House of Commons Hansard #15 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was system.

Topics

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-15, an act to implement treaties and administrative arrangements on the international transfer of persons found guilty of criminal offences, as reported without amendment from the committee.

International Transfer of Offenders Act
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10 a.m.

Edmonton West
Alberta

Liberal

Anne McLellan Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

moved that the bill be concurred in.

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10:05 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

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

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10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

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10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

No.

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10:05 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

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

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10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

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10:05 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

All those opposed will please say nay.

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10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

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10:05 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And more than five members having risen:

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10:05 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Pursuant to Standing Order 45, the recorded division on the motion stands deferred until the usual time of adjournment on Monday, February 23, 2004.

International Transfer of Offenders Act
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10:05 a.m.

Ottawa—Vanier
Ontario

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Deputy Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, if you were to seek it, I think you would find consent to further defer the division from Monday until after government orders on Tuesday.

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10:05 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is there consent of the House?

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10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Bill C-19. On the Order: Government Orders

February 13, 2004--the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness--Second reading and reference to the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness of Bill C-19, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and the Criminal Code.

Corrections and Conditional Release Act
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10:05 a.m.

Edmonton West
Alberta

Liberal

Anne McLellan Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

moved:

That Bill C-19, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and the Criminal Code, be referred forthwith to the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness.

Mr. Speaker, the success of our system depends on collaboration, on dialogue and on research based knowledge. It is founded on Canadian values, on the rule of law and on respect for human dignity. It is a system that reflects these values.

Respect for human rights as reflected in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, in the international covenants that Canadians have supported over the years, such as the universal declaration of human rights, and in our adherence to United Nations norms and standards for the treatment of prisoners, represent the fundamental building blocks of our corrections system.

In fact, these principles and values have been enshrined in Canada's Corrections and Conditional Release Act.

The CCRA remains a significant milestone in correctional reform in Canada. It strikes a balance that respects the rights of all Canadians, both victims and offenders. It reflects the fundamental belief in the dignity of the individual. And it reflects the belief that, given the appropriate interventions and supports, the great majority of offenders can change their behaviour so that they may in time successfully re-enter society as law-abiding citizens.

At the same time, the CCRA provides the tools to control those who clearly pose a risk to the safety of our communities. Our system recognizes that the gradual and controlled release of offenders to the community, when safe to do so and with proper supervision and support, is the best approach to ensuring public safety.

The Corrections and Conditional Release Act was proclaimed in 1992. Part I sets out the purposes of the correctional system. It details specific measures governing daily operations of the Correctional Service of Canada in the administration of court imposed sentences of more than two years.

Part II similarly states the purposes of the conditional release system and the principles that guide the National Parole Board.

Finally, Part III establishes and describes in law the Office of the Correctional Investigator.

As many will know, there is a statutory review of the legislation specified in the CCRA. Accordingly, a subcommittee of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights began its review of the act in February 1999.

The subcommittee travelled throughout the country and visited numerous penitentiaries and correctional institutions. It heard from witnesses involved in every aspect of the corrections system and tabled its report entitled, “A Work in Progress: The Corrections and Conditional Release Act”, in May 2000.

The subcommittee's report concluded that while the CCRA is fundamentally sound, opportunities for improvements exist. It made 53 recommendations for changes to the act and to the practices of the Correctional Service, the Parole Board and the Office of the Correctional Investigator.

The previous government agreed to take action on 46 of the 53 recommendations, and considerable progress has been made through policy and program adjustments. However, a number of legislative amendments are needed in order to fulfill the recommendations that were accepted. By moving forward with Bill C-19, the government is signalling its commitment to the protection of public safety.

The proposed legislative amendments are designed to: tighten up the provisions relating to the accelerated parole review process by adding several new crimes to the schedule of offences which excludes them from the APR; eliminating the presumptive nature of APR release; requiring offenders sentenced to six years or more to serve a longer period before becoming eligible for early release on day parole; and requiring the National Parole Board to apply a more stringent test for reoffending than is presently the case.

We also want to streamline temporary absences to better meet the purposes of the program and expand and formalize victims' rights with respect to National Parole Board hearings.

Other measures include: the review of all statutory release cases before their actual release; the creation of additional grounds for detention of high-risk offenders in custody; and the provision of humanitarian parole for terminally ill offenders. There are also a number of housekeeping measures to amend language and clarify rules.

Let me highlight a few details about the proposed amendments. The proposals would make provisions for the accelerated parole review process, or APR, more restrictive. In addition to offences that currently exclude offenders from consideration, the legislation would exclude those convicted of criminal organization offences, child pornography, high treason, sexual exploitation of a person with a disability causing bodily harm with intent in specific cases and torture.

Further, the amendments would require that the National Parole Board's review of APR cases takes into account an offender's risk to reoffend generally. Currently, the legislation requires that the board consider only the risk to commit an offence involving violence. This would toughen the conditions for release under the APR. Release under the APR would no longer be presumptive but rather, would result from a deliberate decision of the parole board.

Offenders serving sentences of more than six years would face an increased period of day parole ineligibility. This will prevent situations where offenders serving long sentences spend years on day parole as a result of their eligibility for APR. This measure would also emphasize that the purpose of day parole is to prepare the offender for a full parole release, as is the case with all other offenders.

The existing temporary absence program is highly successful in terms of the positive effects on rehabilitation and the very high level of offender compliance with the conditions of this restricted form of release.

Measures proposed under Bill C-19 would give the correctional service sole authority to grant escorted temporary absences. The correctional service would also assume authority over granting unescorted temporary absences to all offenders, except for those serving a life or indeterminate sentence over which the parole board would retain authority.

Moreover, the provisions relating to work release would be moved under the umbrella of the temporary absences program. Release purposes within this program would be expanded to include structured programs for work, educational, occupational and life skills.

I will now briefly address the matter of statutory release. As recommended by the subcommittee, the bill before us would tighten this form of conditional release for offenders who may present undue risk. It would ensure that the correctional service reviews all statutory release cases prior to release to determine whether to refer the case to the parole board for detention review and whether to recommend that the board impose special release conditions.

Referral to the parole board for detention review would be mandatory in the case of all offenders convicted of a sexual offence against a child and who are likely to commit an offence causing death or serious injury. The grounds for possible referral to the board for detention review would be expanded to include child pornography, high treason, sexual exploitation of a person with a disability causing bodily harm with intent and torture.

With respect to victims of crime, the National Parole Board has supported the active participation of victims in hearings for many years as a matter of policy. The present proposals would codify the rights of victims to present a victim impact statement at National Parole Board hearings. To date, approximately 347 such presentations have been made and victims have expressed their satisfaction with their new role in conditional release decisions.

We conclude our proposals with reference to other miscellaneous amendments. In response to the subcommittee's recommendation regarding a parole board structure, the maximum number of full time board members would increase from 45 to 60. The law would also ensure that the annual and special reports of the correctional investigator would include the full responses of Correctional Service Canada.

Finally, other amendments are proposed to correct some minor technical flaws and anomalies in the existing legislation.

This then is a summary of the proposed legislation. I do trust that with the support of the House we will move forward to ensure the changes necessary to keep our correctional legislation up to date and effective.

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10:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jim Gouk Kootenay—Boundary—Okanagan, BC

Mr. Speaker, the Deputy Prime Minister has used an interesting choice of words.

This is a very typical example of Liberal legislation. Liberal legislation, for those who have not already caught on to this, is where the Liberals take a change that has been demanded by the public and they take just the tiniest little bit so they can say they listened to the public's concerns, have addressed them and now they will act.

Heaven help opposition members if they vote against it because they were the ones who said that the changes were necessary and here we are changing it. If the opposition votes against it, obviously it did not want these changes at all.

The fact is that they only take that tiniest little bit of change because they do not want to offend their strange friends who do not want to see any changes in the system that would actually cut down on the rights of criminals over the rights of law-abiding citizens.

Let us take, as an example, statutory release. They are talking about conditions that will be implemented to say that under these conditions prisoners may not now qualify for statutory release under certain types of violent crime and so on. However, conditional sentencing, which was brought in by her predecessor, who I think will become ambassador to the United Nations or something, has now been applied to violent offenders. When we brought it back to the House the public was outraged. What did the then justice minister have to say? He said that he had never intended that it should apply to violent offenders.

The Deputy Prime Minister is now saying that we are going to take these prisoners who do make it to jail, although not all of them do, and tell them they may not be able to get statutory release. Of course we have judges out there who are telling them that they may not even have to go to prison.

I would think, if the Deputy Prime Minister is serious about making some proper changes in the justice system, she would make changes first to the sentencing provisions by getting rid of class one and class two offences as being eligible for conditional sentencing in the first place so that those people are incarcerated.

Then we get to the question of statutory release. Statutory release, for anyone who does not understand what it is, is a very liberal provision that says that when prisoners have served two-thirds of their sentence, regardless of how they acted inside the prison, regardless of whether they have participated in any corrective programs, regardless of whether they have been incorrigible inside or fought with guards or other prisoners, they would be released. In fact, they could be in segregation at the time their statutory release comes up and they would go right from administrative segregation out into the public.

We did a study on this a few years back. I sat on that study, as did the member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough who was in the Progressive Conservative Party at the time. One of the things we really looked for in the review of the CCRA was the total and absolute abolishment of statutory release. We both listened to the arguments as to why there should be a parole system. We both understand the concept of not wanting to keep prisoners until the end of their date, warrant expiry as it is referred to, and then simply open up the door and have them walk out. It is far better to have them go out under some form of supervision to reintegrate them into society.

We both accept that, except they have to earn that release. They have to earn the right to get out before warrant expiry to go back into the public under conditions and supervision. We accept that and in fact totally support it. However we do not support prisoners, who have not done a single solitary thing to earn it, being released.

This is what happens inside a prison. If prisoners behave well, if they show some remorse and try to rehabilitate themselves, avail themselves of the programs that might be suitable for them to take, particularly given their offences, they can get out earlier than two-thirds of their sentence.

However what often happens with some of these prisoners inside is that they do not see the need to bother making any kind of effort to co-operate with the guards or take any programs because they know they will be released automatically after serving two-thirds of their sentence. Even if they get caught with dope, fight with other prisoners or throw buckets of urine on the security guards inside the prison they know they will still get out early because of the statutory release provisions.

When we studied this at the subcommittee, the subcommittee that was tasked with the review of the whole CCRA, statutory release became a big point for the opposition. I proposed that we recommend to the government that we abolish statutory release. Interestingly enough, after studying it and after listening to a lot of witnesses all very much in support of it, the Liberal members of the subcommittee agreed to recommend that statutory release should be abolished.

We wrote a preliminary report that went upstairs to the PMO. The report came back with probably a very nasty note that said “Don't you dare make such a recommendation to us. Get back in there, call some new witnesses who will back you on the need for statutory release and change your recommendation”.

The Liberals came back, very sheepishly and somewhat apologetically, and told us that they would have to disagree on that one area but that they could agree to everything else. I said, “Not a chance. We made compromises in our position to get statutory release in because it was something we had identified as being important to the public”. So they marched in a bunch of their specially selected people and tried to come up with the argument that the jails would be overcrowded and that if we did not have statutory release, some prisoners would not be able to earn release and would be in until warrant expiry, which would lead to overcrowding in the jail.

We have to first listen to what the Liberals themselves were saying on this issue. They wanted to allow some people, who could not behave well enough to earn parole, out of jail. These are prisoners who cannot earn parole because their behaviour is not sufficient to trust them out in the public. They cannot earn the parole so we will simply give it to them automatically.

That is the kind of absurdity that is going on in the system. That is what is wrong with the minister's bill today. She wants to tinker around the edge. She wants to maybe make a few little provisions dealing with how to work statutory release. The reality of how to work statutory release is to get rid of it. We need something where prisoners will try to earn parole and work their way back into society.

I am all in support of the concept of rehabilitation. First, we want to prevent crime wherever possible. We want to change the system enough that we do not have people committing these stupid crimes that lead them to jail. When they are in jail, we want to encourage them to recognize that they made a mistake, that they will rejoin society and be a valuable, law-abiding member of society. This is not the way the system works right now and tinkering around the edges of it will not make those kinds of changes.

I could probably go on for about an hour on this subject alone but I see that I do not have that kind of time. I have some encouragement from the Liberal side, which does want me to go on, but, unfortunately, the rules they have put in place prevent that.

I can assure the House that if the government keeps tinkering around the edge of legislation, we will continue to oppose it. There is something wrong when it cannot come out with one decent piece of legislation that goes all the way, instead of legislation that tries to pretend it has done something.

We still hear to this day that the Liberals offered us a triple E Senate but that we turned it down. They still bring that red herring out every so often, all because they came out with an absolutely unworkable set of constitutional amendments that 70-some-odd per cent of this country turned down, even though it contained a couple of decent things. To this day they still maintain that we voted against the good things, which, of course, technically speaking, we did because it was embedded with a whole lot of bad stuff.

It is the same thing with the bill. There may be tiny bits of merit in it but we are always faced with the conundrum of voting for the little bits of improvement that the government is willing to make or to say no, because if it cannot be done right then it should not be done at all. Should we just tell them to get out of the way and we will do it? Well the day when we can do it is coming very close. We expect that in spite of all the scandals, all the investigations and the fact that we will not hear back on any of these investigations for awhile, the Prime Minister will go ahead and call the election. The main reason, as bad as the news is now, is that he knows it will only get worse.

When the Liberals come out with legislation like this, they deserve to be booted out. They should move over and we will bring in legislation Canadians really want.

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10:25 a.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to this bill in my new role as critic for questions of security, the correctional system, the RCMP, CSIS and all subjects related to public safety and emergency preparedness.

The Bloc Quebecois will support this bill because it is a good start. It is not that we are satisfied with all the proposals presented in this bill, since there are pieces missing with respect to the recommendations made by the Subcommittee on Corrections and Conditional Release Act of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights in May 2000.

This bill particularly lacks any input from those who work in the field. It is all very well to say that a broad consultation took place, from east to west in Canada, but we have the impression that there was not enough attention paid to those who work in the field and that there was no real overall evaluation of the situation. There are programs on the conditional release side that work and others that do not work. There has been no comparison of what did and did not work.

Here we see some amendments that will improve the situation a little. Still, there is room for much more. That is the first part of our position with respect to this bill.

Second, there is the appointment of commissioners. I will come back to this because it is an extremely important issue. The Prime Minister has just tabled his democratic vision, a plan that addresses the issue of appointments. This bill, quite curiously, does things the old way through appointments, and that is most unfortunate.

We suggest that this bill be given very serious and in-depth consideration by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights and that all the stakeholders be heard. I will not say once and for all because legislation can always be improved, but there must be a major overhaul of current parole-related programs.

With regard to the first issue we have with this bill, it is very surprising that quite recently, in January, a committee of experts looked at the parole process and identified some very shocking problems, particularly with regard to the assessment of individuals eligible for parole.

I am referring to the Conrad Brassard case from January. Conrad Brassard was granted parole and was released. Shortly after, he murdered his spouse. The committee of experts that looked at the Brossard case, which could also apply unfortunately to too many other past cases, said that the assessment of individuals eligible for parole was riddled with shocking problems.

Among other things, they use free lances to evaluate the psychological profile of individuals. Also, instead of focusing on the ability to rehabilitate of the individual who is in the parole program, instead of looking at his profile to determine his ability to re-enter the community, the only criterion really used is the seriousness of the offence that resulted in this individual being incarcerated.

The Bar was very clear on this. The examination of the cases must be strengthened to ensure first and foremost public safety. We must also make sure that the information on the individual is complete. In the case of Conrad Brassard, it was discovered that there was information missing on the seriousness of his condition and on the fact that he was probably a psychopath.

The evaluation was conducted on the basis of an incomplete analysis that was done quickly by free lances. I am not questioning the competence of psychologists, but when budgets are not adequate, when we use a nickel and dime approach and put people's safety in jeopardy by hiring free lances and by giving them incomplete information and a very short deadline to evaluate the individual, the situation can get rather serious.

What we would have liked to see, following the amendments to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, was the evaluation done by this committee of experts taken into consideration.

There is another issue on which I fully agree with the Conservative member who spoke before me, even though we support the bill. There is one element that is accurate. We are not conducting a sufficiently thorough study of the conditional release program as such. There is automatic parole, regardless of the behaviour of the individual or his connections with organized crime. We have examples of that. This is a rather pathetic situation.

For example, farmers are complaining and newspapers today are reporting the case of a farmer taken hostage by cannabis producers in his region. This has been going on for years. Cannabis producers are connected to criminal motorcycle gangs. In this case, in the region of Nicolet, it is the Hell's Angels.

We know full well that the so-called “strikers”, those who work for criminal motorcycle gangs, run and coordinate the production of cannabis in the fields, impose a reign of terror on farmers and their families, break their machinery and settle their accounts when farmers speak up.

They are arrested and jailed, but are judged only according to the crime committed, regardless of their degree of connection to organized crime.

When they have served one-sixth of their sentence, they are eligible for initial conditional parole. At that time, the only thing looked at is the crime that brought them to prison, not their capacity to be rehabilitated, to reintegrate society, to no longer represent a risk. This must be changed. On that I agree with my colleague who spoke before me.

There is another point. With all the talk of a plan for democratic reform, and the tabling of the Prime Minister's action plan for democratic reform, with its references to greater transparency and a review of appointments, they could have taken advantage of the opportunity to change this bill so as not to still have national parole board members selected by the governor in council. There should instead be an open process, with people's qualifications examined.

There have been objections to this situation; even Justice Boilard has spoken out against it. What is needed is an appointment process that is non-partisan, not closed and non-transparent as it is now.

There was a case involving a former member of the House of Commons. This was André Bachand, not the one who is an MP now, but another, born in the 1930s, who was a Liberal MP some years ago. His appointment to the board was criticized because it was supported by former minister André Ouellet and his neighbour, the present Prime Minister. It was quite simply a partisan appointment.

This too must be changed. Appointments must be based on qualifications so that appointees are well informed and arrive at appropriate decisions, not inappropriate ones as in the case of Mr. Brossard.

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10:35 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise this morning and add a few comments on Bill C-19, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and the Criminal Code of Canada.

I could basically sum up my approach to this bill by saying that it is about time. It is about time that the Liberal government has seen fit to finally act some four years after the subcommittee of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights put together a list of recommendations on how to improve the whole business of corrections, conditional release, and parole in our prison system in Canada.

Here we are, almost four years later, and the government is finally bringing forward this bill again.

Canadians have the right to ask why it has taken four years to act upon the recommendations of this subcommittee. One of the reasons, and I hope it is becoming increasingly evident to Canadians, is the fact that the government has been embroiled for the past number of years, certainly the last four years since this subcommittee reported, in a clandestine leadership race that was prompted by the now Prime Minister. Because he was wheeling and dealing and operating behind the scenes to overthrow Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, these types of things fell off the table.

It is not only this, of course. The nation at the moment is seized by the scandalous misspending of some quarter of a billion dollars through the sponsorship program in Quebec. This happened as well on the Prime Minister's watch when he was finance minister, and he cannot distance himself from that.

