in order to do this. Caregivers and injured workers do not deserve to be punished.

I once again thank my friend from Churchill for this visionary motion and I call upon the government and all members to support the motion and start the journey to a more compassionate society.

Canada Pension Plan
Private Members' Business

1:40 p.m.

Madawaska—Restigouche
New Brunswick

Liberal

Jeannot Castonguay Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Madam Speaker, I welcome this opportunity to address this motion asking that the government amend the definition of pensionable employment in the Canada pension plan to include worker's compensation payments.

First, I commend the hon. member who sponsored this motion on her concern for Canadians who are prevented from working by a disability or a serious illness.

I want to point out that this is an issue that the Government of Canada takes very seriously.

Since coming into office, we have endeavoured to find new and improved ways to help people with disabilities so that they can adequately support themselves and their families.

We have developed programs to help workers with disabilities acquire the skills and training necessary to re-enter the labour force.

For example, we have introduced the Opportunities Fund under which, every year since 1997, $30 million was used to help persons with disabilities take their place in the labour force.

We have introduced and enhanced tax relief measures for persons with disabilities and their families.

In 1998, we introduced the Canada study grants for persons with disabilities, and increased the amount of the grants in 2001.

In budget 2003, we renewed a transfer of $193 million a year for the employability assistance for people with disabilities program. This money will be transferred to the provincial and territorial governments to fund programs and services designed to help Canadians with disabilities overcome employment barriers.

In addition, the Minister of Human Resources Development and her colleagues are working closely with their provincial and territorial counterparts to make sure there is a coordinated approach to meeting the needs of people with disabilities, one that will provide them with the best possible services and eliminate duplication.

Of course, one of the most important programs is the Canada pension plan disability benefits program, which provides an income to contributors who are unable to work because of a serious long-term illness or disability.

The Canada pension plan is the most significant income program for people on long term disability. During fiscal year 2000, the Canada pension plan paid out $2.6 billion to 280,000 contributors with disabilities, and $245 million to the 97,000 children of these contributors. No fewer than 55,000 applications are received each year.

The Canada pension plan offers more than just disability benefits. It also provides retirement pensions, death benefits, survivor benefits, and child benefits. Almost all Canadian residents contribute to the Canada pension plan and will eventually receive benefits from it.

Clearly we must ensure that the Canada pension plan is able to continue this important work over the coming years.

This means that we must ensure that it is financially viable and can count on the necessary assets to provide future generations of workers and their families with the same level of protection that their predecessors are now enjoying.

One way to do this is to ensure that the rules governing eligibility for benefits are relevant, clear and easy to administer and that they allow for the right balance between providing enough support to those who are entitled to the benefits and ensuring healthy management of Canadians' contributions.

A very good example that illustrates this principle is the clear and precise definition of “pensionable employment” contained in the Canada pension plan and intended to be used in determining eligibility for benefits and the amount thereof.

This definition, which excludes compensation for workplace accidents, employment insurance benefits, social assistance and other benefits of this kind, has struck the right balance and shown that it is here to stay.

This definition was upheld by the Supreme Court in 2000, when an applicant claimed that the workplace accident compensation he received should have been considered income for the purposes of eligibility under the Canada pension plan.

The Court's decision was very clear: Part I of the Canada pension plan is adequate and corresponds to the objective that was set out by Parliament.

There are other reasons that suggest that the proposed change is not relevant.

First, implementing such a change would lead to increased Canada pension plan contributions for both workers and employers.

This would place an additional burden on many workers already having trouble making ends meet.

It might also act as a disincentive for some employers to hiring new workers, something no member of this House would want to see happen.

Moreover, this measure would have a negative impact on many workers' compensation recipients, because CPP would have to be deducted from their benefits, thus reducing their already pretty modest incomes still further.

Are these results we would want to see? I think not.

Extension of CPP coverage to workers' compensation recipients might seem unfair, particularly to injured self-employed people who would not be entitled to it.

Finally, if such a change were approved, it might have repercussions on such provincially administered programs as social assistance and worker's compensation.

The long term disability plans offered by private insurers would also be impacted.

The provincial and territorial governments might refuse to consent to such a change, and this would greatly complicate implementation.

All of this points to the fact that the change proposed in this motion would not be as desirable as it might seem at first glance. Worse yet, it might end up doing harm to those it seeks to help.

That is why I cannot support the motion as presented, but I do congratulate the hon. member for her efforts and her determination to help disabled workers and their families.