Increasingly, Canadians are coming to realize that a lot of this important business of the nation was not put forward, was not passed, was not debated, was not amended, and was not ultimately passed into law to improve the system. In this case, it is Bill C-19. It was Bill C-40 in the last session, before the Liberals prorogued Parliament unnecessarily and all the legislation died. Now we have to start all over again.

Now it is rumoured that there will be an unnecessary early election called as soon as early April, a little more than a month from now. What will happen to this legislation then? It will die again, so then we will be four and a half or five years down the road. Maybe next fall it will be brought back. It will have a different number, but it will be the same legislation as Bill C-40.

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10:35 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jim Gouk Kootenay—Boundary—Okanagan, BC

No, it will be better. We will bring it in.

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10:35 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

My colleague says we will bring it in.

We will include all of the 53 recommendations, not the 46 that the government decided to act upon in Bill C-19. We will include all the recommendations that were made, and we will get it passed before we unnecessarily call another election or prorogue Parliament.

When we look at the past decade of inaction of the Liberal government, the decade that I have been here as a member of Parliament, from the fall of 1993 to the spring of 2004, bills of this nature that Canadians have been crying out for have died. We have seen, time and time again, that they are sadly disappointed because we get a couple of years into a Parliament and the government prorogues Parliament. Everything dies. The government has to start all over again and reconstitute committees and get everything up to speed again. The next thing that happens is the government calls an unnecessary early election.

If an election is called in April, it will be the fourth time in the last 11 years that the country has gone to the polls early. It was not even three and a half years, in 1997, that Jean Chrétien called an early election. In 2000 the same thing happened. Now it will be the same thing again.

I think Canadians have lost their patience with the government. Canadians want to see legislation, such as Bill C-19, come about. The reality is I am not convinced we will get Bill C-19 through Parliament, the Senate and receive royal assent before the next election.

I would like to believe that it would happen. I know people who work with the prison system would like to see Bill C-19 become law, and they would like to see some of these changes in the prison system. I am not convinced the bill will become law if our so-called new Prime Minister is intent upon calling an unnecessary early election.

The major thrust of Bill C-19 is to tighten up some of the conditions that surround the conditional release of those who are incarcerated for crimes in Canada. The bill certainly falls partly into step with the Conservative Party of Canada's thinking on the issue. My party has been advocating for many years that parole should be harder to earn and easier to lose. We believe there should be no such thing as automatic parole in Canada.

If people are sentenced to a certain terms of incarceration, unless there are clear indications that the they have taken steps to improve themselves, that they truly repent for the crimes committed and that strong evidence shows the criminal ways have been corrected, there should be no parole. People should have to serve their total time of incarceration. We have been saying that parole should be harder to earn. There should be definite measures for people to come to the bar.

The doors should not be opened because too many people are in prison and it is costing the country too much money. Convicts are let out to prey on innocent Canadians again. We have seen time and time again where repeat offenders are out there preying on the most defenceless in our society, women and children and sadly, in some cases, very young children who are subject to horrendous crimes by those who were supposedly sentenced before and locked up. Then they were released by the Liberal government's lax laws.

Are we going to face this for another year, or two or three before the bill finally is passed into law and we can slowly start to see the changes happen in our criminal system?

When I speak on these types of matters, I always hesitate to call it a justice system. When I am back in Prince George—Peace River in my riding in northeastern British Columbia, I hear every day from someone who says we do not have a justice system in the country any more. People say we have a legal system that leans more toward the guilty and the criminals than it does to protecting the innocent in our society.

We support increased input from the community, including victims of crime. I am pleased to see that there is at least some mention of that in the bill and that we will move somewhat in that direction.

It is sad that it took the combined action of the official opposition over a period of months, sadly years, to get the government to even move this far. However, this agenda of change, as slight as it is, has been allowed to be thrown off by the agenda and the ambition of only one man, and that is the person who occupies the Prime Minister's chair.

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10:45 a.m.

NDP

Lorne Nystrom Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Speaker, I also want to say a few words to Bill C-19 which is before the House this morning.

We have to take a look at the corrections system and the whole judicial system in Canada to ensure we have tough enough legislation to protect the country, its citizens and victims, yet have a fair balance that would justly punish those who deserve punishment and try to rehabilitate those who can be rehabilitated.

Our party believes that we have to do whatever we can to have safe communities. We believe the safety of communities must be the focus of a criminal justice system. A New Democratic Party government would support safe communities through the following things.

We believe in proportionate sentences. We believe in safe and humane custody for both offenders and correctional workers. We believe in addressing the needs of the victims of crime and in the effective restoration of offenders to the community as productive citizens.

New Democrats reject the approach of the American justice system which has often created a costly gulag that promotes punishment over rehabilitation, often to the disadvantage of the poorest segments of society.

We believe that the sentences pronounced by our courts must reflect Canadians' intolerance for crime, especially violent or hate-based crime, while providing offenders with a fair opportunity to redeem themselves and to contribute to our society.

We value the important role of the correctional system in protecting our communities from dangerous criminals. Some people are simply so violent that they must be isolated from society until such a time as they can be safely reintegrated. We believe that when offenders are released on parole, the public should be assured that they will not reoffend in a violent fashion.

We support the right of correctional workers to safe and healthy working conditions in an often stressful and dangerous working environment. We believe that the correction system should target inmates who abuse the system by terrorizing other inmates and staff and by profiting from the introduction of drugs into our institutions.

We believe that the victims of crime will only achieve healing if they are fairly compensated for the harm they have suffered, if they can overcome the trauma and the fear that they experienced, and can effectively participate in a criminal justice process related to the offenders who have hurt them.

We believe that our correctional system can and should address the real needs of most offenders so when they will return to our community, as the vast majority do, they can live lawful and productive lives.

We believe that the level of infectious diseases in prison is a growing danger to offenders, to staff and to the community. This must be addressed in an urgent and common sense fashion.

We believe that federal prisons should not serve as warehouses for people with mental health problems. Rather, there should be a proactive effort, both in institutions and in the community, to treat pathologies that lead to crime.

We believe that the serious disadvantages suffered by aboriginal offenders, especially aboriginal women, who are under a federal sentence must, at long last, be addressed by more than just pious pronouncements.

We believe, as has been determined by the Canadian Human Rights Commission, that women offenders require specific measures to meet their specific needs, and that Correctional Service Canada should be made accountable for this.

We believe that measures to improve the vocational skills of inmates and to strengthen their family relationships have often proven effective and that these approaches should be encouraged.

We believe that more effective oversight mechanisms are necessary to ensure that our correctional system complies with the rule of law as has been recommended by a host of outside experts in recent years.

We also believe that the ultimate goal of a criminal justice system is to bring all the participants together in order to restore the relationship between offenders and communities.

New Democrats would support safe communities by adopting some of the following measures.

We would provide about $50 million in new funding for initiatives geared to the communities so that they may provide occupational and other community support to released offenders. Communities have the special knowledge and the skills necessary to plan and implement effective community reintegration.

We would commission a judicial inquiry to examine systemic racism in the correctional service and address the obstacles suffered by aboriginal offenders.

We would create a deputy commissioner position for aboriginal offenders within the correctional service. This official would be directly accountable to the commissioner of corrections for all matters related to the custody and reintegration of aboriginal offenders.

We would ensure that the deputy commissioner for women of Correctional Service Canada would possess the authority to ensure that the specific needs of women offenders would be met at an early date.

After a broad but timely consultation, we would legislate a federal victims charter of rights to address the needs and prerogatives of victims.

We would establish rules for the fair compensation of victims of crime that would figure prominently in our negotiations with the provinces on transfer payments and the criminal justice field.

We would provide adequate funding to ensure that victims would be able to attend, observe and make statements at all release hearings for offenders, even where the offenders had been transferred to other regions of the country.

We would create a parliamentary commissioner for victims who would fulfill an ombudsman function for victims and report annually to Parliament.

We would ensure that staffing levels and security systems in institutions were at a level that would ensure safety and security.

We would implement severe consequences for inmates who abused the system by endangering the safety of others and by bringing drugs into institutions.

We would provide special legislation to address the special safety and health needs of corrections staff and to provide timely redress for complaints regarding hazardous institutional situations.

We would legislate an independent inquiry with authority to recommend solutions to Parliament for every case where an offender on parole or other form of release commits a crime involving serious bodily harm or death.

We would provide $50 million for new mental health initiatives in institutions and in the community.

We would provide $20 million for community restorative justice programs in order to permit the reconciliation of offenders and the people with whom they would be living.

We would address infectious diseases and the substance abuse conditions that would lead to these both as a security and health problem, and we would take the harm reduction measures that have been shown to work, for example, increased access to education, peer counselling, relapse programs, safe tattooing and needle exchanges.

We would also make the prisoners' ombudsman, the correctional investigator, an officer of Parliament in the same way the chief electoral officer is an officer of Parliament today and has been for a number of years. As an officer of Parliament, that would enable the correctional investigator to take significant cases in dispute before the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal, which would be provided specific legislation to deal with these disputes.

Finally, we would institute a remedy for circumstances where correctional authorities were determined to have “intentionally interfered with the integrity of a sentence”, as recommended by the inquiry into the events at the prison for women, which of course is the Arbour inquiry.

Those are some of the things we would do and we recommend them to the government of the day.

Bill C-19 amends the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and the Criminal Code. It comes out of a subcommittee on justice. It was tabled in the House of Commons in May of 2000. It has taken the government almost four years to respond to the committee on justice.

We have a bill today which really has five objectives. The government wants to tighten up the accelerated parole review process. It wants to streamline the temporary absence process. It wants to review all statutory release cases. It wants to give victims the right to make a statement at a parole board hearing. Finally, it wants to permit the conditional release of all terminally ill offenders on humanitarian grounds before their scheduled parole dates.

As suggested by the justice committee report, the CCRA is in need of reform. Increasing victim participation in the parole process is good because victims are all too often shut out of the criminal justice process entirely. Adding a structured program to temporary absences is excellent as it furthers the goal of rehabilitation through our correctional aims.

In conclusion, my main concern is that this does not begin to address the real problems in our corrections system, the problems that I mentioned earlier, such as infectious diseases, drugs, the abuse, the lack of resources and the facilities that are aimed at not only women but at aboriginal people as well.

We must also be careful not to be overzealous. We must keep in mind that our goal is to build a safer society by rehabilitating offenders and not just locking them up forever and throwing away the key.

That is what I believe the bill falls short on. I recommend to the House the points that I made earlier in my comments.

Marilyn Hurrell
Statements By Members

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

John Harvard Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate one of my constituents, Ms. Marilyn Hurrell, for her outstanding efforts on behalf of the Canadian Executive Service Organization.

Marilyn Hurrell went to Riga, Latvia to train staff and volunteers of a public AIDS prevention centre. Marilyn interviewed staff members and representatives of various NGOs and government agencies either directly or indirectly involved in HIV-AIDS prevention to acquaint herself with prevention activities in Latvia.

She presented a report with her assessment and recommendations based on the WHO Ottawa Charter on Health Promotion to the director of the centre. Marilyn expects that the centre will now concentrate more on vulnerable groups such as prisoners and street children.

Ms. Hurrell, a dedicated, hard-working volunteer, is typical of the Canadian Executive Service Organization. Volunteers such as Ms. Hurrell are truly outstanding Canadians.

Marlin Farms
Statements By Members

10:55 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gerry Ritz Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Mr. Speaker, due to factors beyond their control and a predatory banker, Marlin Farms find themselves in jeopardy. This is a deliberate concerted effort to drive my constituents into bankruptcy.

The Toronto Dominion bank attack dogs know nothing about agriculture and the dire straits the industry is in. Their idea of working with Marlin Farms is to take half their line of credit and arbitrarily put it in an overdraft account at 21% interest. To add insult to injury, the remaining $125,000 line of the credit is being lowered by $10,000 a month and added to the 21% overdraft. On top of that, the Toronto Dominion Bank charges Marlin Farms $10,000 in bogus bank charges for lawyers, accountants and consultants.

This nightmare for Marlin Farms has been exacerbated by the finance minister, the Minister of State for Financial Institutions and the Canadian banking ombudsman who all refuse to act.

This legalized loan sharking has to be stopped.

Joseph Howe
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, 2004 marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of a great Nova Scotian and Canadian, Joseph Howe.

Joe Howe was a newspaper editor, a publisher, a member of Parliament and a lieutenant governor, but it was his successful defence of himself in an 1835 libel trial for which he is best known, as it established freedom of the press in Canada.

Michael Bawtree, the former director of Acadia University's drama department, has established the Joseph Howe Initiative to mark the 200th anniversary of Howe's birth and has recreated Howe's speech from his trial which he will perform again later this year.

Howe's newspaper, The Nova Scotian , continues to live today as part of The Sunday Herald , a division of The Chronicle-Herald in Halifax. The Herald , the largest independently owned paper in Canada, recently turned a new page when publisher Graham Dennis launched a $26 million printing press, the first of its kind in Canada.

Today I want to congratulate Mr. Dennis for his investment in Nova Scotia and its future, and Mr. Bawtree for reminding us of Joe Howe's important contribution to the province's past and future.

Josie Sias
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I have the great honour today to congratulate one of my own constituents, Josie Sias, who is, as we speak, being awarded the Order of Canada by the Governor General.

Josie Sias is dedicated to communicating her unique knowledge of the people, history and geography of the Yukon. As a park interpreter, volunteer and businesswoman, this elder of the Kluane First Nation has employed story telling to keep alive the traditions of her ancestors.

Widely respected for her leadership of the Parks Canada Youth Corps, she helped young people from various economic and cultural backgrounds to foster teamwork and mutual understanding. She has also taught anglophone, francophone and aboriginal students about their respective languages and cultures.

In recognition of her outstanding leadership she was appointed to represent her people and her region at the Canadian Polar Commission.

Josie is a much loved and respected pioneer of the north. I provide my heartfelt congratulations for this well-deserved honour.

Jutra Awards
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Gilbert Barrette Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to inform the House that the Jutra Awards gala celebrating the best in Quebec cinema will be held this Sunday.

Everyone agrees that this year has been a particularly splendid one for the Quebec film industry. We need only think of the success of Denys Arcand's Les Invasions Barbares—The Barbarian Invasions , which has been praised by the greatest connoisseurs, from Cannes to Hollywood. It is expected that Mr. Arcand's film will deservedly win the Jutra Award for most internationally acclaimed Quebec film.

The list of nominees is a testament to the abundance of artistic talent in Quebec. Luc Picard, Marie-Josée Croze, Raymond Bouchard, Rémy Girard and many others embody the vivacity of Quebec culture.

I invite my fellow members to congratulate the people who create Quebec cinema and let them know how proud we are—

Jutra Awards
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member for Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough

Pictou County
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to stand in the House and draw attention to the tremendous success in the riding of Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough.

A recent KPMG report compared business costs in 121 North American, European and Asian Pacific cities and ranked Pictou county as first among 39 Canadian cities for doing business.

Such an acknowledgement reflects both the innovation and creativity of the Pictou county business community as well as the successful growth strategy “Opportunities for Prosperity” put forward by the Nova Scotia government.

The success of the Nova Scotia government's growth strategy is also reflected in KPMG's ranking of Truro, Sydney and Halifax as among the best sites in the word for doing business.

We are living in exciting economic times in the province of Nova Scotia, across Canada and around the world. It is a great pleasure to represent Pictou county communities where people are actively engaged in vibrant economic development that enhances all aspects of community life.

To the people and businesses of Pictou county and indeed all Nova Scotians, I extend my congratulations on distinguishing themselves as innovators and leaders in our eastern Canadian economy.

Herb Gray
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Paddy Torsney Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, this morning the Governor General will present 44 recipients with their insignia of membership to the Order of Canada.

The right hon. Herbert Gray has been an enduring force in Canadian politics. First elected in 1962, he was re-elected an unprecedented 12 consecutive times. Though retired from politics, he continues to serve this country as the Canadian co-chair of the International Joint Commission.

Mr. Gray's commitment to his family, his faith, his community and this country is well demonstrated.

The Order of Canada recognizes people who have made a difference to our country. It is only fitting that this remarkable man is given such recognition, Canada's highest honour for lifetime achievement.

On behalf of all colleagues, I extend my congratulations to the right hon. Herb Gray, recipient of the Companion of the Order of Canada.

Heart Month
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Laurentides, QC

Mr. Speaker, for many years the month of February has been known as Heart Month.

Despite the fact that medical research has made giant steps over the years, much remains to be done. I invite my hon. colleagues and the general public to contribute generously to the Heart Foundation's fundraising campaigns.

Let us take advantage of this month of awareness to find out about the risks of cardiovascular disease and stroke, and let us learn how to control the risks. Cardiovascular disease is striking at increasingly younger ages and is often tied to obesity and lack of exercise.

We can never overemphasize the importance of taking care of our health and inviting the people around us to do the same. And why not set a good example by taking advantage of the better weather in spring to begin a fitness plan that will help us take care of our hearts?

Ethanol Industry
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

André Harvey Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to say a few words about an announcement we made last week that is extremely positive for Quebec and the rest of Canada with regard to the ethanol expansion program.

Last Friday, February 13, it was a pleasure to announce the recipients and contributions in the first round of the ethanol expansion program, which has a total allocation of $78 million.

Seven projects, including one in Quebec, will receive funding. Commercial Alcohols, Inc. received $18 million in funding for the construction of a fuel ethanol facility in Varennes. Discussions about this facility have been ongoing for many years, and many partners, including Commercial Alcohols, Inc. and the Canadian government, are associated with it.

This commitment by the federal government will enable the company to move forward with its project financing commitments and, it says, begin construction this fall. The Varennes project will involve a total investment of some $105 million and will generate almost 1,000 jobs during construction. The facility will create about 50 permanent jobs at the plant.

Finally—

Ethanol Industry
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member for Skeena.

Oil and Gas Industry
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Andy Burton Skeena, BC

Mr. Speaker, the offshore oil and gas industry is alive and well around the world, from the North Sea off Europe to the coast of Africa, from Cook Inlet in Alaska to the Gulf of Mexico, and even on the east coast of Canada, but not in British Columbia.

The recently tabled Royal Society of Canada report to the Minister of Natural Resources concludes there are no scientific gaps to be filled before lifting the moratoria on oil and gas development in British Columbia.

However the senior minister for B.C., Canada's environment minister, is currently forging ahead with a plan to create Scott Island marine wildlife area, an area of up to 2.7 million hectares, which would effectively prohibit oil and gas exploration in much of the Queen Charlotte basin, an area of great exploration potential.

The natural resources minister is supportive of the west coast oil and gas possibilities. Clearly the environment minister is not. It is unacceptable for a divided federal cabinet to waffle on an issue as important as offshore oil and gas development is to the future of British Columbia.

Maritime Provinces
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Mark Eyking Sydney—Victoria, NS

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the worst winter blizzard in decades blasted the Maritime provinces dumping 90 centimetres of snow in 24 hours. This is the third major weather event to hit the area in six months.