I say again, this is an important matter which the government is determined to address, but everyone must do his or her part in this.

I am therefore calling upon each and every member of this House, regardless of political affiliation, to work with us in our efforts to ensure that programs are put in place that can provide disabled persons and their families with the support they require to cope with their most challenging circumstances.

This is the only way we will be able to find a satisfactory solution to this situation, and to provide Canadians with the help they need and deserve.

Canada Pension Plan
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Monte Solberg Medicine Hat, AB

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure to address Motion No. 197 put forward by the member for Churchill. I wish to congratulate her for bringing this forward. Clearly, her intention is to help people who are facing difficult situations and this is admirable.

By the nature of the motion, being a motion, there is not a lot of detail attached to it. We are talking about an intent when we talk about this. Many questions are raised as a result of this proposal and in order for it to work those questions must be answered.

One of the questions that I have yet to hear the mover of this motion or the previous speaker address has to do with CPP premiums themselves. For example, a logical question to ask would be whether moving WCB benefits would be counted as a salary to calculate Canada pension plan benefits? Would that mean that people would pay 4.95% of their WCB cheque into the Canada pension plan initially? That important question needs to be addressed.

The obvious follow up question would be, if not, where would the money come from? Right now, the Canada pension plan is running very close to the line. Some people argue it is actually in deficit. Where would that money come from? Where would the money come from on the employer side? Would provincial governments be expected to pay it? If people were in business and drawing a salary, then they would pay 4.95% of their salary and the employer would pay 4.95% of the salary into this plan. Those are some of the questions that need to be addressed.

What would we do about other types of benefits people receive where the same sort of arguments could be made? Canada pension plan disability is a good example. If someone is on CPP disability, that money is not counted as a salary and therefore it would lower the overall Canada pension plan that the individual might be eligible for. Do we then apply the same remedy for CPP disability as applied to WCB? The same thing would apply to private insurance because that is also not counted as a salary for the purpose of calculating Canada pension plan.

These are all important things that need to be addressed. In order for me to support this motion I would like to at least hear how these sort of things could be addressed.

Another issue that is important and one that we need to talk about to make it clear is the fact that a remedy is already in place to some degree for people whose Canada pension plan is lowered because at some point they were injured on the job and had to go on workmen's compensation. When people hit retirement they do not just have access to the Canada pension plan because there are other safety nets in place, including old age security and the guaranteed income supplement for example.

If individuals have a low income in their retirement then these safety net programs supplement that income and take into account to some degree the lower Canada pension plan they might receive as a result of being injured on the job, going on workmen's compensation, and for a period of time at least, not contributing into their Canada pension plan and building up a level of benefits. I do not think we should understate that because it is an important point to make.

If we go to all of this trouble, we may find out that people who all of a sudden enjoy better benefits from Canada pension plan may ultimately see it eroded or they may end up being no better off in the end because the benefits they would have received from old age security and/or the guaranteed income supplement may actually go down.

That is an important point to make. It requires a little bit of study in maybe a number of different scenarios to identify what would happen to these people who earn different amounts of income based on this change that is being proposed by the member for Churchill. We need those kinds of scenarios to have a good idea of whether or not in the end this would leave people materially better off, because that is obviously the goal here.

I do not think this can be overemphasized, but another problem we have and should address, which is something that would leave people better off generally, is that if people would pay lower taxes throughout the course of their lives, not only would it leave them better off in that moment, but it would allow them to save more for their retirement. It would allow them to save more in the event that they become disabled and save more to purchase their own disability insurance. I always hasten to add that aspect when we are talking about social programs to help people because often that gets discounted as a way of helping people out a lot.

It disturbs me today that in Canada people can have very low levels of income and still pay hundreds or even thousands of dollars in taxes. Perhaps we should be looking at ways to raise those basic exemptions higher so that people who are already pinching pennies to survive do not have to send the government a big chunk of the benefits that they may receive through Canada pension plan, old age security or whatever. This is something that I would like all parliamentarians to consider. There is a way to help people beyond just providing better social programs. One of those ways is to lower the level of taxes that we all pay. If we were to do that people would be better off in a number of ways.

I appreciate the intention of the motion very much. I know the member for Churchill is a big-hearted person and she wants to help. That is admirable, but if we are serious about ever having this passed, the provinces, for instance, and certainly the federal treasury would want to have some of the answers to those questions I have raised with respect to how these payments would be treated. Would the CPP premium come off these payments? Who would pay the other half of the CPP premium, would it be the provinces, et cetera? Those things must be addressed before this motion can get proper consideration.

Canada Pension Plan
Private Members' Business

1:55 p.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Madam Speaker, I would like to congratulate the member for Churchill for her initiative. As my colleague, the member for Laurentides already said, the Bloc Quebecois supports Motion No. 197, which I will read again for the benefit of those who are listening.

Motion No. 197 reads as follows:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should amend the definition of “pensionable employment” in the Canada Pension Plan to include worker's compensation payments.

We believe that this is a simple question of justice. Why should victims of accidents at work and occupational illnesses be punished when they have already been victimized by negligence in the workplace? Under the CPP, workers can already subtract 15% of their employment period as leave. This makes it possible to increase the average earnings and the pension that will be collected at retirement.

However, for many workers who have a workplace accident or an occupational illness, this period is not enough. I think that in the interest of justice we must rectify this situation that currently exists in the Canada pension plan and render justice to those who, as I already mentioned, have already been punished because of poor working conditions.

The attitude of the government and the parliamentary secretary, in his comments, is completely unacceptable. The Liberal government is acting as though people who have workplace accidents or occupational illnesses are responsible for their own plight. The government is penalizing them again by refusing to recognize workers' compensation payments as though they were employment income.

In Quebec, there has been consensus among employers, the government and workers and their organizations since 1920 that the employer is responsible for workplace accidents and occupational illnesses. People who have workplace accidents and occupational illnesses are not responsible for their accident or their illness. It is the employer.

It is up to the employer to pay and that is how it has been since 1920 in Quebec. People who have workplace accidents and occupational illnesses are not punished because they suffered as the result of problems in their workplace, in terms of workplace health and safety.

But this is not the only social program where the federal government believes that the victims are responsible for their situation. Just as the Canada pension plan penalizes injured workers or workers with an occupational illness, employment insurance penalizes people laid off by their employer due to an economic downturn—be it in the company, the industry or the whole economy—by imposing a waiting period, as if they were responsible for what has happened to them. The same backwards attitude applies to both this situation and the Canada pension plan.

As a result, the federal government is encouraging prejudice against injured workers or workers with an occupational illness. The government inundates us with propaganda and is constantly telling us that discrimination is a no-no. It is guilty of discrimination in this case, as in the case of the unemployed.

It is essential, therefore, that the federal government fix this situation if it wants to do more than just pay lip service, to prove that injured workers and those with occupational illnesses are not responsible for their situation and, therefore, should not be penalized with regard to their pension under the pretext that they have suffered as a result of a workplace accident or an occupational illness.

The reason given—which was unfortunately taken up by the hon. member for the Canadian Alliance—is that this will increase premiums. This is the first time I have seen the federal government worry about the effects of a payroll tax on employment.

For a number of years now, with regard to employment insurance premiums, we—not just the Bloc Quebecois, but Quebec employers and unions—have been telling the government that the premium rate is much too high. The federal government has never reacted. I know that the Minister of Finance likes to boast that the rate has been lowered ten times already. Yes, it has been lowered ten times, but it is still too high.

When the actuary did an assessment of the premium rate needed to ensure employment insurance coverage, he told us that it would take $1.75 per $100 of insurable earnings. Currently, the government is still taking $2.10, and the Minister of Finance announced in his budget that he was going to lower it to $1.98.

Even at $1.98, the government is still collecting too much to ask from workers and employers in employment insurance premiums.

Employment insurance premiums need to be lowered to correspond to the coverage in the plan. We know that out of ten workers who contribute, four are eligible for benefits and six are not, because of extremely strict rules imposed by this government. Let us lower employment insurance premiums and, if necessary, increase CPP contributions to do justice to people who are victims of workplace accidents or occupational illness.

The same argument is being made to us that was made 10 or 15 years ago when we were told that pay equity for women was unattainable. We were told that, in theory, this discrimination was unjustifiable, but that there was no money to do anything about it. That is what employers are telling us and today the federal government is saying the same thing. Unfortunately, the Canadian Alliance is stuck in its backward mentality.

If we had listened to the federal government and used the arguments it is using today, we would not have gotten anywhere in the pay equity situation. It really dug in its heels, just as it is doing now in this and other situations.

If the federal government is sincere in its concern that an increase on payroll taxes or on contributions may have a negative impact on employment, it must, since it has the means to do so, lower EI contributions to do justice to those who are injured while at work and to those who suffer from occupational diseases.