Early last fall Hurricane Juan paid an unforgettable visit to the region. Then in January a frigid air mass dropped temperatures to minus 30°. Now, P.E.I. and Nova Scotia are covered with a big blanket. Age old records were broken as the snow fell and strong winds piled huge drifts. Snow plows were called off the roads and both provinces have declared a state of emergency.

The weather gods seem to have their attention focused on eastern Canada. On behalf of all members, I extend our concern and best wishes to the residents of P.E.I. and Nova Scotia and tell them that spring is just around the corner.

CN Rail
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

NDP

Bill Blaikie Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the strike at Canadian National Railway has the potential to be an ugly one. The government needs to take an aggressive, hands-on approach to this major national labour dispute.

The reason for this is quite simple. CN top management is now primarily American and cares not what it does to Canadian workers, communities, values or traditions. Replacement workers, or scabs, are not something that was ever contemplated in the context of past rail strikes.

This time CN is actively training scabs, or as in Toronto already, bringing in American workers from Illinois to help break the strike. This is outrageous. If this Liberal government, which privatized CN in the first place, allows this to happen, then the Prime Minister might as well run up the American flag and admit that our largest railway is owned and operated by interests and values that come from somewhere else.

Asking railroaders to accept minimal increases while profits soar and bonuses for management proliferate is unacceptable. I urge the Minister of Labour to use the Canada Labour Code and the full extent of her powers to prevent this attack on Canadian workers from succeeding.

Île Dupas
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Bloc

Roger Gaudet Berthier—Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, on January 4 in my riding of Berthier—Montcalm, the municipality of La Visitation-de-l'Île-Dupas launched the tricentennial celebrations of Île Dupas.

The festivities began with a mass celebrated by Bishop Gérard Drainville, who grew up on the island.

A period ball held on February 14 was a huge success. I invite the public to take part in the various activities that will be held throughout the year.

I want to congratulate the founding families who built this beautiful village on the banks of the St. Lawrence.

I also want to highlight the excellent work of a dynamic team, including the tricentennial committee chair, Victor Drainville, as well as the contributions made by the mayor, Maurice Désy and the entire municipal council.

It was a pleasure to personally take part in this event, and I wish them great success throughout the year.

Montreal High Lights Festival
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Marcel Proulx Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is my pleasure to acknowledge the opening of the 5th edition of the Montreal High Lights Festival.

Yesterday afternoon, Montrealers embarked upon the 11-day winter festival of Quebec's largest city with a flurry of free activities and top-quality performances.

This celebration of the winter season is much like Winterlude, which we celebrate every year in the national capital region.

Montreal High Lights is offering a variety of activities for the young and the not so young until the end of the month.

This year's program is made up of three festivals in one: wining and dining, performing arts, and the celebration of light.

I wish Montrealers a happy Montreal High Lights Festival.

Official Languages
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Deborah Grey Edmonton North, AB

Mr. Speaker, last Saturday I was called at home and asked if I would take part in a survey on Hockey Night in Canada. By the third question, I realized what was going on. I asked, this is not about Hockey Night in Canada, it is all about Don Cherry, is it not? Sheepishly, she said yes.

The questions were veiled by mixing in other names, but every time it circled back to Don. Was he racist, was he sexist, she asked? I told her and I will tell you, Mr. Speaker, I think that is despicable. Such labels are hateful, not simply information gathering.

She also asked what I thought of the seven second delay proposal to be able to blitz any comments by Cherry. I told her and I will tell you, Mr. Speaker, I think that is despicable.

The underlying question is, do we have free speech in this country or do we not? What does CBC stand for--Censorship Broadcasting Corporation? I hope not.

Guess who paid for this slanderous survey? You guessed it, Mr. Speaker, you and I and every other taxpayer in the land. We fund this type of stuff unwittingly and unknowingly. Thanks a billion.

Let Don Cherry speak. Censorship is this: if I do not want to watch him, I do not have to. I can change the channel.

Arts and Cutlture
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Diane St-Jacques Shefford, QC

Mr. Speaker, on Wednesday evening, the red carpet was rolled out on Saint-Denis Street in Montreal to welcome the upper crust of the arts community for the world premiere of the highly anticipated musical Don Juan .

Critics have nothing but praise for this magnificent show. I am especially proud to hear and read comments about the young female lead role of Maria, played by Marie-Ève Janvier, a young artist from Roxton Pond, in my riding.

The very talented Marie-Ève, who has worked tirelessly, what with flamenco lessons and fencing lessons, is on her way to becoming a new entertainment star.

With more than 200,000 copies of the album sold and Don Juan nominated for a Juno Award last week, Marie-Ève, whose opening night performance won her rave reviews, must feel like all her sacrifices have paid off.

Congratulations and I wish the entire cast the success they deserve.

Health
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rob Merrifield Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, almost five years ago, Oakville teenager Vanessa Young died of heart failure after taking a prescription medication.

The inquest into Vanessa's death recommended mandatory reporting by health professionals of all serious adverse drug reactions to Health Canada within 48 hours. Health Canada has not acted on that recommendation.

Less than 10% of all adverse reactions are reported each year. Studies suggest that up to 10,000 Canadians die each year due to adverse reactions like Vanessa's. We do not really know how many are dying because reporting is voluntary and so very few events are actually being reported.

My private member's motion, to be debated today, calls on the government to consider making it mandatory for health professionals to report all serious adverse drug reactions.

This House has an opportunity to make an important statement on a matter which affects children, adults and the elderly. The problem is only going to get worse unless we act now.

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:10 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, the sponsorship scandal is a disturbing tale of corruption, inactivity, denial and now cover-up.

The latest that the Prime Minister would have received this report, this damning indictment of his government, was December 12. Knowing of the existence of this bombshell, the Prime Minister then pushed back the date of the return of Parliament.

If the Prime Minister was really concerned about action, transparency and getting to the bottom of this, why did he delay the opening of Parliament?

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Edmonton West
Alberta

Liberal

Anne McLellan Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Speaker, as the House is aware, the Prime Minister immediately cancelled the sponsorship program upon becoming Prime Minister.

That was one of the first things that he did. Then, as soon as the Auditor General's report was tabled in the House, we introduced a comprehensive plan to respond to the concerns of the Auditor General to ensure that all Canadians have the opportunity to know what happened here.

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, the fact is that the government waited two months and the money is still being paid out.

The Prime Minister's communications officer apparently does not communicate well with his boss, but they must have the same talking points. Mario Laguë refers to a secret clique and the Prime Minister refers to a small group of rogue bureaucrats. They seem to have protracted the same phrase, “Let me be clear”.

How could the top senior communications officer, during this entire sponsorship scandal, and the top financial official for the country, the then finance minister and now Prime Minister, know nothing of a one quarter billion dollar budget blunder going on under their very noses?

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Edmonton West
Alberta

Liberal

Anne McLellan Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Speaker, it is very important to remember that the former senior public servant in question had no responsibilities for the design or management of the sponsorship program. In fact, it is important for people to remember that Mr. Laguë was secretary to the cabinet committee.

I want to draw attention to the fact that it is most unfortunate that there are those who appear willing to call into question the reputation of individuals when those individuals have no opportunity to defend themselves.

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, we are talking about responsibility, not reputations. These are individuals who were trusted, supposedly by the government, to look out for taxpayers' money.

The Prime Minister is looking more and more like the man who knew too little every day. His chief communications officer is similarly supposed to have Canadians accept that he knew nothing of a communications strategy he was supposed to put in place. The man who knew the most is now in charge of saying nothing about it as the communications officer for the Prime Minister.

Why did the Prime Minister go out and hire this individual? Is the man who knew--

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. President of the Treasury Board.

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Winnipeg South
Manitoba

Liberal

Reg Alcock President of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, the member for broken deals and incomplete documents stands on his feet to make a point. The problem is that every point he has brought forward thus far has not proved to be substantive.

If he wants to ask a question about who knew what and when, he might go no further than the member for Prince Albert who has chaired the public accounts committee for 11 years and never once talked about this until we made it public.

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jason Kenney Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister's chief spin doctor, Mario Laguë, worked hand-in-hand with his cabinet boss, Alfonso Gagliano, on communications during the ad scam.

According to a top former Liberal Jonathan Murphy, Laguë attended secretive meetings to thwart access to information requests and divert attention from Auditor General's reports. A leaked memo now reveals that Laguë was in the loop on efforts to sanitize the Auditor General's report back in 2000.

If the Prime Minister is really serious about getting to the bottom of this, why did he hire, as his top spin doctor, somebody who was up to his neck in the cover-up?

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Vancouver Quadra
B.C.

Liberal

Stephen Owen Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, it is unfortunate that unsubstantiated allegations are made in the House about a public servant and now member of the PCO and the Prime Minister's staff.

Rather than making allegations in the House which are unsubstantiated and cannot be answered by the person they are directed at, I would invite the opposition to bring this evidence before one of the inquiries and processes that is underway such as the public accounts committee and/or the independent judicial inquiry.

The opportunity is there. Let us bring it forward and we will have the evidence--

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member for Calgary Southeast.

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jason Kenney Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, the evidence is in the daily newspaper if the minister would pick up the paper and read about the leaked memo, where Mario Laguë had been invited to a secret meeting which resulted in the sanitizing of the Auditor General's report in 2000. Has he not yet read Jonathan Murphy's article from the The Globe and Mail two years ago, where he, not us, implicates Mario Laguë as having been involved in secretive meetings to thwart access to information and divert attention from Auditor General's reports?

If this government is about openness and transparency, why does it hire a cover-up specialist to deal with the Prime Minister's--

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. Deputy Prime Minister.

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Edmonton West
Alberta

Liberal

Anne McLellan Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Speaker, I can only say that what I have just heard is an outrageous allegation. Let me reassure this House that in fact Mr. Laguë did not even attend the meeting that is being referred to by some hon. members of this House. Mr. Laguë had no responsibilities for the design or management of this program.

In fact, what is even more important is that Mr. Laguë is willing to appear before the public accounts committee or the public inquiry to answer any questions that may be put to him.

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Caroline St-Hilaire Longueuil, QC

Mr. Speaker, in the aftermath of the 2000 election, the chief electoral officer spoke out against any form of contribution made in such a way as to conceal the donor's identity, such as was possible with the Liberal Party's secret funds, like Liberal Party Trust Fund 2, which was in operation at the time of the sponsorship scandal.

Will this government, which claims to want to get to the bottom of things, admit that any verification of whether the misappropriated funds ended up in the secret Liberal funds will require an end to the secrecy so that the public can know the source of these secret funds before there is an election?

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Brossard—La Prairie
Québec

Liberal

Jacques Saada Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister responsible for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal Party of Canada has no secret funds.

When Bill C-24 on political party financing was being studied, that party wanted retroactivity. It backed down on that in order to get the bill passed so it could obtain public funding for political parties. Now they want to use another approach to get the retroactivity they did not obtain at the time, and did not want, because they wanted the public funds.

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Caroline St-Hilaire Longueuil, QC

Mr. Speaker, as well as the special funds, we do not know who is behind the Liberal MPs' secret funds. The chief electoral officer himself is the one saying that there are apparently millions of dollars in those funds.

In order for the public to know, before the election, where the sponsorship money ended up, would it not be to the government's advantage to take its inspiration from the transparency the chief electoral officer is recommending and reveal immediately the identity of the people behind the secret Liberal funds?

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Brossard—La Prairie
Québec

Liberal

Jacques Saada Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister responsible for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I think it may be time for the Bloc Quebecois to find something else to talk about.

I repeat again. Despite the allegations of these colleagues, the Liberal Party of Canada has no secret fund. Any question relating to such a secret fund is unacceptable; there is no secret fund.

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Benoît Sauvageau Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Chief Electoral Officer, not the Bloc Quebecois, has several times denounced the use of trust funds, which he calls the “black hole of political financing”. This practice was current at the same time the communications firms, friends of the Liberal Party, were filling their pockets with sponsorship money.

Will the government—which prides itself on transparency—admit that it is important to know whether or not the contributions made to Liberal candidates in 2000 through the secret slush funds came from these very communications firms?

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Brossard—La Prairie
Québec

Liberal

Jacques Saada Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister responsible for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, we have been very clear in saying that the commission of inquiry that has been established can go absolutely anywhere it wants and question whomever it wishes, in order to get to the bottom of things.

The second thing is that on January 1, 2004, Bill C-24 on political party financing, which we examined during the last session, became law. Before that date any existing trust funds, or the people who managed them, had a choice: they could transfer these funds to ridings so that the money could be used for political purposes, or they could respect the $1,000 contribution ceiling across the county. That is now over.

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Benoît Sauvageau Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Bourassa is about to have a breakdown, but I will ask my other question.

The Prime Minister has told us that he wishes to be transparent in the inquiry into sponsorships. Is the government willing to admit that we will never know the extent of this scandal until and unless we know who contributed to these slush funds?

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Brossard—La Prairie
Québec

Liberal

Jacques Saada Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister responsible for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I do not know if my language is incorrect, incomprehensible or unintelligible, but I shall repeat for the umpteenth time: there are no secret slush funds in the Liberal Party of Canada.

National Defence
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, President Bush is weaponizing space. New evidence makes that clearer than ever. The U.S. federal budget has allocated funds for space based missile interceptors. The U.S. air force has unveiled its plans to put weapons into orbit. That means space.

The new arms race is underway and Liberals remain silent. Will the minister of defence stand in his place today and condemn George Bush's plans for weaponizing space?

National Defence
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Nepean—Carleton
Ontario

Liberal

David Pratt Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I want to make it very clear once again. We have had two debates in the House this week. I have made these points on a number of occasions, but I will make them again.

The official policy of the Government of Canada is one of non-weaponization of space. The Prime Minister has said that and the Minister of Foreign Affairs has said that.

In addition to that, the official policy of the United States government is one of non-weaponization of space. They do have the ability to research various programs in the United States, but before they deploy anything there has to be a change of policy and that has not taken place.

National Defence
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, if the government does not intend to see space weaponized, then why will it not stand up and condemn the plans of George Bush to do exactly that?

Today's Ottawa Citizen reports that Bush's plan, and I quote, “echoes [the] former U.S. president's...Star Wars scheme”. Yesterday Russia tested a hypersonic weapon designed to penetrate missile shields. Yet when New Democrats raise these concerns, Liberals accuse us of scaremongering.

I ask the minister again: If this is not a new arms race, what is?

National Defence
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Nepean—Carleton
Ontario

Liberal

David Pratt Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, part of the reason why the NDP has been criticized on this issue is because they have laid before the Canadian public a number of specious arguments. The NDP has talked about $1 trillion being spent on ballistic missile defence. That is absolutely absurd. They talked about nuclear tipped warheads being used for ballistic missile defence. That is absolutely absurd. It is not part of the existing program.

The NDP needs a credibility check on this issue.

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rahim Jaffer Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister would have Canadians believe that he can get their money back from his Liberal friends. Yesterday the Auditor General was highly dismissive of this promise, saying, and I quote, “I think it will be difficult to do that, given the lack of documentation that we found in the files”.

The Liberal Party set up this program to hide this money and only the Liberal Party knows where it is. How does the Prime Minister expect to keep his promise?

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Winnipeg South
Manitoba

Liberal

Reg Alcock President of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, this is a serious issue. The junior Joe McCarthys on the other side of the House stand up all the time, making all sorts of slanderous statements, smearing individuals and smearing competent public servants, but they have yet to do what I have been asking them to do for two weeks: to put a single credible fact on the table.

If the hon. member people believes that people have been fraudulently dealing with public--

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member for Edmonton—Strathcona.

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rahim Jaffer Edmonton—Strathcona, AB

Mr. Speaker, this is about the Prime Minister keeping his promise and, something the government knows very little about, a commitment to Canadians. The Prime Minister claims he respects Canadians and their tax dollars, yet everything he is doing is absolutely the opposite. He dodges questions about his involvement and continues to shovel advertising money to his friends at Groupe Everest.

Now we know the money cannot be recovered. How are Canadians supposed to trust the Prime Minister when there is no way he can recover this money?

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Winnipeg South
Manitoba

Liberal

Reg Alcock President of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, let me see if I have this right. The member asks how we can trust the Prime Minister. This is the member from the party that put an incomplete document on the table alleging that it was a statement of fact. They did not have the courage to put the whole document on the table.

However, let us ask the Auditor General what she thinks about this: “I would say, as I have said before, that I believe the Prime Minister is taking this very seriously and has taken serious measures to address the concerns...”. That is Sheila Fraser, Auditor General of Canada, yesterday.

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, $100 million and no paper trail: How does the Prime Minister expect to recover those lost millions from the sponsorgate scandal?

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Vancouver Quadra
B.C.

Liberal

Stephen Owen Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, we have appointed a special counsel for the recovery of funding flowing from this program. That lawyer and his firm are already aggressively tracing money. They will be following it from the source of the sponsorship program to wherever it might lead.

Where money can be recovered, aggressive civil action will be taken to recover it. Where criminal activity is indicated, referrals will continue to be made to the RCMP. When any of us in the House or outside the House have knowledge of improper activity, criminal or illegal in some other way, they will--

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

The hon. member for Renfrew--Nipissing--Pembroke.

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Cheryl Gallant Renfrew—Nipissing—Pembroke, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister has given his personal guarantee to recover the stolen money. Does he intend to take it out of Liberal Party coffers?

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Vancouver Quadra
B.C.

Liberal

Stephen Owen Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, the investigations that are underway, as well as the work by the special counsel, will be tracing the funds from their source in the sponsorship program to wherever they might lead. If that leads to the Liberal Party, the Prime Minister has said it will be followed there. If that leads somewhere else, it will be followed there.

We do not start at some imaginary place and work backward. We start at the source of the funds and follow it wherever it might lead.

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, in the fall of 2000, the director of government communications took part in a secret meeting, the purpose of which was to cover up the sponsorship scandal. Mr. Laguë is now the current Prime Minister's communications director. Earlier this week, the Prime Minister said that he had personally questioned each of his ministers and caucus members to learn if they knew anything about the scandal, and they all said no.

Did it not occur to the Prime Minister to ask his communications director the same question before he hired him?

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Brossard—La Prairie
Québec

Liberal

Jacques Saada Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister responsible for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, let us consider the facts. Mr. Laguë never took part in this meeting. He simply was not there. Allegations that Mr. Laguë's conduct was questionable during a meeting he never attended are nothing more than smear tactics. This is unacceptable. Repeating something 100 times will not make it come true.

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, when the entire media knows, how can the Prime Minister, who says he wants to get to the bottom of things, explain that he has chosen as his close advisor a man who tried to cover up the sponsorship scandal?

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Brossard—La Prairie
Québec

Liberal

Jacques Saada Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister responsible for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, it is quite unbelievable to see the opposition members so obsessed by their questions that they do not even hear the answers. The answer is simple. Not only did Mr. Laguë not attend that meeting, but he offered to appear before the parliamentary committee or commission to respond and have a normal opportunity to defend himself against a totally gratuitous and unfounded accusation. It is a matter of fundamental justice to wait for someone to appear to defend himself.

Business Development Bank of Canada
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, on Wednesday, the Board of Directors of the Business Development Bank of Canada renewed its trust in its President, Michel Vennat. Contrary to what the Minister of Industry has stated, she does indeed have the authority to revoke his mandate under section 6 of the Business Development Bank of Canada Act.

Now that the bank has decided not to appeal the ruling in the Beaudoin case, and given the harsh findings in the Michel Vennat case, will the Minister of Industry confirm that she will proceed with the revocation of Michel Vennat's mandate?

Business Development Bank of Canada
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Stoney Creek
Ontario

Liberal

Tony Valeri Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, the BDC is a crown corporation with its own board of directors. The board of directors has reaffirmed its confidence in its president. We will obviously re-evaluate this based on the board of directors' response. After we evaluate the situation we will make a recommendation to government.

Business Development Bank of Canada
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, in light of Michel Vennat's blatantly reprehensible actions, which were condemned by the tribunal in the strongest possible terms, does the minister intend to call for Michel Vennat's resignation from the position of President of the Business Development Bank of Canada? Since the legislation gives her the authority, she should take action, and this government should take a stand.

Business Development Bank of Canada
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Stoney Creek
Ontario

Liberal

Tony Valeri Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, crown corporations operate at arm's length. They have a board of directors. The board of directors has a fiduciary responsibility. The board of directors has, in fact, reasserted and reaffirmed its confidence in the president.

We will look at that situation and make a recommendation to the government. The Minister of Industry will do that, and we look forward to that recommendation.

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy South Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, we do know where some of the sponsorship money went. Several thousand dollars of taxpayer money was misappropriated by one member of Parliament in order to put his name on a Quebec college mural. This was a clear abuse of public funds for the personal advertising benefit of a member of Parliament.

Has the Minister of Public Works and Government Services asked the member of Parliament for Beauce to pay back the $5,600?

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Brossard—La Prairie
Québec

Liberal

Jacques Saada Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister responsible for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I am absolutely convinced that my colleague acted in good faith. There is a commission to investigate. There is a standing committee of the House dealing with these matters. My colleague is quite prepared to appear before them. I would suggest that we do not jump to conclusions too fast just in case it might be another case of smearing.

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gerald Keddy South Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, obviously the writing was on the wall for the member of Parliament for Beauce. However it is a clear misuse of public money, an abuse of parliamentary office and just another chapter in this Liberal culture of corruption.

Will the Minister of Public Works and Government Services demand the money be paid back?

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Vancouver Quadra
B.C.

Liberal

Stephen Owen Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, this is an issue, among a number, that is being looked into by all of the processes set up. If there was money improperly spent it will be asked to be repaid.

Employment Insurance
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Pallister Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, so many scandals, so little time.

Lost in scandalmania over the last two weeks is the biggest scandal of them all. No, it is not the $100 million handed to Liberal friends and cronies. No, it is not the hundreds of millions for Challenger jets. And no, it is not even the billions of dollars for the failed gun registry. It is bigger than that. It is the $44 billion EI overcharge. The Prime Minister has politicized EI and has used it as his personal cash cow.

Will he commit today to restoring an arm's length, independent, rate setting process for employment insurance in Canada?

Employment Insurance
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Ahuntsic
Québec

Liberal

Eleni Bakopanos Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development (Social Economy)

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for the question but let us stick to the facts again. Let us quote what the Auditor General said in her report on March, 19, 2002. I quote:

Since 1986 the activities of the EI Account have been included in the accounts of the government....

In our view, this is the correct method of accounting and it complies with accounting standards.... The EI Account is an important component of the government's reporting entity and should be included in the government's accounts.

Employment Insurance
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Brian Pallister Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, it is a blatant ripoff and the member knows it.

The Prime Minister has tried to point the finger at everybody. He has pointed the finger at the bureaucracy, pointed the finger at Quebec politicians and pointed the finger at Chrétien loyalists. The Prime minister is running out of fingers.

However, I know who will give him the finger. It is the Canadian taxpayer. If he wants a finger, he should talk to them. The $44 billion is owed to them. It does not belong to the Liberal Party.

When does the government plan to stop pointing the finger of blame at everybody else and start pointing the finger where it belongs, at itself?

Employment Insurance
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Ahuntsic
Québec

Liberal

Eleni Bakopanos Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development (Social Economy)

Is there a question there, Mr. Speaker?

I reject the premise of the hon. member's question. I will repeat what I said earlier. The EI surplus is a national amount only. Its purpose is to inform the setting of premium rates. I know the other side is not interested in the facts but, as the Auditor General said, it is the correct method of accounting.

Public Service
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Eugène Bellemare Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Mr. Speaker, our public servants often hesitate to disclose certain activities such as the waste of public funds because they fear the consequences for their career advancement, as well as other possible retaliation.

Could the President of the Privy Council inform the House when he intends to introduce a bill that would protect whistleblowers' careers in the federal public service?

Public Service
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Bourassa
Québec

Liberal

Denis Coderre President of the Queen's Privy Council for Canada

Mr. Speaker, that is a very important question because, in fact, we have an extraordinary public service with a sense of loyalty and a sense of duty.

Thus we must do everything to protect them, if they become aware of things. I am pleased to tell the House that in a few weeks I will be introducing a bill on whistleblowing to protect our public service, which does an extraordinary job.

Trust Funds
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Lorne Nystrom Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

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

The Chief Electoral Officer has expressed grave concern that many MPs, like the member for Trinity—Spadina, have trust accounts or trust funds that are in fact secret bank accounts totalling millions of dollars. Bill C-24 election expenses did not cover trust funds.

I ask the Deputy Prime Minister whether it is the intention of the government to introduce legislation requiring MPs to disclose whether they have trust funds, how much money might be in those trust funds and what the source of funding would be if they have a trust fund,

Trust Funds
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Brossard—La Prairie
Québec

Liberal

Jacques Saada Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister responsible for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I believe my colleague is not quite correct when he says that Bill C-24 does not cover trust funds. It does cover the possibility of any moneys being held outside of political riding associations to be transferred to these riding associations before January 1, 2004. Otherwise, these other organizations would be limited in their contributions for political purposes to the $1,000 maximum cap.

Indeed, whatever decision had to be made had to be made within the purview of the law, and it was.

Income Tax Act
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, for four years now, with the futility of Diogenes, I have asked the government to put an end to the outrageous tax loophole where companies can write off their fines and penalties as a business expense.

It adds insult to injury to consider that thieving Liberal communication firms will now be able to avail themselves of this public policy perversity.

The government could put an end to this mockery of justice with one simple sentence added to the Income Tax Act. Why will it not do the right thing before the sponsorship scoundrels thumb their noses at us again and write off their fines as a business expense?

Income Tax Act
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Brome—Missisquoi
Québec

Liberal

Denis Paradis Minister of State (Financial Institutions)

Mr. Speaker, we are looking into this matter to determine the appropriateness of imposing new legislative restrictions on companies.

The Supreme Court of Canada ruled that fines and penalties could be deductible in so far as they constitute business expenses, unless the breach is so egregious or repulsive that the fine subsequently imposed could not be justified as being incurred for the purpose of producing income. It is being looked into.

Employment Insurance
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, we know the surplus in the EI fund could pay tuition for a five year program for three million students in the country. One can imagine what that could do for the workforce.

The Auditor General remarks that the current surplus in the EI account is now three times the maximum reserve that the chief actuary of human resources development considers sufficient.

Accordingly, in my opinion, the government did not observe the intent of the Employment Insurance Act.

Why is the Prime Minister breaking the laws of the country?

Employment Insurance
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Ahuntsic
Québec

Liberal

Eleni Bakopanos Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development (Social Economy)

Mr. Speaker, I said this earlier but I think I had better repeat the facts. It was the Auditor General who said that the EI account has been consolidated with the books of Canada since 1986 on the advice of the Auditor General. I want to repeat again what she said, and I am quoting:

In our view, this is the correct method of accounting and it complies with accounting standards.... The EI Account is an important component of the government's reporting entity and should be included in the government's accounts.

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn St. John's West, NL

Mr. Speaker, let us look at the sponsorship scandal. In Newfoundland and Labrador, $250 million could have paid the salary of 556 new police officers for eight years. It could have bought 8,333 police cruisers. It could have paid an additional 213 full time nurses for 25 years. It could have paid for 175 MRI machines and two months of the total Newfoundland and Labrador health budget.

Will the Liberal government start focusing on the priorities of Canadians rather than the priorities of its friends?

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Winnipeg South
Manitoba

Liberal

Reg Alcock President of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, I would like to offer, and I could do it as early as next week, to run a workshop for the members on mathematics and the files in question.

The member stands up and says that there are $250 million at play. It is the same thing they said about the $6,500 boondoggle for HRDC. The members simply do not get it. The Auditor General talked about this a lot yesterday. It is not $250 million. It is not $100 million. It is some figure quite a bit less than that. The Auditor General herself is having difficulty figuring it out.

Agriculture
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gerry Ritz Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

There you go, Mr. Speaker, if you have nothing to say, say it loudly.

The Minister of Agriculture must realize by now that the agriculture sector in this country cannot heal itself.

Two weeks ago he said that he would go back to cabinet and ask for more money for our cash-strapped farmers.

I would like to know when he pled his case with cabinet and when farmers across the country can expect a bankable program.

Agriculture
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Sydney—Victoria
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Mark Eyking Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food (Agri-Food)

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. member for asking me my first question in the House. I will try to do my best to answer it.

Over the last eight months beef farmers have faced a crisis. We have many programs in place, such as the NISA program and the BSE program. We also had the CAISP rolling out last month in which we put $15 million. We also have the cull program that will be coming out. We are just waiting for inventories from the provinces.

I can assure the hon. member that we will be there for the farmers with more programs in the upcoming months.

Agriculture
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Gerry Ritz Battlefords—Lloydminster, SK

Mr. Speaker, I thank the parliamentary secretary for staying true to Liberal form and not really giving us an answer.

For the first time in history Statistics Canada shows a negative $13 million balance for all agricultural sectors across the country. That is everybody. The primary producers of our safe quality food supply are in peril. They are going down hard.

Since the government is powerless to re-open borders, will it at least redesign its programs to get money to the farm gate? That is the trick.

Agriculture
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Sydney—Victoria
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Mark Eyking Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food (Agri-Food)

Mr. Speaker, we are dealing with this from all angles. We are dealing with it on an international level in Washington and we are also dealing with it at the local level.

In 2002, $3.5 billion went to farmers. Last year we paid over $5 billion to farmers. We will be paying more.

Employment Insurance
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Laurentides, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the human resources minister completely dismissed the difficult situation unemployed workers on the North Shore are going through. It is so bad, these people have resorted to blocking highway 138 in order to be heard.

Will the minister act now to avoid sentencing the unemployed to destitution, and stop hiding behind her unfair employment insurance system?

Employment Insurance
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Ahuntsic
Québec

Liberal

Eleni Bakopanos Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development (Social Economy)

Mr. Speaker, no one here has sentenced these unemployed workers. We would like to remind the hon. member that we too are concerned about those without work. We have transferred some $600 million for employment insurance to Quebec every year, precisely to help people find work and keep it.

The issue affects all seasonal workers. We are going to continue to work with our partners, regional development offices, employers and community agencies in order to find long-term solutions for these workers.

Employment Insurance
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Laurentides, QC

Mr. Speaker, how can the minister continue to amass surpluses in the billions of dollars, while unemployed people are not receiving benefits to help them through the crisis? If they are truly concerned, let them act now.

Employment Insurance
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Ahuntsic
Québec

Liberal

Eleni Bakopanos Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development (Social Economy)

Mr. Speaker, we have already said we are taking action. We are working with our partners to find solutions for these workers. No one here is happy about the fact that people are without work. We are the ones who have created the most jobs in the past 10 years and we have lowered the unemployment rate. That is what Canadians want.

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jim Gouk Kootenay—Boundary—Okanagan, BC

Mr. Speaker, in 2002 I pointed out to the then minister of public works that VIA Rail had laundered $1 million from the Liberal advertising scam and, worse, that Lafleur Communications Marketing was paid $112,000 to deliver the cheque to VIA and then donated $57,000 to the Liberal Party.

The minister, who is now the Minister of Finance, stated that he too was troubled by this file and had referred it to the RCMP for investigation.

Could he now tell us what the outcome of that RCMP investigation was?

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Vancouver Quadra
B.C.

Liberal

Stephen Owen Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, no. The police investigations are ongoing.

The hon. member did raise a concern, a concern that was also very much on the minds of members of the government and the Minister of Public Works at that time, which resulted in referrals to the Auditor General, a forensic audit of hundreds of files within public works, further administrative reviews and further referrals to the RCMP.

The government is taking these issues seriously. When we received the latest report of the Auditor General, we put in place, under the Prime Minister's direction, an unprecedented array of processes to--

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Order. The member for Kootenay—Boundary—Okanagan.

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jim Gouk Kootenay—Boundary—Okanagan, BC

Mr. Speaker, is this not wonderful. There has been two years spent on a single file and there is still no answer.

Perhaps the reason the RCMP have not completed their investigation of VIA is that they themselves are the subject of an investigation as part of the same money laundering scam.

Does the minister believe Canadians should ever expect to receive the real truth when one of the participants involved in the scam is tasked with examining the others?

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Vancouver Quadra
B.C.

Liberal

Stephen Owen Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, members on this side of the House have great confidence in the RCMP, as do most people in the world. It is recognized as one of the top law enforcement agencies in the world.

However, because of the involvement of an administrative arm of the RCMP in this situation, the Sûreté du Québec has taken over that part of the investigation.

Citizenship and Immigration
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Marcel Proulx Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, in the Speech from the Throne the government promised to do its part to ensure speedier recognition of foreign credentials.

All of us have heard of medical doctors who have no choice but to drive taxis and Ph.D.s and engineers who are working in bars and restaurants. This is not a new problem.

What different approach will the government take to finally address this escalating problem?

Citizenship and Immigration
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Vancouver Centre
B.C.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, this is an important and very complex issue crossing many departments. As the parliamentary secretary responsible, I am coordinating an interdepartmental action plan that is both immediate and long term.

There is a project in place to address the shortage of doctors and one ongoing to address the shortage of nurses.

We are partnering with stakeholders and provinces to facilitate language training, pan-Canadian assessment tools and apprenticeship opportunities. An Internet portal is being developed with information for potential immigrants about requirements for credentials and job opportunities.

Industry
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Rajotte Edmonton Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, in September 2003 the previous industry minister confirmed in the House that there was an internal investigation into bribery and fraud in the industrial research assistance program and promised to report back as soon as possible.

According to the Globe and Mail this scandal involves at least half a million dollars, and three employees from the National Research Council have been fired.

The government has had plenty of time to get to the bottom of this scandal. Will the government finally table the full results of this investigation?

Industry
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Stoney Creek
Ontario

Liberal

Tony Valeri Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I will certainly take the question under advisement and look at providing that information as quickly as possible. Investigations do require thoroughness and I am sure that is what is happening in this particular case.

Industry
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Rajotte Edmonton Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, the fact is that the former industry minister confirmed this in September 2003. This investigation involving the RCMP has been ongoing since August 2002.

At least three employees have been fired. At least half a million dollars and perhaps $25 million is at stake. The government has a responsibility to come clean on this issue. Canadian taxpayers deserve to be told when the investigation will be completed, how many employees were involved and how much taxpayer money was lost through bribery and fraud.

Industry
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Stoney Creek
Ontario

Liberal

Tony Valeri Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, in fact when this information is fully completed and available to be tabled in the House and presented to Canadians, we will do exactly that.

The fact that there is an investigation shows very clearly that we want to get to the bottom of this. We will be very transparent with Canadians in every aspect of governing.

Taxation
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, clearly, the Liberal government has a real love affair with Barbados since CSL International moved its headquarters there.

Thanks to the government, Canadian investors in Barbados are winning on all fronts. On the one hand, the tax treaty allows no information to be exchanged and, on the other, the Income Tax regulations exempt them from paying taxes in Canada.

What is the government waiting for to resolve this totally immoral situation that the Bloc Quebecois and the Auditor General have been condemning for the last ten years?

Taxation
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Brome—Missisquoi
Québec

Liberal

Denis Paradis Minister of State (Financial Institutions)

Mr. Speaker, it is common knowledge that Canada has concluded tax treaties with over 80 countries.

The purpose of these treaties is, first, to prevent double taxation and, second, to restrict tax evasion.

We are closely monitoring all these tax treaties and we are continually seeking ways to improve them.

Veterans Affairs
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Roy Cullen Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, yesterday the Minister of National Defence and the Minister of Veterans Affairs announced a long overdue $50 million recognition program for Canadian veterans who were treated as human guinea pigs in the testing of chemical warfare agents by their own government.

Why after 50 years of silence has the Government of Canada now decided to recognize these brave Canadian veterans?

Veterans Affairs
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Nepean—Carleton
Ontario

Liberal

David Pratt Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, the government is recognizing these brave Canadian veterans because now is the right time to do it.

On behalf of the Prime Minister and the Government of Canada, I want to express our deepest regrets to these veterans and their families who have suffered far too long in silence. All Canadians owe them a debt of gratitude.

We hope that yesterday's announcement of a payment and recognition program will allow these veterans who have served Canada with pride and distinction to move forward with the respect and admiration they so richly deserve.

Business Development Bank
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Joe Clark Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, earlier in question period, the Minister of Transport confirmed that the government is reviewing the decision of the board of the Business Development Bank to keep Michel Vennat in place. That review could be done quickly and no one would want its results to disappear into the mists of an election campaign.

Can the government give us an undertaking now that that speedy review will be finished and a report made to Parliament by the 15th of March, a reasonable date?

Business Development Bank
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Winnipeg South
Manitoba

Liberal

Reg Alcock President of the Treasury Board and Minister responsible for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the right hon. member for his question. I would like to thank him for the respect in the tone he has used on this very serious issue.

I have been tasked with conducting this review. I have assured everybody of two things. I will be as thorough, as careful and as responsible as I can, and I will be concluding this matter as quickly as I can, well before the date the hon. member mentioned.

National Defence
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the defence minister.

One trillion dollars is the total cost for a space based weapons system according to the U.S. Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. If the minister has not heard of the threat of nuclear tips, he is even more out of touch than even we have feared.

If Russia's testing of hypersonic weapons and the Americans' putting weapons into orbit is not a new arms race, what in the name of heaven would the Minister of National Defence call it?

National Defence
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Nepean—Carleton
Ontario

Liberal

David Pratt Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, a good portion of this boils down to basic arithmetic. The missile defence agency in the U.S. is spending $9 billion per year on missile defence. At the rate of spending that would be required in order to reach $1 trillion, it would take over 100 years to achieve that.

This is not something that is of concern to us certainly in terms of the $1 trillion figure because I think it is patently obvious that the figure has no substance. What is more important is the fact that Canada will continue to work through international fora to limit the proliferation of weapons.

Agriculture
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Lynne Yelich Blackstrap, SK

Mr. Speaker, the agriculture industry is the third largest employer of Canadians. It is one of our top five industries. Agriculture is in a crisis. The industry is sinking and the farmers are going down. Their loans are being called in. The industry is on the verge of collapse. This is an emergency and needs to be treated like an emergency.