The government is using another argument that is just as unjustifiable when it says that self-employed workers may feel left out. One does not justify an injustice with another injustice. It is true that self-employed workers should be covered when it comes to social insurance. It is true that the government should be more innovative.

In Quebec, Pauline Marois set an example in her most recent budget by granting a tax credit for parental leave to self-employed workers.

However, the federal government says that it would not be fair to self-employed workers to include injured or sick people, since they themselves are not covered. There is an injustice here, but the government will create another one by penalizing those who are injured at work or who suffer from an occupational disease. This reasoning is faulty.

I am extremely disappointed to hear the parliamentary secretary say, “We think that the initiative of the hon. member for Churchill is a good one, but she is going about this the wrong way”. Let the parliamentary secretary suggest other ways to achieve the same objectives.

Until proven otherwise, the motion by the hon. member for Churchill is the right way to correct the injustice done to those who are injured while at work and to victims of occupational diseases. I am convinced that this fair measure would cost very little to Canadian society, and nothing to Quebec society, since we are not affected by this discriminatory and unfair situation.

The parliamentary secretary also claims that the Supreme Court issued a ruling to that effect. In Canada, do we live, as a number of people think, in a democracy run by judges, or is it elected representatives who are responsible for lawmaking? I do hope that it is still this Parliament, this House that has the last word regarding the vision and the structures that we want for our society, particularly at the legislative level.

When it suits its needs, the federal government does not hesitate to retroactively amend an act.

I give the example of school bus transportation. We will get to examine ways and means motions. In one instance, with respect to school bus transportation, the federal government changed the rules after losing in court. It decided this change would be deemed to have come into effect on December 17, 1990. It does not bother the government when it comes to grabbing money that is intended for school boards in Quebec and Ontario.

Do not make us laugh. If the federal government were serious about wanting to correct this injustice, it could correct it; instead, it is hiding behind the courts. I hope that it will be equally consistent in the ways and means motion and remove the GST retroactivity for school boards.

None of the arguments we have heard from the government side hold water. Simply put, in this case, as with the guaranteed income supplement and the tax credit for persons with disabilities, this Liberal federal government does not care about the people. This is a heartless government.

Like all hon. members in this House, I hope, the Bloc Quebecois will be voting in favour of the motion put forward by the hon. member.

Canada Pension Plan
Private Members' Business

2:05 p.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough Halifax, NS

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased this afternoon to have an opportunity to speak briefly in support of the bill that is before the House, a bill introduced by my colleague from the federal riding of Churchill, which I might remind all members is the NDP province of Manitoba. I congratulate the member for Churchill for having taken this important initiative to remedy what clearly is an injustice and a sort of double injury to workers who are injured or diseased on the job.

I do not think it is an accident that the member for Churchill has taken this initiative. Not only is she a health care worker who has seen injured and diseased workers being discriminated against in a very particular way, but she also represents a riding that is very heavily dependent upon resource industries.

It is a well-known fact that a great number of workers are injured in the course of doing their jobs in the mining sector for example, and in the forestry sector. I believe the forestry sector has the highest incidence of worker injuries of any economic sector. She of course has seen the amount of hardship that is imposed on people's lives through any discriminatory measures that are inherent in our current public policies. I congratulate her for bringing the concerns forward.

Of course it is self-evident that if there is discrimination economically against individual injured workers and a higher incidence of injury in the workplace in a particular area, then it becomes a matter that has a discriminatory effect economically on the whole community. Therefore, it is first and foremost a bill that attempts to address the negative economic impact, the double penalty in effect, on injured workers for their Canada pension plan benefits to be affected negatively in the future, but it is also an attempt to remedy the fact that there is a discriminatory impact in some cases on particular communities that are dependent upon industries where there is a higher level of workplace injury or disease.

I think members are very clear on the purpose of the bill. It is quite a straightforward, simple remedy that is being proposed here. My colleague from Dartmouth has reminded us that what is being sought by the Churchill member's bill is an amendment to the definition of what constitutes pensionable employment for purposes of determining one's future Canada pension plan benefits. This is really a matter of simple justice. I do not think those of us in this corner of the House like to use the terminology common sense as it conjures up images of the Mike Harris government, but it really is a reasonable measure that is fairly straightforward to deal with a form of discrimination that exists now that rears its ugly head in one's retirement years.

We have a Canada pension plan in the first place, something we should be proud of, something for which the New Democratic Party fought very long and hard in the early years to get into place and continues to fight hard to ensure is maintained at adequate levels so that seniors are lifted out of poverty, but also that it remains in the public domain. This has not been an easy struggle in the current climate.