I would like the Deputy Prime Minister to tell me if she will ask the Prime Minister to take emergency measures to address this crisis and to do it now.

Agriculture
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Sydney—Victoria
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Mark Eyking Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food (Agri-Food)

Mr. Speaker, we are taking measures on all angles to deal with this agriculture issue. It is not the third but the second most important industry in this country. We are dealing with it in Washington. We are dealing with it on an international basis. We are dealing with the farmers and we are working with the stakeholders and the beef industry to deal with this issue down in the United States.

Foreign Affairs
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Bloc

Benoît Sauvageau Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, Canada's advice to travellers is clear. Its web site states: “Canadians should not travel to Haiti. Canadians in Haiti should leave while commercial means are available.” Yet there are some people in Canada awaiting deportation to Haiti.

In light of the circumstances and the violence at this time, can the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration assure us that Canada will deport no one else to Haiti and that she will immediately declare a moratorium on deportations?

Foreign Affairs
Oral Question Period

Noon

Brossard—La Prairie
Québec

Liberal

Jacques Saada Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister responsible for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I will be pleased to forward this question to the minister, who will respond as quickly as possible.

Firearms Program
Oral Question Period

Noon

Canadian Alliance

Garry Breitkreuz Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, on Monday, the Minister of Public Safety did not have her facts straight. I would like to quote what the minister said:

In fact, we have asked Radio Canada to provide us with its numbers and its calculations which to date it has refused to do.

The producers of CBC's Zone Libre said that no one from the Canada Firearms Centre or the minister's office ever contacted them.

My question is very simple. Why did the minister mislead the House? Why?

Firearms Program
Oral Question Period

Noon

Edmonton West
Alberta

Liberal

Anne McLellan Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Speaker, immediately after question period I will be rising on a point of order, but let me reassure everyone in this House that I did not mislead this House.

Firearms Program
Oral Question Period

Noon

The Deputy Speaker

I have a matter raised yesterday by the hon. member for Yorkton--Melville and as just mentioned, by the hon. Deputy Prime Minister.

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

Noon

Edmonton West
Alberta

Liberal

Anne McLellan Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

Mr. Speaker, I rise in relation to a question of privilege raised in the House yesterday by the hon. member for Yorkton--Melville.

Radio Canada claimed in a report aired last Friday, February 13, that costs of the firearms program had reached $2 billion. Costs of the centre to date are nowhere near that figure and we wanted Radio Canada's numbers and its calculations. The member alleged that I never called Radio Canada to ask for a clarification prior to my comments on Monday.

As I informed the House, we had asked Radio Canada for its calculations. I was informed that a call was made and a message left with Radio Canada last Sunday, prior to my comments Monday, by the official in my department who worked with the network on the story. I am informed that the message left asked for the calculations used. Radio Canada in fact confirmed receipt of that message. We received its calculations on Wednesday of this week.

For the record, I would add, that we continue to say that the cost of the program is nowhere near $2 billion. The cost of the Canada Firearms Centre to date is less than half that figure.

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

Noon

Canadian Alliance

Lynne Yelich Blackstrap, SK

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I want to make a correction to what the parliamentary secretary said when he quoted me as saying that agriculture was not the third but the second most important industry in Canada. My words were “It was the third largest employer and one of the top five industries of the nation”. I did not say as he indicated. I would like that corrected.

Points of Order
Oral Question Period

Noon

The Deputy Speaker

The House will recognize that is not respectfully a point of order. The matter of clarification has been put on the record in the House.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

Noon

Liberal

Roy Cullen Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, as the new chair of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the first report by the Standing Committee on Finance on Bill C-18, an act respecting equalization and authorizing the Minister of Finance to make certain payments related to health.

It was agreed on Thursday, February 19, 2004, to report it without amendment.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

Noon

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to present a petition today containing the names of thousands of residents of mostly Manitoba.

The petitioners wish to draw the attention of the House to the fact that trans fatty acids, or hydrogenated vegetable oils, are deadly manufactured fats which cause obesity, heart disease, and diabetes, all of which are on the rise in Canada. They point out that these trans fats not only raise the level of bad cholesterol, but they prevent the good cholesterol from clearing the circulatory system. Just one gram per day of trans fat can increase the risk of heart disease by 20%, although Canadians are eating 10 to 30 grams of this toxic poison per day. The petitioners also point out that the Liberal government's labelling program will not prevent Canadians from eating this toxic poison.

The petitioners call upon Parliament to eliminate trans fats from Canada's food supply.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jay Hill Prince George—Peace River, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions to present today on the same subject, and they come to me from citizens of mainly Kingston, Ontario, and Quebec.

The petitioners note that housing accommodation provided by the Canadian Forces Housing Authority on base serves a valuable purpose by allowing families to live in a military community and have access to services to address their specific needs. They also note that many of those housing units are substandard, and that they have seen dramatic increases in their rent.

The petitioners urge Parliament to immediately suspend any future rent increases for the accommodation provided by the Canadian Forces Housing Authority until such time as the Government of Canada makes substantive improvements to the living conditions of the housing provided for military families.

I expect over the coming weeks and months to present many more of these petitions.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Yukon
Yukon

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

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

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Corrections and Conditional Release Act
Government Orders

12:05 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Peter MacKay Pictou—Antigonish—Guysborough, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak on this important bill now before the House, which pertains to amendments to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.

As Conservatives, we have long held that there was need for reform in this area. The legal community, the justice community, members of the victims advocacy groups, police officers and Canadians generally have for years been expressing great concern, in particular, about the early release of offenders, the conditions which apply to those offenders who have been released into the community and the speed in many cases to which statutory release is granted.

The key word here is the word “statutory”. That is to say that individuals often convicted of violent offences, offences involving sexual assault, home invasion, brutal beatings are put back on the street regardless of their behaviour while incarcerated, and essentially have the judge's initial decision at trial abrogated. That is to say the sentence received at trial is cast aside and in many cases an arbitrary decision is based on time served, and the person is then released into the community.

The bill is one which in my view goes some distance toward addressing some of the concerns around early release. It touches upon such things as expanding the category of offenders who are ineligible for accelerated parole review and therefore increasing the period of ineligibility for accelerated day parole. In other words, the system is prevented from fast-tracking or speeding up the release of offenders.

It also requires the review of cases of every offender entitled to statutory release for the purposes of determining whether to impose additional conditions. This is important, and it touches upon another area of law where I believe there is need for reform; that is the conditions which can currently be put in place by a presiding judge or subsequent to that, a parole officer or individuals within the corrections service department.

In particular I am talking about protecting youth and children from sexual predators. I have put forward a private member's bill which would allow for a judge to bar the presence of a sexual offender, a convicted individual, from being in a dwelling house with a child when not accompanied by another adult.

The current provisions as they stand in the Criminal Code allow for the prohibition of an individual, a sexual offender, from attending a school yard, or a playground, or a place where children frequent. Sadly, it is a well known and well documented fact that the place in which sexual offences most frequently occur is in a dwelling house. Very often, equally tragic, the perpetrator is a person known to the child.

The amendment that I have put forward would allow for the judge to impose a prohibition on being in a dwelling house with a child unless there was another adult present. The inspiration came from a constituent of mine in Nova Scotia who brought this shortcoming, this anomaly in the Criminal Code to my attention some years ago.

Finally, Bill C-19 in its current form would also provide for the automatic suspension of the parole or statutory release of offenders who had received a custodial sentence with a requirement that the National Parole Board then review the case within a prescribed period of time.

In essence, the bill increases the scrutiny and the ability of our parole system to intervene at the appropriate time to review all the cases on their merit and on the facts. I believe there are still some shortcomings that I will touch upon in my remarks as they pertain to victims. I must commend individuals like Steve Sullivan, who works with the victims resource centre, for his diligence in monitoring and bringing forward information and amendments to bills such a Bill C-19.

This legislation is a response to another document, a long overdue response I would add, known as a work in progress, the Corrections and Conditional Release Act. That report from the subcommittee in May 2000 was the product of a great deal of work and effort by members of the subcommittee and others.

Similarly, I have to point out that there were 53 recommendations for enhancing public safety, assisting victims of crime and improving and reducing the administrative complexities of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.

In October of 2000 the Solicitor General at that time issued a report calling the subcommittee's report:

A welcome addition to the information, research and knowledge currently available regarding corrections and conditional release in Canada.

The Solicitor General recognized that that report:

--echoes the submissions and testimony of offenders, victims of crime, members of the bar, offender assisting agencies, police, Crown attorneys, academics and countless others...

Needless to say, the report was something that encompassed a broad, sweeping consultation of those on the ground working in the system. I would suggest again that this is the most subjective type of information that could be received from those with the working knowledge.

It took almost three years to get to the point where significant pressures brought to bear by members of the official opposition and others calling upon the Solicitor General's department, now defunct and rolled into the Public Security and Emergency Preparedness department, to meet the commitment and recommendations put forward in that earlier report.

In May 2002 the official opposition introduced a motion in the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights requesting the appearance of the Solicitor General, Commissioner of Corrections Service, the Correctional Investigator and National Parole representatives to provide a status report on what if anything had been done in response. It called upon them to give an accounting as to where they were regarding these recommendations.

The information appeared to go into the nether land and we never really heard back, except to say that there was a letter which one week before the scheduled meeting of the parliamentary secretary to the solicitor general seemed to indicate that they were prepared to respond. I would suggest that because of those pressures we now have legislation before the House.

The Conservative Party and members of the opposition have, for a long time, been calling upon the government to bring about sentencing reform. In particular another shortcoming deals specifically with the use of conditional sentences. Conditional sentences, just for a point of reference, allow for the judge to mete out a punishment that does not require incarceration, but is given in lieu of incarceration, and very often involves stringent requirements obviously aimed at curtailing the mobility of an individual. It is tantamount to home arrest. It is subject to recall and putting a person in jail if they were to breach those conditions, such as things as non-association, abstinence from drugs and alcohol and reporting conditions.

However, the difficulty is the liberal use of these conditional sentences, in particular with sex offenders and those with a propensity toward violence. My suggestion is that there should be an enumerated list in the Criminal Code that prevents a sentencing judge from meting out or using conditional sentences for crimes of violence. That would do away with some of the public confidence that has been lost over the misuse of conditional sentences, the occasional atrocities that occur when individuals with often numerous convictions are granted conditional sentences and the inappropriate use of conditional sentences, which we have seen from time to time.

In particular there was one case in Montreal which involved a multiple rape of a young woman by offenders, two at least, where the judge imposed a conditional sentence. These sentences are intended, obviously, as a last, last resort, but are not appropriate for certain crimes that are enumerated in the Criminal Code.

There are also other issues pertaining to the rights of prisoners versus the rights of victims. It has always troubled me deeply that we have a correctional investigator in the country, with a budget, who is there, rightly, to ensure that prisoners do receive basic amenities, rights and information that should be made available to them. Yet there is not a similar office for victims. There is not a victim's ombudsman's office, for example, with a commensurate budget that would represent parity in the system in terms of the rights of victims versus those of the individual.

We have taken enormous strides toward helping victims in the last number of years and I would be the first to acknowledge that, but I would suggest there is a severe anomaly when we have an investigator's office for the purposes of aiding prisoners and no such similar office for victims.

I would suggest that Bill C-19 is certainly a step in the right direction. It did come about as a result of intense pressure from the opposition and from those stakeholder groups that are most interested and affected by these changes.

The legislation has moved through Parliament over an extended period of time because of the prorogation and early election calls by the Liberal government, but it is a compilation of many submissions and testimonies of those who are best enabled and best able to assess the current justice system.

The former solicitor general did praise those involved in the production of both the report and the legislation. Similarly, I would add my voice in praise of those efforts and also the efforts of those who work at the committee at the staffing level. They are tremendously helpful in compiling the information, the often very complex and overlapping legislation and information submissions, in bringing the legislation forward.

Corrections and Conditional Release Act
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Yukon
Yukon

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, I would like to speak in support of Bill C-19 based on the fact that the subcommittee held hearings across the country to hear from Canadians, from interested parties and experts, and came up with this proposed act.

The Corrections and Conditional Release Act is the framework for federal corrections and the parole system and is highly regarded abroad. The CCRA is founded on evidence based knowledge and respect for the rule of law and human dignity.

The CCRA recognizes that public safety is best achieved by preparing offenders for their eventual return to society as law-abiding citizens and by controlling offenders who pose a risk to the safety of communities.

It is very important--and we have had this debate in society recently--to ensure that public safety is maintained against dangerous offenders, but at the same time we want to protect the public in the future. To protect the public in the future, we have to ensure that there are good rehabilitation programs so that there will be no reoffenders.

The statutory requirements to review CCRA were commenced early in 1999 by a parliamentary subcommittee. The findings were published in its report, “Towards a Just, Peaceful and Safe Society: The CCRA Five Years Later”. The conclusion was that the CCRA was fundamentally sound but there were opportunities for improvement.

Bill C-19 introduces legislation to respond to 46 of the 53 subcommittee recommendations accepted by the government. Introduction of Bill C-19 is evidence of this government's action to strengthen public safety.

A summary of the amendments includes provisions to tighten the accelerated parole review, which provides for the presumptive release of first time, non-violent federal offenders, and statutory release. As well, the victim's right to present statements at the parole board is enshrined in law.

As result of the cross-country hearings conducted by the subcommittee, there are some major amendments that the bill covers. First, it would tighten up the accelerated parole review process. We want to make sure that people are indeed safe in this process, but we also want to make sure it is effective.

Second, it would reinforce greater scrutiny of those eligible for statutory release. There have been cases of and fears about not enough review of those who become eligible for statutory release. To preserve the safety of Canadians, as has been brought up by a number of members of Parliament, we want to ensure greater scrutiny in that area.

Third, it would streamline the temporary absence process. There is no use having inefficient processes, and we wish to streamline this one.

Fourth, it would enshrine the right of victims to present a statement at National Parole Board hearings. This is only natural justice. Victims of course were involved in the whole situation and should at least be able to give their views at the National Parole Board hearings. They would feel that justice has been done. Various considerations that may have had an effect on the victims are brought forward in those statements and the whole system is transparent, open and accountable.

Fifth, the bill would permit the conditional release of terminally ill offenders on humanitarian grounds. If someone is terminally ill, temporary releases and conditional releases would make obvious sense so that they could live out their last days with their loved ones, at which time they would not be a threat to society.

These amendments of course will respond to the May 2000 report of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, entitled, “A Work in Progress: The Corrections and Conditional Release Act”.

This act was originally proclaimed in 1992. For those watching who do not understand the background, it provides the legal framework for the correctional system. It sets out:

the purpose of the correctional system and principles that guide the Correctional Service of Canada and specific measures governing its operations...;

the purpose of the conditional release system and principles that guide the National Parole Board and specific measures governing its operations; and,

the establishment of the Office of the Correctional Investigator and specific measures governing its operation--

It is very important that we release people at the correct times into the correct environments so that they are not released too early without proper scrutiny for the safety of Canadians, but at the same time it is important that we do not keep them in physical incarceration long after it has any benefit for society and long after it provides any protection to society. In fact, that reduces their ability to become contributing members of society.

The CCRA contains a review clause regarding the parliamentary review of provisions and operations of the act. Accordingly, the committee went across the country and did its review in February 1999. It provided 53 recommendations. The government's action will deal with 46 of those recommendations. Some of the changes have been accomplished through policy and program issues within current resources, but fully meeting the commitments requires a number of legislative amendments, which led to the introduction of this bill.

I would like to go into detail now on the five amendments that I listed earlier as to the technical description of how those amendments would work, but because I do not have time to put them all in, maybe I will just pick one of the technical areas from each of the five provisions that we are proposing to amend.

On the first one, the tightening of provisions relating to accelerated parole review, APR, we are going to exclude from it offenders convicted of offences such as criminal organization offences, child pornography, high treason, sexual exploitation of a person with a disability, causing bodily harm with intent using an air gun or pistol, and torture. There are three more, which I hope subsequent speakers will cover.

Under streamlining of temporary absences, we are going to give the Correctional Service of Canada sole authority to grant escorted temporary absences to offenders serving a life sentence. There are three more points under that area as well.

Under the reviewing of all statutory release cases and adding to the grounds for detention, we are going to legislate the requirement that the Correctional Service of Canada review all statutory release cases to determine whether to refer the case to the National Parole Board for detention review and whether to recommend to the board the imposition of special conditions.

Under expanding victims' rights with respect to National Parole Board hearings, we are going to enshrine in law the right of victims to present a statement at National Parole Board hearings. There is another point under this amendment.

Finally, there are a few other amendments. We are going to increase the maximum number of full time parole board members from 45 to 60. We propose to ensure that the annual and special reports of the correctional investigator would include full responses of the Correctional Service of Canada. We are going to propose that Correctional Service allow for terminally ill offenders serving life or indeterminate sentences to be released on parole on humanitarian grounds before their regular parole updates. As well, we are going to resolve a number of other technical issues.

Madam Speaker, you are doing an excellent job in your role, might I say, as well as in your role as Assistant Deputy Chair of Committees of the Whole.

I think the bill will be welcomed by all Canadians. It would provide greater scrutiny, but also allow the release of prisoners in a time slot that would make them positive contributors to society as soon as possible.

Corrections and Conditional Release Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Pickering—Ajax—Uxbridge
Ontario

Liberal

Dan McTeague Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Madam Speaker, I wish to congratulate you in your new official title and role. It has been some time since a member of an opposition party has had an opportunity to sit in the Chair. Ian McClelland did a very good job and I am sure, Madam Speaker, you are certainly up to the very noble task. It is one that I could envy and perhaps some day down the road I might be able to join you.

The legislation that is before the House, Bill C-19, is extremely important. It comes from several years of concern that had been raised about the efficacy of our sentencing provisions. It would ensure that those who are incarcerated at some point down the road have a better chance at reintegration into society. The bill is extremely important for the reason that it is faithful to the requirements and to the work that was done by the justice and legal affairs subcommittee.

My concern of course is that the legislation itself is a very vaunted and important attempt at bringing together a number of concerns in a streamlined and timely fashion.

I want to thank the hon. member for Yukon, the parliamentary secretary, who spoke at great length about some of the more impressive parts of the legislation and what the amendments would include.

There are a number of things in this bill that interest me a great deal. The effectiveness of the Corrections and Conditional Release Act, which is the framework legislation for federal correctional services and the conditional release system, has been recognized in many countries. This act is based on knowledge gleaned from research as well as on respect for the rule of law and for human dignity.

We also know that the act recognizes that the best way to ensure public safety is to prepare offenders properly for their return to the community as law-abiding citizens, and to carefully monitor those offenders who present a risk to public safety.

We know of many incidences in the past where people who have done their mandatory time and for which appropriate effective correction had not taken place. This of course defeats the purpose, not only of the individual serving the time required, but at the same time minimizes the risk to individuals to ensure there is a proper reintegration.

The mandatory revision of the legislation was undertaken in early 1999, I believe, by a parliamentary subcommittee. I would like to point out that the findings of this study are contained in the document called, “Towards a Just, Peaceful and Safe Society: The Corrections and Conditional Release Act Five Years Later”. The subcommittee found that the legislation was fundamentally valid, but that there was room for improvement.