On the other hand, I think there is reason to be optimistic that we have turned the corner somewhat on a climate over the last 10 years which has constantly eroded the value of our public provisions, like the Canada pension plan.

This pension is in place because it recognizes that all workers should have the opportunity and the responsibility to contribute to a pension plan that will be in place for them in their senior years.

The reality is that because pensionable income is not now defined to include workers' compensation benefits, we have the situation where workers, first, suffer the penalty of being injured or diseased in the workplace, then second, find themselves unable to have their workers' compensation benefits deemed to be pensionable so that there is the double injury, and then third, when they reach the retirement years, find their pensions are actually lower than they would otherwise have been.

That clearly does not meet the intentions of the Canada pension plan, nor is it simple justice.

I know that several other members who have spoken have taken the opportunity, which is perfectly in order, to raise some concerns about other aspects of our broad income security system, our disability pensions and unemployment insurance provisions, all of which have effectively been under assault by the government in a number of different ways.

I think we need to be clear that with respect to this particular issue we are talking about recognizing that workers who are injured or diseased on the job, through no fault of their own, find themselves unable to go to work and therefore the substitute income, which is in place and to which they and their employer have contributed, should be considered pensionable income for calculating the level of their Canada pension plan benefits when they reach their retirement years.

I know the Alliance members never fail to take an opportunity, and in this I guess we can say at least they are consistent. It is as if every single problem that presents itself is best solved by lower taxes.

However I think it is a ridiculous to go down that path when we are talking about dealing specifically with a pan-Canadian Canada pension plan and the very particular way in which workers' compensation income is calculated, or, in this case, fails to be calculated, for the purpose of determining the pension for which they are eligible in their senior years.

It really is a matter of agreeing that there is an important principle: workers should not be discriminated against in their retirement years because they suffered a workplace injury or disease. It is not as though we do not know how to do this.

I appreciate that the Alliance member said that he understood the problem and that he was interested in knowing how it could be solved but that a lot of questions needed to be addressed to solve it. That is fair game. That is part of our jobs as members of Parliament. If we are going to support a particular measure we should know how the matter can be dealt with.

I take the opportunity to say, without hesitation, that one fortunately can look at the Province of Quebec and say that it has already addressed the problem. It is my understanding that the Quebec government, in having availed itself of the opportunity to opt out of the Canada pension plan, has put in place its own Quebec pension plan to address the problem. It recognized the discriminatory element in the current workers' compensation program in every other province and it simply said that there ought to be the opportunity for injured or diseased workers who are on workers' compensation to maintain their level of contributions to the Canada pension plan.

The question was raised by government members as well. How would it be paid for? I am not saying that the way in which the Quebec government is now paying for this is the only way to do it but I think it does show that the Quebec government has recognized the double injury involved and said that through the CSST, basically the health and social security commission, that provision will be made to pay for those benefits. That in turn removes the discriminatory element. Perhaps there are other ways in which it can be done.

Let me reiterate a point that the member for Churchill and every other member who has spoken from the NDP caucus in support of this private member's bill have made, and that is that this is not a simple matter of the federal government legislating a solution.

This is a case of where there is a federal presence in the Canada pension plan. There are provincial workers compensation programs. Clearly, we would have to negotiate the way in which this would be implemented. Quebec has already shown that where there is a will there is a way. There is every reason for the provinces to be receptive to this important improvement in the existing provisions for injured workers who are being discriminated against under the Canada pension plan.

I hope other members will continue to help us address the problem. It is fundamentally a moral issue that has to do with treating all Canadian workers equally.

Canada Pension Plan
Private Members' Business

2:15 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn St. John's West, NL

Madam Speaker, I will say a few brief words on this topic in support of the motion. Why I say they will be a few brief words is that I think we talk too much about issues such as this one and we do not do enough about them. An issue such as this should not be one that we have to debate for hours, days, weeks, months or years as has been happening. It should be a cut and dried issue.

Canada is the type of country that leads to people being injured on the job because Canada is a country of very rich resources. Developing resources is always dangerous work, whether it is working in the mines, working in relation to hydro developments, working offshore or working in the fishery and I could go on and on. All of these professions cause one to be working in dangerous situations.

Even working in what we call ordinary everyday work can lead to someone slipping and falling and injuring oneself. Often people can be out of the workplace for quite some time. This means that the total amount of Canada pension down the road is diminished according to the number of years the person is out of work.