We can always see that there is room for improvement.

Bill C-19 includes provisions based on 46 out of 53 of the subcommittee's recommendations. It is interesting to see that so many recommendations were taken to heart. These recommendations accepted by the government are a true indication of the change in perception. I am pleased to say that the government and the minister have taken this seriously.

The introduction of this bill shows the government's desire to take the necessary measures for increasing public safety.

In sum, the changes include provisions to tighter up the process for accelerated parole review—which grants the release of offenders based on the presumption that they are non-violent and serving their first federal sentence—and statutory release.

We also feel that there should be a request for support from this House. This cannot go on without the necessary resources. At some point, the House should take a stand on the big issues of the day.

I think CCRA amendments would provide the foundation, as my hon. colleague suggested a little earlier, the cornerstone for Canada's correctional system. It would aim to protect public safety by both controlling offenders and assisting them to successfully reintegrate into society.

The proposed amendments respond to the recommendations of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, following a statutory and mandatory review under the act.

One of the principle features of the bill would tighten the provisions for the accelerated parole review process and under the proposed terms fewer first time federal offenders would be eligible for release under the APR. That is an important point to understand.

The government has recognized what the committee has tried to do and that is to provide a balanced approach that would bring into account both the security needs of the public, which is in its right to demand, as well as ensuring that people who have done their time have an opportunity to integrate and reintegrate successfully.

The bill would legislate the requirement for Correctional Service of Canada to review all offenders who are entitled to statutory release for possible referral for detention or imposition of special conditions.

We have seen this from time to time, where a post-sentencing decision has been made by a judge, the person is given a particular recommendation for a sentence and that recommendation somehow in the transfer of the prisoner gets lost. It is best that we have a coordinated approach that is faithful to the requirements of our justices as they propose a sentence for an individual, particularly when it deals with the kind of crimes as enumerated quite ably by the hon. member for Yukon.

Temporary absences are an important and significant part of the gradual release process. The legislation clarifies the decision-making authority and adds the purposes for which temporary absences may be granted in order to assist with the socialization of offenders.

The legislation would enshrine the rights of victims to present a statement to the National Parole Board hearings. This is absolutely and fundamentally critical to the bill and it is long time overdue that it be recognized.

In line with humanitarian values, terminally ill offenders serving life or indeterminate sentences may be granted parole for the parole eligibility dates. In addition to these legislative proposals we have made significant progress in implementing the standing committee's recommendations through a number of policy program measures.

I have some familiarity with Canadians who are in prisons in other parts of the world and of course there are treaties between these various countries as to how to transfer these individuals. It is clear that around the world we have an understanding that if an individual is terminally ill, how the public perceives this is extremely important in extenuating circumstances.

Those kinds of considerations must be brought into consideration and latitude must be given to the Parole Board in order for it to make a decision under purely and strictly humanitarian grounds. This does not detract or diminish from the severity of the crime these individuals have perpetrated, particularly when it comes to child exploitation, a matter which many members in the House know that this member has led in a number of areas.

I believe the bill begins in a very important way to recognize what the public expects of our judicial and correctional system. Canadians want outcomes that will promote better, healthier, and safer neighbourhoods and communities at the end of the day.

Corrections and Conditional Release Act
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Chicoutimi—Le Fjord
Québec

Liberal

André Harvey Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources

Madam Speaker, thank you for this opportunity to speak for the second time today on an important matter.

This morning, during members' statements, I spoke about a plant to be built in Varennes, and about the whole ethanol issue. The future is in the hands of governments who believe it is important to put forward solutions and initiatives with significant environmental impact.

We are proving this, despite the little ups and downs we are experiencing at present in connection with the sponsorship issue—

Corrections and Conditional Release Act
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

Corrections and Conditional Release Act
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

André Harvey Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

—which is creating much hubbub among my Bloc Quebecois colleagues.

They are happy, but their happiness is very short-lived. Hon. members know that they were pretty much on artificial life support until a few days ago. Then, this event came along, in the shape of the Auditor General's report, and their popularity in the polls has gone up a bit.

In life, though, reality always catches up with us in the end. I do not want to be a prophet of doom for my Bloc friends. I know them well, after all, as we rub elbows every day in my beautiful region.

Reality will catch up with them, and they will get the message in the next election that Quebeckers want to encourage people who come here to run the country and manage government. In 1993, they got elected on the platform, “We are going to exercise the real power”.

All in all, I am pleased today to be working—

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12:40 p.m.

An hon. member

The watchdog over Quebec's interests.

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12:40 p.m.

An hon. member

A watchdog over Quebec.

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12:40 p.m.

Liberal

André Harvey Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

The interests of Quebec start with the interests of our regions. That is what we are dealing with at present, and I am pleased that we are.

My congratulations to the Deputy Prime Minister, who is also responsible for public security and emergency preparedness, and today has introduced an important bill on something that is rather fundamental to our country. I am referring to Bill C-19, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and the Criminal Code. This bill provides a framework for federal correctional services and the conditional release system, a system, incidentally, which is recognized in a large number of countries.

This legislation is based on knowledge gleaned from research and on respect for the rule of law and human dignity. It recognizes that the best way to protect the public is to properly prepare offenders for their return to society as law-abiding citizens, and to closely monitor those offenders who pose a risk to the safety of our communities.

A parliamentary subcommittee conducted the mandatory review of this legislation in early 1999. The conclusions of this review are contained in a document entitled, “Towards a just, peaceful and safe society: The Corrections and Conditional Release Act five years later”. The subcommittee concluded that the legislation was of fundamental importance but that there is room for improvement, as with all legislation.

In short, the government, through the Deputy Prime Minister, was realistic. She has always been extremely rational in everything she handles in the House. Her approach is measured and very objective. As a result, the government can stay its course on important bills.

Bill C-19 includes provisions to act on 46 of the 53 recommendations made by the subcommittee and approved by the government. The introduction of this bill is proof of the government's desire to take the necessary steps to enhance public safety.

It is not true that our government will allow itself to be distracted by public reports that have yet to be fully verified. We will continue our program and stay the course. Members should remember what happened regarding HRDC: at first, it was $1 billion, and it ended up being $65,000.

I am eagerly awaiting the results of the procedures we now have in place to deal with the only issue that interests our political opponents and the Bloc Quebecois, namely the sponsorship issue. This issue has created a lot of fallout in all their ridings. They are taking advantage of it to make dramatic speeches, even before the House standing committee has studied the question, before the public inquiry has reported, and before the RCMP has finished its investigation.

I am very eager to see the final results on these questions. That is why, despite the diversion—particularly in Quebec, where it was created by our BQ opponents— we have a duty to stay focused on essential matters, including the environment, as we have this week, and on the question of measures respecting Bill C-19 which the minister has introduced today.

The major modifications and provisions are intended to tighten up the accelerated parole review process, which provides for parole based on an assumption of non-violent offenders serving a first federal sentence, as well as statutory release and enshrines the right of victims to present a statement at National Parole Board hearings.

The CCRA is the legal framework for the federal correctional system. Its purpose is to protect the public by providing a balance between control of, and assistance to, offenders, in order to help them reintegrate successfully in society as law-abiding citizens.

This bill addresses a number of the recommendations of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, as my hon. colleague, the Deputy Prime Minister, has said. It is an important step toward meeting the Government of Canada's commitment to continually improve the laws governing our correctional system.

I am very pleased to have been able to speak on this measure that will be constructive for all citizens of our country. I am very happy to be a part, along with our government, of maintaining our agenda in important sectors for the future of our country and of each of our regions. There is the whole social economy sector, as outlined in the Speech from the Throne. We have not heard much about that from our hon. friends in the Bloc Quebecois, because they lose interest when we are talking about constructive measures.

Last week I had the opportunity to attend prebudget consultations with my colleague, the Minister of State for Finance. Many people from the beautiful Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean area were there to talk about the budget and the social economy. Is there a more important sector in our community than that which affects the social economy? We still have not received a single question from our friends from the Bloc on this. Hundreds of thousands of people work voluntarily on initiatives that are extremely important for our fellow citizens and have even managed to gain financial success in what is considered a fragile sector.

We talked about factors such as research, social economy and partnerships with Canadian municipalities. All the municipalities in my region and in Quebec are very happy about our government's openness toward more direct funding for our municipalities. They have multiple roles to fill in order to make our fellow citizens even happier.

It is a great pleasure to take part in this debate, in support of the Deputy Prime Minister, who is launching a major offensive in a sector that is far from insignificant. I am very pleased.

I would hope for the cooperation of our opponents in this House to stay the course on implementing our initiatives, which are there to help make our fellow citizens even happier and make Canada one of the best countries in the world.

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12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Shawn Murphy Hillsborough, PE

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to participate in this debate today. I have followed this issue closely since being elected three and a half years ago. I have read the legislation. Most important, I have read the report of the standing committee which led to the legislation. I agree with the principles set out in the legislation. I hope that everyone in the House will support the bill.

Going back in the history of this corrections legislation and policy and programs administered by Corrections Canada, it is important to bear in mind that our system has been fundamentally sound. It has been found to be sound by most people who work in the system in Canada, but more important, by people who have studied it from abroad. We do have what I consider to be a sound corrections system. However for some years now people having been crying for improvements to the system.

The committee released its report several years ago. It did an exhaustive study on the whole system. It heard from a lot of witnesses who were involved in the system, including offenders and victims. The committee tabled a very well written report in the House which contained 53 recommendations. Bill C-19 adopts 46 of those recommendations. This piece of legislation started with the people who appeared before committee. The committee made its report and now the bill is before the House. I agree wholeheartedly with the bill and the new approaches that are set out in this legislation.

We have to bear in mind when we talk about temporary release, parole and home arrest, that the paramount concern in the legislation has to be the protection of the public. People in the parole service and people in corrections offices throughout Canada have to be given the tools to keep that concern paramount.

I agree with a number of amendments that have been made to the whole procedure.

I practised law for 25 years in Canada. During my early years I did some criminal law but not a lot. A number of my partners practised a lot of criminal law.

One thing has disturbed me for a long time. Somebody would be convicted of a very serious offence, an offence that was repulsive to everyone in Canada. After the trial or after a plea of guilty, and after the summation and sentence, the offender would receive a penalty imposed by the court. The judge heard the evidence, read the reports, heard from the victim--and hearing from the victim has just happened over the last six or seven years--and heard from the offender's lawyer and the prosecutor. The judge, after all that time, effort and energy had been put into this whole exercise, would give a sentence of 15 years. Then on the steps of the courthouse people would hear the statement that the offender would be out in five years.

That offended people. That was the statutory release provision. I know it was not as simple as that and the offender would have to go on parole, but that was repulsive to everyone in Canada.

The judge would spend anywhere from a week to over three months on the case, whatever it took, and would sentence the offender to 15 years. Then the public would hear in the media the statement that the offender would be out in five years. It was wrong that the statutory provision was there. I am pleased that is being dealt with. I am pleased also that certain offences which the Canadian public finds offensive, such as child pornography, high treason, sexual exploitation of a person with a disability, causing bodily harm, torture, those offences would be excluded from that whole provision.

I am also pleased that the parole service will be given more tools to determine whether or not there is a likelihood of a particular offender reoffending. We know some people will reoffend but some will not. A lot of times people go to jail, and unfortunately we see it in some instances involving gambling which sometimes leads to crime, to theft from companies and individuals. There are situations where there is a high probability that the offender will not reoffend. The parole service has to be given the tools to make that determination.

The bill increases the ineligibility period for day parole for offenders serving more than six years. This addresses another issue that did offend the Canadian public, the people I talked to. I go back to my previous example where a person would be sentenced to 15 years and then it would be talked about on the street that after a short period of time, perhaps too short in a lot of instances, the offender would be out on day parole working at a job or visiting his family. These situations do not bring the corrections system into disrepute, but there certainly are reservations. I am glad the bill followed the standing committee's recommendations to deal with this.

The whole area of temporary absence has to be dealt with. The parole service and corrections service have to be given more discretion in dealing with this whole area. The provision relating to work release has been repealed. That is a very good development. For the purposes of both types of temporary absences, a structured program for work has been added, so there are continuing efforts to develop life skills and work programs in that area.

Another area I would like to speak to is victims' rights. Canadian legislation and the programs the courts have used have come a long way in the last 10 or 15 years. Fifteen years ago it would have been unheard of in the Canadian judicial system for a victim to be given any rights in court. We have come a long way in the sentencing process, but this is lacking in the parole process and the bill deals with this.

The legislation also deals with clarifying the definition of a victim. In this legislation the victim is given a lot more rights to appear before the parole board when an offender is up for parole and the hearing is held. It is offensive for a victim, especially if it was a rape or an assault, to find out on the street, and these things are usually heard on the street, that a parole hearing had been held. The offender had been sentenced to 15 years, but after a five year period had been given parole and the victim had absolutely no knowledge that the parole hearing had been held. I think the legislation is a very positive development.

There is more work for the National Parole Board. I am pleased to see the increase in the maximum number of full time parole board members from 45 to 60. Many times when the government enacts legislation and programs it does not increase the needed resources. That is dealt with in the bill. The number of parole board members is increased from 45 to 60.

Finally, I wish to speak about terminally ill offenders who are in Canadian prisons. There is a special provision in the bill that if the circumstances are correct and the offender meets the criteria they are allowed to be released under certain circumstances.

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1 p.m.

Liberal

Paddy Torsney Burlington, ON

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to stand today in support of Bill C-19, an act to amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act. This is a very important framework for our government and for Canada's parole and corrections system.

While we may think there are some problems that from time to time need to be addressed, Canada is very fortunate to have a system that is the envy of many countries in the world. We have much more safety as a result of our corrections and conditional release system. It is important to keep that in mind as we look at the bill.

The minister introduced the bill following on work done by a subcommittee of the House. The Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness issued a release when she introduced the bill.

The CCRA is a legal framework for the federal corrections system. The purpose of the act is to protect the public by providing a balance between the control of and assistance to offenders.

We must remember that in the large majority of cases offenders will be released back into our communities so we need ensure they will be able to contribute to our communities after having paid their debt to society.

We want to reintegrate these individuals as law-abiding citizens. Therefore, the conditions under which they are held and the processes under which they are kept or they go through in terms of determining their release date, are important to all Canadians.

The bill is in response to a number of recommendations that were made by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. The amendments would tighten up the accelerated parole review process, which again is important in terms of cost effectiveness at the review process, but, more important, to ensure we are protecting the safety of citizens and that we get the best product possible.

The changes that the minister has introduced with the bill reinforce the greater scrutiny of those eligible for statutory release. We have to remember again that people do come to the end of their term at some point and we want to ensure that they are scrutinized properly.

There is a temporary absence process, which is part of the reintegration, that we need to ensure is sound and streamlined so there is greater public safety.

I think my colleague from Hillsborough identified at the end of his speech the importance of ensuring that the rights of victims in making statements to the National Parole Board hearings are protected in law and in process.

Sadly, there are offenders who are terminally ill and we needed to have some conditions under which we would allow them to spend their dying days perhaps in the best environment possible. For those of us who have visited jails, they are perhaps not the best place for the final weeks of anyone's life. Certainly we must keep in mind that not everyone is in jail for a personal injury crime. There are those who are in jail, and not to diminish the types of crime for which they are in jail, because they are very serious, but we need to ensure that we have the right conditions, that we are compassionate, that we are humanitarian and keeping in mind the reasons for them being there.

As I mentioned earlier, these amendments are in response to an all party committee of the House which reviewed the situation, listened to Canadians who had differing views on the issues and it came up with some solid recommendations to improve the system for everyone.

The committee issued its report in May 2000. Anyone interested in reading the report in its entirety can go to the parliamentary website at www.parl.gc.ca and look under the committees of the House of Commons. People will find various reports that have been published. This would give those who are following the bill and these issues a better foundation for what was being considered, the full list of witnesses and the kind of things that our colleagues on both sides of the House have said about the issue.

The act itself was proclaimed in 1992 and has had a number of updates since that time. It is the legal framework for the correctional system. The act sets out three important principles: the purpose of the corrections system that guides Correctional Service Canada and the measures guiding its operations; the purpose of the conditional release system, which is a part of corrections, and the principles that guide the National Parole Board; and the establishment of a very important office, the office of the correctional investigator, and specific measures governing its operations.

The CCRA contains a review clause requiring a parliamentary review of the act. I believe that takes place approximately every five years.

The subcommittee of the main committee of the House wrote a report entitled “A Work In Progress: The Corrections and Conditional Release Act”. The subcommittee made some 53 recommendations for changes. The minister has taken action on 46 of those recommendations.

It is an important dialogue to have in the House. It is also important to update our laws to respond to the latest information, the latest conditions and individual situations that have arisen over the time that the act has been in place. We cannot always crystal ball everything and know exactly how things are going to work into the future. We try, and certainly people bring to committee their best estimates of how things are going to work, but we have to be practical when we undertake to do things to see if we need to make some amendments.

The amendments would tighten the provisions relating to the accelerated parole review. It excludes offenders convicted of offences, such as criminal organization offences, child pornography offences, high treason--thankfully, we do not see that too frequently--sexual exploitation of a person with a disability, or those causing bodily harm with intent using an air gun or pistol, and torture. I think those are really very important changes. We do not want to see accelerated parole review for those individuals. Those are very serious crimes that affect individuals in the most personal way.

We want to ensure with these amendments that in reviewing the cases of those who are eligible for accelerated parole review that the National Parole Board takes into account the likelihood of someone re-offending in general versus the likelihood of committing violent re-offending, as is the case under the current legislation.

The bill would amend the provisions that give the National Parole Board discretion over the release of offenders on accelerated parole reviews and would increase the ineligibility period for day parole for offenders serving more than six years.

The other issue that I thought I would really focus on here is the victims' rights issues that my colleague from Hillsborough had also identified. These amendments would enshrine into law the right of victims to present a statement at National Parole Board hearings. They would revise the definition of victim to ensure that guardians or caregivers of dependants of victims who are deceased, ill or otherwise incapacitated, can get the information that victims are permitted under law.

From time to time we really have to clarify what we mean by victim. Certainly, any of us who have had crimes, especially violent crimes, in our communities feel victimized by what has taken place, but we need to ensure that we have a very careful definition, one that includes the right number of people and the individuals. I think the change to the definition of victim would ensure that those who want to and need to make representation to parole board hearings to protect our community, to ensure that they are receiving the support they need, that is included.

The amendments to the act are important for the workings of our communities and our criminal justice system. It is important that the House be responsible for updating our laws, after careful review of how they have been working and after listening to Canadians who have divergent views on these, and making reports.

The minister has been incredibly responsible, as part of the parliamentary reform that many are talking about, to make sure she has responded to a committee of the House and its recommendations, and brought forward proposed laws that will make the Corrections and Conditional Release Act much better for our community and for the solid working of Canada.

I am sure the members opposite would want to get on the record with their comments.

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1:10 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn St. John's West, NL

Madam Speaker, here we are in the days of a government trying to address a democratic deficit. We hear so much about democratic reform and how this honoured institution will be changed in a way that will better the lives of people across the country.

We have a government at a time when we have a number of major concerns across the country. I am thinking of the BSE problem, not only in the west but in all of Canada. I am thinking about the fishery crisis on the east coast. I am thinking about health care concerns right across the country.

By the way, let me congratulate you, Madam Speaker. It is the first time that I have been able to speak while you are in the chair. Certainly it is a tremendous move to have someone of your calibre from this side of the House in the chair, and it is certainly an improvement, let me say.

However let me go on. As we speak, we have the ministers of finance from across the country meeting here today in Ottawa, talking about equalization. Members might ask about relevance, so let me tie it in to make sure I am relevant, in case there are concerns.

The equalization problem, which we are dealing with today, is one that has been on the go for years and years. At the end of March the present agreement runs out. They have known for the past three or four years that the deadline was approaching and, while it may be for different reasons, all of them have been asking for changes to that equalization program.

The government has done absolutely nothing. What it did was bring in legislation asking us to extend the present agreement for another year.

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1:10 p.m.

An hon. member

Hear, hear.

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1:10 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn St. John's West, NL

The member across says hear, hear. In other words, they agreed to just slough it off.

The premiers, again perhaps for different reasons, want an agreement now. There is no reason that one cannot be forged. It is just the will and the competency of the government opposite.

As we see another major Canadian issue dealing with a source of financing for the provinces being sloughed off, we compare that to the referring to the Supreme Court of same sex marriage. We see the studies that are being set up to look at the scandals that are underway. Everything has to be pushed off for further study. The government and the Prime Minister have not yet dealt with one substantive issue since they came to power, not one.

Again, one might ask what that has to do with the bill. Well, this has been on the go for years and years. This side of the House has been pressing government to make changes to this act, and now we see the Liberals coming in at the last minute, days before they want to call an election, which I certainly hope they do, and they are dragging the bill. We just saw one member after the other getting up and parroting the same speech to kill time.

Where is the legislation from the government to deal with the real concerns in the country? What have we seen? Why did we not switch at 12 o'clock, when we started going over and over the same old stuff, to a special debate on the BSE crisis, or on equalization, or on the fishing crisis, or on the concerns of youth?

The government has absolutely, positively nothing on its agenda. That is the only reason why we see a lot of government members speaking, and this is amazing, because when do we see members opposite stay around to speak on anything? This is the point. We are just killing time because there is nothing else to talk about.

With the piece of legislation concerned and when we look at the timeframe involved, the chances of it ever becoming law under this government are slim to none. If it is not done before the election, this government will certainly not be around to do it after the election.

What about the legislation itself? After four or five years of hammering the government with concerns about the old legislation, it made some changes which, if implemented properly, would certainly be important, especially to those affected. However, we cannot just create a more open door policy unless we have the mechanisms to ensure that protective measures are there in place.

One of the things we talk about is more power to the correctional institution to make decisions. I have no problems with that if the people involved are capable and competent of making these decisions.

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1:15 p.m.

An hon. member

And accountable

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1:15 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Loyola Hearn St. John's West, NL

And accountable, and if proper assessments have been done on the individuals involved.

We have seen some horror cases in this country in recent years where people who were let out on parole have quickly offended. The sorrowful thing is that in almost every case, somebody in the system said that they knew, they warned people, and they had concerns that these people would offend again.

We have concerns as well. The former speaker said we must clarify who the victims are in this case. That is certainly true. We must know the victim and we must ensure that the victim is looked after. I believe the real victims in this overall scenario are the people of Canada because they have been victimized left, right and centre by the government opposite.

If we were here today as a parole board and we were asked if we would let the Prime Minister and his cabinet out on day parole, or parole at all, to mingle among the people of Canada and to make major decisions affecting the lives of Canadians, that would be interesting. Maybe, Madam Speaker, if we want to kill a few more minutes, you could have a straw vote here just to see how many would really turn the Prime Minister loose on parole to deal with the issues facing Canada. The proof of the pudding is in the eating. That is an old saying from Newfoundland and certainly right across the country. We have seen the proof of the pudding.

The government has been in place for four years. The Prime Minister has been around all that time. He was in the most important position to bring into effect changes in this country. He was the finance minister. What is the result? What are we seeing being done to address the real problems in this country? What are we seeing besides platitudes and procrastination? We are seeing absolutely nothing.

It is time we change, and not only this bill. Hopefully, we will get the chance to make the proper changes here but more so, let us hope that Canadians will get the chance to make the changes they want made.

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1:20 p.m.

Don Valley West
Ontario

Liberal

John Godfrey Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister (Cities)

Madam Speaker, I would like to thank the member for St. John's West for his remarks.

This is, despite anything suggested to the contrary, an important piece of legislation. It is not a trivial matter. The hon. member has accused us of killing time and that this debate is irrelevant. I suppose if that were the case, I might congratulate the hon. member for joining in the spirit of the thing.

I found the connection between the subject under discussion, amendments to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and the state of the east coast fishery, incredibly creative. It was a line I had not heard before, but I want to commend him for his creativity.

It is important to return to the essence of the matter, which is the whole question of crime and punishment in this country and how we deal with it. It can be said that the prison system is a reflection of society's failures. It is what happens to people when we do not get it right, when we fail to make and create high functioning citizens.

I have some experience with the prison system because in the 1970s, as a young professor of history at Dalhousie, I used to spend time visiting young students who were inmates in Springhill Penitentiary. I have some personal knowledge of the complexities of issues surrounding crime and punishment. The impression I took away was that these were very complex issues.

We are examining why it is that people do dreadful things to each other, and why is it that we fail as human beings and have to be punished? The question for us as we contemplate amendments to the act is, how do we test our own civilization and how do we protect our own civilization? How do we get the balance right, as the member for Burlington suggested?

How do we treat people in our society who fail, people who are vulnerable, while we protect other people's rights? How do we measure our civilization in terms of protecting their rights when they have often taken away the rights of others? These are the difficult questions which surround the way in which we treat people when we send them to prison and then decide when to let them out, and when it is that we can trust them to be integrated back into society.

It is interesting that the amendments which we are discussing were actually recommendations made by the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. In our system, justice and human rights go hand in hand. Everybody's human rights must be protected, even the rights of people we do not like very much and who have done bad things.

That is why we have provisions in this bill regarding the accelerated parole review process. We are trying to get the balance right again. We are trying to ensure that people who are capable of rehabilitation will be rehabilitated. We are trying to ensure that we protect society from those who will reoffend.

These are very difficult judgment calls. What determines the outcome of that is often a consequence of what we do for people while they are in prison, whether we can actually help them prepare for a life beyond prison. Many people in prison do not have much education. They have been denied the breaks that the rest of us have had.

Another important component in this set of amendments is the requirement for Correctional Service Canada to review all offenders who are entitled to statutory release for possible referral to detention or the imposition of special conditions. Once again we are balancing off the rights of prisoners with the rights of all of us to be safe in our communities. A very tough call and one which requires tremendous attention.

I know from my experience with the prisoners of Springhill when the importance of temporary absences was a major issue. How does one reintegrate people into society from what is an incredibly protected environment? There is something quite strange about prison. People actually go in to some unreal place, which is not at all like the world we live in. In fact, they lose whatever skills they had in society and so, upon release, they have to get used to society bit by bit.

I can remember, as a young professor of history, in the college where I was teaching, young prisoners coming with their parole officers to get used to the idea of being reintegrated with people of both sexes, of all ages and of all backgrounds.

What we do with temporary absences is incredibly important. We must ensure we know what the rules are. We must clarify the decision-making authority and we must be more purposeful about why we have temporary absences. We must socialize these people. They will be joining us in a better state or a worse state, but they will eventually get out of prison, except if they are there for life.

In this difficult task of balancing everybody's rights, we must hear from the victims. It is really important that we take into account their rights to be present at a Parole Board hearing to say why it is that this person should not get out or what it is that this person has done to them and their family. That is part of natural justice and must be brought to bear.

It is also important to recognize, as my colleague pointed out, that there are, among the prison population, older people, people who have fallen ill and who will not in the normal course of events survive to come out of prison. As human beings we must respond to those illnesses and difficulties. We must let them out to die in some kind of dignity, recognizing that they may have denied that dignity to somebody else. That is a tough call for all of us as human beings.

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1:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Hinton)

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

Adverse Drug Reactions
Private Members' Business

1:25 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rob Merrifield Yellowhead, AB

moved:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should consider making it mandatory for health care professionals to forward to Health Canada information on all “serious” adverse drug reactions within 48 hours of their occurrence.

Madam Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to be able to introduce a motion in the House. It is a very important issue because it needs to do two things. We need to raise awareness of a very serious problem in Canada, something I have had a researcher on for the last three years. It is something I have a tremendous amount of information about and we have seen a lot on about it on the CBC news this week with its reporting of exactly what is going on. Canadians are starting to wake up to the issue and this is an attempt to wake the House up to this issue and actually do something about it.

Not only do we need to raise awareness, but we also need to make sure that we put into law the awareness we are trying to raise of the number of adverse drug reactions. We actually must have mandatory reporting of those serious adverse reactions from our professionals in the health care system, our doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other health care workers.

It is important that we raise awareness of these issues. The CBC has done a very good job of that. Actually it has tried for the past five years to get information on the database that Health Canada has with regard to the number of adverse reactions that are being reported in the country. The CBC was able to get this information only through an access to information request. Now they have 162,000 recorded cases on a website, so Canadians from coast to coast to coast will be able to go to the website to try to determine this and see for themselves some of the reactions that are happening.

It is very important because we see skyrocketing numbers of cases in Canada. Some of the numbers disclosed this week involve kids. Serious reactions in that group have tripled in the last couple of years, but Health Canada has no ability to be able to deal with trends for this information.

That is another thing that has come forward. Even if Health Canada had all the reporting in place right now, we have to understand that it does not have the wherewithal to be able to deal with the actual trends taking place before our eyes. It is understaffed and underfunded. Not only are we going to have to be able to deal with awareness and mandatory reporting, but then we have to deal with what we are going to do with that information and how we are going to protect Canadians because of it.

In March 2000, this all came to a head when Vanessa Young, a 15 year old girl from Oakville, died in front of her father because of the inappropriate use of a drug called cisapride, also known as Prepulsid. The two names mean the same drug. Health Canada knew about this back in 1996, long before this child died, and the United States had flagged it as well. There were 14 deaths from this drug in Canada prior to this time and numerous other deaths in the United States. Why was it allowed to happen in Canada before our eyes? Why is it happening today? We have to ask ourselves those questions.

The coroner's inquest actually brought this to light. There were actually 59 recommendations coming out of that inquest as to how we could deal with the problem, 14 of them levelled right at Health Canada. One of them was the mandatory reporting of adverse or very serious reactions to medication within 48 hours. Therein lies what this motion is all about, which is to make sure that this actually happens.

In fact, the inquest went one step further and actually defined what “serious” means. It means that which results in “significant disability or incapacity, is life-threatening or results in death”. It is a very clear, very simple definition of exactly what we are talking about.

We have to ask why this was not acted on before now. Why is Health Canada dragging its feet on this one? This is not the first time that this idea has been introduced in the House. There was another very similar motion introduced by the member for Winnipeg North Centre in September 2001. At the time it was introduced to the House, it was discussed and supported by all sides of the House. One would have thought that would send a serious message to Health Canada but it did not, because there was no vote on it and no actual direction from the House to make sure it would take place.

So now we are seeing a much more serious problem as it escalates. We have an opportunity to send a very serious and very strong message to Health Canada and to the Minister of Health so that we will be able to deal with the issue.

How big an issue is it? How big a problem do we actually have out there? I think we need to ask ourselves that.

A study done in the United States in 1998 estimated that, annually, 2.2 million individuals were hospitalized for serious adverse drug reactions. There were an additional 106,000 fatal adverse drug reactions in that same year.

We can compare the data. There are 300 million people in the United States and 31 million in Canada. That translates into a little over 10,000 deaths in Canada on a yearly basis due to adverse drug reactions. These are significant numbers. A 1999 report in the Canadian Medical Association Journal estimated that there were approximately 1,825 deaths due to adverse drug reactions. The doctors themselves came forward with these numbers. Researchers David Rosenbloom and Christine Wynne estimated that the number of deaths due to adverse drug reactions was around 7,600.

The numbers are all over place, but just using those numbers, adverse drug reactions translate into being the seventh leading cause of death in Canada. That increases the number of days for a hospital stay to 4.6 days more per individual and costs our health care system about $300 million annually.

We can play with the numbers all we like, but it does not really matter how big we make them. We have to understand that the numbers are really there. In fact, Health Canada said that in 2001, 54,000 Canadians experienced adverse drug reactions. That would translate into about 3,800 people who died in that year.

We have to say, then, that this is a very serious problem and it is getting worse all the time. Why are professionals not reporting adverse reactions? The number of reported incidents is estimated at somewhere between 1% and 10%. Why is that? We have to understand the stress that some of our physicians are under right now. There is no incentive for them to do so. A lot of them do not even know where the form is to report adverse reactions, and it is a lengthy form. We have to look at some of the solutions to this.

This is not about attacking physicians. This is not about attacking professionals. This is not about attacking pharmaceuticals. This is about bringing awareness to the issue and then looking at how we are going to deal with it.

Whether it is 400, 4,000 or 10,000 deaths is probably not really the issue. We have to understand that every one of those deaths translates into real people, real families and real friends, and every one of those deaths was preventable. If they were not preventable, they should have at least raised a flag so the same mistake could not happen to any other individuals. We owe at least that to those who fall victim to adverse reactions.

Where do we go from here? Why should we have mandatory reporting? Because we see the amount of drugs being used in this country. In 1992 Canadians spent $8.5 billion on pharmaceuticals. In 2002, a decade later, Canadians spent $18.1 billion. That is a $10 billion per year increase. With those kinds of numbers and the amount of drugs being used, we have to say that we have a serious problem and it is going to get worse.

The baby boomer generation is now closing in on 55 to 65 years of age and the consumption of medication is going to increase. We have to deal with the problem now. We have not seen anything yet when we realize what is coming down the road at us.

Let us get serious about this problem. Let us get serious and do something about it. We need mandatory reporting of pharmaceuticals by doctors, pharmacists, health care professionals and consumers. That is one way we can help this situation along.

This is not the first time a flag has been raised in Canada. Colleen Fuller is an individual who fell victim to an adverse reaction and became interested in doing some research on this. The Krever inquiry also raised a flag about mandatory reporting of adverse reactions. Vanessa Young's coroner's jury is another example.

Not only that, Canada's Auditor General said in a report in December 2000 that we cannot get to the bottom of the actual numbers and know what is going on because reporting is not mandatory. It is just voluntary. If it is just voluntary, then we do not know what the numbers are.

As I said before, only 1% to 10% is actually being reported, so there is a 90% error and guesswork is going on around this whole issue. We have to do something about it.

It is absolutely critical that we get serious about dealing with this issue. We also have to ask why it is not happening, why it is that the reporting is not going on. We have to realize what our physicians and nurses are dealing with. They have two of the most highly stressed jobs in the country. In fact, the sickest workplace we have in the country is our hospitals. Our nurses are stressed to the max. They take more sick days than any other occupation, any other professional group of individuals. When it comes to doctors, we understand that 75% of them are refusing to take on more patients because they are so stretched and so worked to the max. This is not an attack against them. This is an attempt to be able to give them the tools to be able to deal with this in a more appropriate way.

Why are they not reporting it? Number one, they have no incentive. They have no time. Family practitioners are only paid for a 10 minute visit.

We have to give them some of the tools. Maybe we do not have to use a long form. Perhaps we could use BlackBerry technology or another reporting system that could give them the ability to report in a way that is not cumbersome, in a way that is streamlined so they can do it. We have to engage them in that process. We have to ask them how they would like to be able to come forward with mandatory reporting and how we can work collaboratively with them.

That is where we need to go with this motion. This makes it mandatory, but it does not bring forward the actual tools so that we are able to do it. That is why I did not bring forward a private member's bill, which would bring down the specifics. What we want to do is raise awareness, engage in debate, and give a direction from the House that we will not take it anymore, that Health Canada has to act, and that we have to make sure something is done for the betterment of our citizens.

It is also not an attack at all against the drug companies. Many of the medicines that we use are wonderful technologies. They do a great amount of good, but there is also a great amount of harm. We know that. Some of the information from research I had been doing in my own office pointed me to some of the problems that are going on in this country, so we initiated a study that was done by the Standing Committee on Health. We travelled from coast to coast this fall dealing with the pharmaceuticals and the adverse reaction to these medications. Some of the testimony that came forward was absolutely amazing.

One professor who teaches university students came forward and said that 50% of individuals hospitalized in this country have an adverse reaction or there is a medical error before they are discharged. If those numbers are anywhere close to being true, we have a very serious problem on our hands and we have to deal with it.

I questioned those numbers, so I asked the next witness who came along and who I thought would have some information on this if he agreed with those numbers. In his testimony, the individual said that he could not refute those numbers, that they were probably very close to being accurate, if not underestimated.

We have a serious problem when it comes to this. We have to look at where we are as a nation. We are rated by the United Nations as the 30th best health care system in the world. The United States, by the way, is 37th, so we should not be looking to the United States for an example, but there are 30 nations that are better than we are. We had better start looking at what those 30 have to offer in giving us some information as to how we can deal with our health care system in a better way.

There are another 11 countries that have mandatory reporting of adverse reactions. The number one health care system in the world is France. France has mandatory reporting, but some people will probably get up and argue about whether it has really worked in France. It has not increased reporting that much more, but we can learn from them and understand how we can streamline the system to make it a lot easier for our professionals to be able to actually come forward to report the adverse reactions.

We have to look at what we can find out from these other countries in order to be able to dialogue with our professionals and to bring forward the actual piece of legislation and the way this has to be done, but we have to kick Health Canada in the backside to make sure it actually happens. That is what we have to do. It is absolutely important that every member of the House understands the opportunity before us: that on our watch, while we are here in the House, we have the opportunity to do something about it. We cannot delay. We absolutely have to vote for this motion so we can give the proper and appropriate direction to Health Canada.

This is long overdue and I encourage all members of the House to consider it. Saskatchewan put forward this kind of legislation in its province. We had to dialogue with the rest of the provinces to make this happen.

Adverse Drug Reactions
Private Members' Business

1:40 p.m.

Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia
Manitoba

Liberal

John Harvard Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Madam Speaker, I will be speaking to this motion in greater length in just a moment.

I appreciate the remarks made by the hon. member. Certainly, we on this side welcome the motion, but the question I have relates to his contention that a mandatory system would be better than a voluntary system.

I would like to hear him support that, that a mandatory system would be better than a voluntary system. As he already pointed out, France has a mandatory system, as does Italy and Sweden, but the information we have is that the reporting rates in those countries are really not significantly higher than elsewhere in the world where there are voluntary systems.

Could the hon. member provide some information in support of a mandatory system and why it would be better?