The person is still considered as an active person in the workplace, not someone who has quit or was fired or whose job ran out. The person not working in a specific position simply because he or she has been injured. The person will return to the position whenever he or she is fit and is cleared by the appropriate doctors to go back to work.

In the meantime the time off, which unfortunately sometimes can be considerable, is not factored in in relation to Canada pension. Why?

The only legitimate argument I hear is that the employer who is involved will have to hire someone else to replace the person who is off. That is understandable. It would be very unfair to ask the employer to pay Canada pension premiums for the new worker who is doing the job and pay Canada pension premiums for someone who is listed as a worker in that factory or whatever, but is unable to work or assist the employer because he or she is off on workers compensation.

The question I ask is, why should the employer have to pay? I do not think the employer should have to pay. There is no reason to double the burden of the employers who are hit by two great premiums in relation to Canada pension, and particularly in relation to employment insurance.

There are two other options if premiums must be paid. Certainly, one is the government and some will say, “Well, that is people again doubling up on it”. A proper mechanism could be put in place in consultation with the three parties involved, the employer, who I will say up front I do not think should be handed any extra burden, the government and the person who is directly involved. It would not be unreasonable with the amount of money we are talking about here to give somebody the option of having his or her time count toward possible Canada pension benefits down the road and benefiting from that provided they were willing to pay the double premium. It is basically an insurance for the future.

It is not unreasonable whatsoever. It is not a major additional burden on the individual who has been injured. What it does do is it certainly enhances the income of that person down the road when the days, months or years he or she is off on workers compensation are now counted as time toward the drawing of Canada pension benefits.

Somewhere in between there is an answer. Instead of arguing and fighting and saying yes, it is hard, why do all parties involved not sit down and find a solution? I am sure we can, and in an amount of time similar to the time we have spent discussing this here in the House, unless we bring in a pile of bureaucrats.

I solidly support this. I see a lot of people, particularly people who are working in positions that do not have great pay, who are doing very ordinary work and making a very ordinary wage and suddenly find themselves trying to live on the 80% that some provinces pay, or somewhere in that vicinity. It is difficult enough to be sick or hurt and trying to live on less money. However we cut it, it is less money. People might say that they do not have to pay any extra amount for benefits and so on, but a lot of the benefits we pay into come back to us one in way or another. If we are not paying in they are not going to come back.

It is bad enough to be in that position, but let us look at people who in 10 or 5 or maybe 2 years' time are finishing up work and looking toward their meagre Canada pensions and who find that pension reduced significantly, especially if it was in their latter years of work, because they were on workers' compensation. In reality, they were not out of work through any choice of their own, because of layoffs or because they quit or because they did not want to work. They were out of work because they were injured. In reality, they are really still on the lists of the unemployed as it affects the companies with which they would have worked.

I certainly think there is a solution here, one that could be found quickly if the will were there. Again, I and my party solidly support this suggestion provided that it is done without the extra onus on the employers, many of whom are small business people who are having it tough enough with government red tape, bureaucracy and regulations.

Maybe we could do two things here. Let us zero in on this matter and, realizing how easily something like this could be solved, maybe it will give government the incentive to look back and say to itself that maybe it could solve a lot of problems negatively affecting the people in our country if it would sit down and, with a bit of common sense, deal directly with these problems. It could change or cut out the foolish regulations in place that delay and procrastinate, or it could implement new fine-tuned regulations that can cut quickly through red tape and bureaucracy. Perhaps for a change we can get down to one-stop shopping.

An issue came up the other day. It dealt with a relatively small issue in fisheries. In order to deal with the topic, which we should be able to do with a snap of our fingers, seven different departments had to be consulted because there were seven different pieces of legislation dealing with a very minuscule topic.

For instance, in relation to the development of the offshore in Newfoundland and Labrador, and I am sure this is true in the development of other resources in other places, if we want to do some exploration, I understand, we must deal with either 13 or 14 boards, agencies and departments. From the time the first application is initiated until a permit is issued, we are looking at at least two years, if we are lucky. We can imagine the time and effort that companies have to put in for two years, whereas in Norway they deal with one organization. It is inconceivable the number of burdens that we put on our people.

Let us take a lesson from that. Let us start right here and let us get this one out of the way.

Canada Pension Plan
Private Members' Business

2:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Bakopanos)

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the Order Paper. This House stands adjourned until Monday next at 11 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 2:30 p.m.)