Adverse Drug Reactions
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rob Merrifield Yellowhead, AB

Madam Speaker, I want to thank my hon. colleague for the question because it is a very valid one and something we really need to look at.

He is right in that other countries such as Italy, France and Sweden have the mandatory reporting. We also have to understand that they are rated one, two and three as far as health care systems in the world. There is no question that if we go down this road, it will give us the comfort zone of being a much better health care system.

Why are they not reporting numbers? We have to realize that in Canada we do have mandatory reporting for the pharmaceutical companies, but not for those on the frontlines who actually see it happen.

I should elaborate a little on some of the testimony we heard as we went across Canada. Those individuals who came forward with some of the numbers on adverse reactions said that our practitioners, our doctors and nurses, were not trained well enough to diagnose an adverse reaction when they saw it. We have to work on this in a multifaceted way. It is not that I think mandatory reporting will be the panacea and be the perfect solution. It is just one of the building blocks that we have to work on to get us to where we need to go so we can deal with this problem in a comprehensive way.

Part of the problem is that technology, the medical records following the patient and what that will allow us to do in this whole area of reporting has got to be exercised. We have to take a serious look at that. When we do, we have to engage the professional people, our pharmacists, nurses and doctors, and ask them how they can make this work in mandatory reporting.

This is not an attack. It is there to give them the tools to be better professionals. That is what this is all about. That is where we need to go. We should not do this in isolation with a big stick. We should do it in collaboration with the provinces and with the professionals to make it work. That is what Canadians expect and that is the way we should go.

Adverse Drug Reactions
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia
Manitoba

Liberal

John Harvard Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Madam Speaker, all Canadians want to know that the medicines they are taking are safe. They place tremendous confidence in the ability of Health Canada to effectively regulate the therapeutic product industry to enable access for them and their health care professionals to update product safety information.

To maintain and improve Canada's excellent drug safety record, Health Canada continues to be receptive to suggestions that increase our capacity to detect new problems with marketed drugs, and thereby reduce the potential for serious adverse reactions to drugs taken by Canadians.

The government welcomes the motion by the hon. member, which is something I have already said, that the government should consider making it mandatory for health care professionals to forward to Health Canada information on all serious adverse drug reactions within 48 hours of their occurrence. However, to potentially make a useful difference in drug safety, such a system should not only address the quantity of reports submitted but also the quality of the reports received.

At first glance, mandatory reporting might seem to be a useful approach to improved post-market drug safety. However, I would caution that it would be premature to draw this conclusion prior to a full and frank discussion with the provinces and territories and health profession groups on the issues that surround this matter.

Before discussing the many issues pertaining to mandatory adverse reaction reporting, let me give a background on the drug approval and post-market surveillance programs in Health Canada.

First, no drug is authorized for sale in our country before it has gone through clinical testing and a rigorous drug review process. Once a drug is on the market, Health Canada regulates the market authorization holder who is responsible to report known adverse reactions to Health Canada. Manufacturers also investigate complaints or reported problems, update conditions of drug use via changes to the product monograph, communicate new information to health professionals and consumers, and if necessary, limit the distribution of a drug or remove it from the market.

Health Canada itself also monitors adverse reactions as well as the effectiveness of the actions of manufacturers and can take regulatory action if necessary.

Patients, health professionals and manufacturers work together with the department to monitor adverse reactions. The Canadian reporting system consists of two components: mandatory reporting of serious side effects by manufacturers to Health Canada in accordance with our Food and Drug Act; and, the voluntary reporting of adverse drug reactions to Health Canada by health professionals. There are 23 countries worldwide, including the U.S.A., the United Kingdom and Australia which have similar combinations of mandatory and voluntary reporting systems.

Canada was also a founding member of the WHO drug monitoring program and continues to work with the WHO Uppsala Monitoring Centre with some 65 other member countries.

It is important to acknowledge that the effectiveness of all reporting systems are affected by reporting rates. Some international studies estimate reporting rates as low as 1% to 10%. The low rates can be attributed to barriers such as the lack of awareness about the existence and benefits of a report system, concerns about litigation and privacy, heavy workloads and confusion over when and what to report.

These barriers are a widely acknowledged international reality in the field of adverse reaction reporting. The schemes rely on a potential reporter making the connection between a symptom and a drug therapy and then taking the time to report. These are some of the challenges the department officials must face in their efforts to promote and encourage reporting.

It is also important to note that increasing the volume of reports by itself does not really lead to success. Our ability to identify potential and new safety problems also relies heavily on the contextual richness of the information in the case report describing the event and the circumstances.

Experts in pharmacovigilance responsible for post-market surveillance believe it is more effective to be making decisions based on fewer reports with high quality data than on many reports with poor quality data. An inherent challenge is to find a way to improve both reporting rates and the quality of the data submitted.

In addition to report promotional activities carried our by the network of five regional adverse reaction centres located in local drug information centres, a monthly Health Canada journal advertisement has been published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal to promote Health Canada's toll-free telephone and fax lines specifically established to facilitate adverse reaction reporting by health professionals.

Officials at Health Canada also actively participate at health professional meetings and conferences to promote the reporting program, improve its visibility and provide feedback to the health professional community as to how adverse reaction reporting contributes to the safe use of medications.

Another approach to stimulate reporting is targeting specialists. Health Canada has partnered with the Canadian Paediatric Society to launch an active surveillance initiative. The project will collect information from 2,300 pediatricians and subspecialists on a monthly basis.

The focus of reporting is on serious and life threatening adverse reactions in children and youth up to 18 years of age. In addition, the partnership will encourage pediatricians to report adverse drug reactions through regular reminders and monthly feedback to reporters.

Health Canada is also looking into ways in which mobile wireless technology, in other words palm pilots, can facilitate reporting.

We hope that this technology will enable health professionals to promptly and more completely report adverse reactions to Health Canada.

Health Canada also works with academia to encourage inclusion of education about adverse reaction reporting in curricula of health professional schools right across Canada. The department cannot, however, mandate the curriculum content of health professionals in Canada.

I would like to emphasize the importance of international information sharing. The size of the Canadian population is a key limiting factor in accumulating adverse reaction data in as short a time as in a larger population.

Rare, previously unidentified adverse reactions are only likely to be found when a drug is given to larger numbers of patients than took the drug prior to market authorization in clinical trials.

For this reason, Health Canada is collaborating with foreign regulators to use non-regulatory tools such as partnerships and information sharing, among other strategies, to counteract and overcome these limitations.

Over the past five years, Health Canada and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Australia's Therapeutic Goods Administration and New Zealand's MedSafe organization have worked closely in exchanging information on adverse drug reactions. In fact videoconferencing between them currently takes place on a bimonthly basis.

Drugs are used all around the world, and drug safety depends on countries working together and sharing information. It can be difficult for a relatively small country, like Canada, to accumulate sufficient domestic reports independently to evaluate signals for rare adverse reactions. That is why partnerships and cooperation are so vital.

Another improvement initiative currently in progress in the area of post-market surveillance would see Health Canada to move to the use of software developed for the U.S. FDA to manage Canadian adverse reaction reports.

All aspects of implementing mandatory reporting must be carefully weighed so that an informed decision can be taken on this issue.

If indeed mandatory reporting were to result in the generation of a higher number of quality reports, then it would certainly increase Health Canada's ability to determine drug safety problems.

It is true that reporting by health professionals is considered vital. However, at present Health Canada has no clear evidence that a mandatory reporting system would actually result in the increased submission of quality information.

Again, let me reiterate that, in principle, the government supports the motion as a means of potentially strengthening Health Canada's ability to generate drug safety signals. However, I must point out that there are still a number of aspects of this motion that require further clarification and discussion.

In closing, I know I can call on all the member of the House to support our future initiatives to improve the post-market surveillance activities of Health Canada.

Adverse Drug Reactions
Private Members' Business

1:55 p.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Madam Speaker, first, I want to congratulate my colleague for his initiative. The good intention behind this motion is clear.

However, I am a bit surprised that this motion comes from a member of the official opposition, which for many years now, has sought less bureaucracy in the Canadian system. His motion states:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should consider making it mandatory for health care professionals to forward to Health Canada information on all “serious” adverse drug reactions within 48 hours of their occurrence.

Clearly, in practice, this is designed to protect public health, to the hon. member's credit. However, we do not believe that Parliament should address this issue, because this is a provincial responsibility. Specifically, such a motion interferes with Quebec's responsibilities in health care.

I want to mention his choice of wording, because the motion talks about, “making it mandatory for health care professionals”. The federal government has no prerogative when it comes to health care professionals and cannot make anything mandatory for any of them. Health care professionals come under provincial jurisdiction and are regulated by the professional code.

It is therefore not relevant for the federal government to intervene in this matter. My government colleague indicated that it might be presumptuous to implement an additional system, when the provinces already have all the necessary structures in place. If such a system proves necessary, this should be done in collaboration with the provinces, through the sharing of certain information, instead of the imposition of an additional level of bureaucracy.

We believe that this motion seeks to protect public health by rapidly withdrawing dangerous drugs from the market, although it is impossible to know this. However, the motion mentions only the proposed action and not the intended goal. It would have been important to indicate that the drugs in question are patented drugs, for which approval by Health Canada is always required before they are marketed. It would also have been interesting to indicate that the purpose of this measure is to take a drug off the market as quickly as possible as a result of serious and unexpected side effects.

Getting back to the issue of bureaucracy, the enforcement of the proposed measure would involve costs, namely through the introduction of a cumbersome mechanism to be used by health care professionals, CLSCs and others, for informing Health Canada. We do not think this is the way to go. The use of this mechanism would also increase the workload for doctors and nurses who already have a lot on their plate.

Health care professionals always deal with the authorities in Quebec and the other provinces. It is a natural mechanism of cooperation. With this motion, a third party would be added, an intermediary who would have his own way of doing things. When the federal government becomes involved in this type of area of activity, it always tends to impose its methods directly on health care managers. This seems like a blatant and undesirable intrusion. Is the addition of an intermediary the answer? The Bloc Quebecois says not.

This is an encroachment upon the jurisdictions of Quebec and the provinces. This obligation on health care professionals would entail the introduction of a mechanism that would act in direct cooperation with Health Canada.

We in the Bloc Quebecois have always seen ourselves as the defenders of Quebec's and the provinces' jurisdiction over health. The federal role in health is to provide funding under funding redistribution agreements. It is not its role, however, to assume responsibility for the actual administration of the system. We did not take long to realize that the federal government does not dazzle with its performance in administering those sectors that are within its jurisdiction.

We are not, therefore, prepared to acquiesce to giving the federal level any greater role in the way health is administered. The Bloc Quebecois is therefore opposed to this motion.

Any direct intervention with health professionals in hospitals and CLSCs represents an intrusion into Quebec's jurisdiction. Quebec and the provinces could, if they wanted, create a system similar to the one proposed, but it is certainly not up to the federal government to demand anything whatsoever.

If the provinces together, through their health ministers, said that they ought to develop a system taking into account the procedures of each, plus an overall system to consolidate all of the data, that would be a path to take in future. But assigning that responsibility to the federal government, which would lead it subsequently to intervene with the provinces to start demanding that data be presented in a certain way, is unacceptable to us.

Presumably, physicians generally assume their responsibilities and are already informing the authorities when events such as those referred to in this motion occur.

If this is not the case, then there are professional bodies with responsibility for ensuring that things are done properly. In our opinion, however, the objective will not be attained by creating an additional bureaucracy.

The hon. member introduced this motion with every good intention, but I would say this to him: let us leave it up to Quebec and the provinces to judge the validity of such a proposal. But it is not up to the federal government to assume that responsibility.

I will therefore be opposing this motion when it is time to vote on it.

Adverse Drug Reactions
Private Members' Business

2 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased on behalf of the NDP to join in on the debate on the motion put forward by the member for Yellowhead. I thank him for recognizing that a very similar motion was put forward in the first session of the 37th Parliament by the NDP health critic, the member for Winnipeg North Centre.

We certainly share the hon. member's very real concern over this issue. We recognize that the motion tries to address a question of health of very real and timely pertinence to all Canadians. It seeks to ensure that the medications that people are required to take because of illness are in fact safe beyond a reasonable doubt.

The motion is very simple and very straightforward, as the best motions often are. It calls upon the government, in cooperation with the provincial and territorial governments I should add, to put in place a system of mandatory reporting of adverse drug reactions.

Many of us were shocked to learn in investigating this issue that it is estimated that approximately 10,000 people a year die of adverse drug reactions in Canada. I do not think any of us are naive enough to think that by putting this registry in place we would prevent all 10,000 deaths per year, but it is safe to say that we could prevent a significant number of them if we took proactive, concrete steps to introduce a systematic way of sharing the information on adverse reactions.

Like so many things, I think a lot of Canadians believe that such a system is already in place in Canada. Many would be surprised to learn what a disorderly system is currently in place.

I should back up for a second and point out that Health Canada started to keep track of adverse reactions of drugs in the 1960s. The database was set up after women who had been taking the drug thalidomide gave birth to babies with serious birth defects, as many of us of the right age will remember. Health officials worldwide had noticed the problem too late, tragically. They vowed collectively it would never happen again. A database was put together and was started in this country, but researchers have been having a difficult time finding out what is in that database, how it is structured and how that information is in fact used.

When we did finally get to the bottom of it in researching this database, we found that there are 162,000 records of Canadians who have had a bad reaction to prescription drugs. Data in and of itself is meaningless until it can be analyzed and shared and used. This stockpile of incidents is not satisfactory in terms of having a mandatory adverse reaction registry that can be shared and can be accessed by all doctors and pharmacists.

One of the things that really turned a lot of heads when this research was done was that the number of adverse reactions among Canadians has absolutely skyrocketed in recent years. Among children in the last five years the number of serious incidents has tripled. That in and of itself should motivate Parliament to take action.

Again, I compliment the member for Yellowhead for being the one to champion this issue in the House of Commons because I was shocked to learn that Health Canada obviously is missing some of these vital signals.

One of the reasons the rate of adverse reactions in children has tripled and is growing much more quickly than in adults is that often there is off-label use of the drugs and the drugs were never tested on children. They were not really designed and meant for children.

A ridiculous example is that Viagra is being given to children who have serious lung problems to open up the cardiovascular capacity in their lungs. It was never intended for that use.

Pediatricians are in fact using drugs, what is called off-label use of drugs, more and more and there have been serious incidents of adverse reactions. The number of incidents has tripled over the last five years. We need no other reasons frankly, but if that were the only reason to introduce the mandatory adverse reaction registry, it would be enough for me to hold up my hand to vote for its introduction right away.

For many of us the issue crystallized when we learned of the well-publicized death of a young girl in Oakville, Ontario, Vanessa Young. She was 15 years old. She died because the drug she was prescribed, Prepulsid, was prescribed for the wrong circumstances. By all accounts this was a preventable death. Her father, Terence Young, to whom we should pay tribute, has carried on a mission since his daughter's passing to ensure that we as a society learn a valuable lesson from Vanessa's death. Surely that should compel us to take action today; that father's suffering and that family's suffering for an unnecessary and preventable death of a young Canadian girl, what more reason do we need.

We certainly became much more aware of the problems associated with adverse drug reactions and the absence of any substantive policy in this area as a result of Vanessa's death. We owe it to her to ensure that her death was not in vain, that we learn lessons from this tragedy. We must ensure that people in similar circumstances are not affected by something that is so preventable, so easy to grasp and so relatively easy to implement, in fact. We are not looking at a huge cost factor, as the mover of the motion pointed out.

At that time, the member for Winnipeg North Centre, the NDP health critic, raised with the House of Commons that Health Canada had information that it could have shared and acted upon many months before the death of Vanessa Young, but it failed to do so. It was not compelled to do so. The information was housed in a warehouse of information with 162,000 incidents. It did not constitute a database; it constituted a pile of information, essentially. There was no easy way for pediatricians, family doctors or pharmacists to research recent experience with certain pharmaceutical products.

The point of today's debate is not to lay blame but to find solutions. As a result of Vanessa's death, there was a coroner's inquest. The jury made a number of recommendations. One was the mandatory reporting of adverse drug reactions within 48 hours of the incident taking place. That seems to be a very reasonable solution to a very serious problem and one for which there is no reason to delay and no reason to avoid action.

I was disappointed to hear the rather vapid approach by the parliamentary secretary on the government side who spoke to this issue. I honestly thought that we would hear a more enthusiastic approach. What would be wrong for the Liberal government to stand up and say to the member for Yellowhead that he is right, that we should do something about this? The Liberals would not lose any political points for admitting that this is a shortfall in our health care system. They would gain political points for leaving their political baggage at the door for once in their lives and for doing what was right for Canadians in this regard.

I welcome the opportunity to throw my enthusiastic support behind the member for Yellowhead on this initiative, and the support of the entire, massive NDP caucus, as many votes as we can muster. We will be voting in favour of this initiative.

It is a pleasure to end the week on a note of doing something that would be good for Canadians were this motion allowed to go through to its natural conclusion.

Adverse Drug Reactions
Private Members' Business

2:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Rajotte Edmonton Southwest, AB

Madam Speaker, I want to take this opportunity to congratulate you on your new position.

I want to follow up on the comments by my colleague from the NDP who just spoke. Whenever the Conservatives and the NDP can agree on anything it must be a good thing for Canada.

I appreciate the opportunity to address the motion, which calls for the mandatory reporting of serious adverse drug reactions. I want to begin by saluting the intent of the motion, which is to raise awareness and increase reporting of such events so that Health Canada can act in a more timely manner.

Before I get into the details of the motion, I would like to pay tribute to the hon. member for Yellowhead, who is my colleague in the Conservative Party and our health critic. He has done an excellent job of raising awareness, certainly on these issues, but on many other issues in the health field. He is one of the hardest working members in the House and I salute him for putting this forward.

By way of background, I would like to explain what I mean by an adverse drug reaction. An adverse drug reaction is any unintended response to a drug, whether it is a prescription drug, a non-prescription drug, a biologically derived product, such as a vaccine, or a herbal product.

The food and drug regulations in Canada define an adverse drug reaction as a “noxious and unintended response to a drug which occurs at doses normally used or tested for the diagnosis, treatment or prevention of a disease or the modification of the modification of an organic function”.

Reactions may be evident within only minutes or may be delayed by years after Canadians initially use a product. Adverse reactions to drugs could be considered minor, such as a skin rash, but some very serious reactions have occurred, from heart attacks within days of drug use to long term liver damage.

According to Health Canada, 51% of drugs will cause some side effects. According to the CBC news on February 17, 2004--it has been doing a special, we should know, on this whole issue--the number of children in Canada harmed by suspected adverse prescription drug reactions has tripled in the last five years.

Even after 10 years on the market, new information on the public's adverse reaction to drugs can impact the use of a product.

For example, Merital, an anti-depressant that had been available in Germany since 1976, was approved in the U.S. in 1985. At the time of U.S. approval, the American food and drug administration was aware of less than 20 cases of anemia associated with the use of Merital. Hemolytic anemia is an anemia resulting from an increased rate of red cell destruction.

When the FDA began collecting data on the drug for domestic and foreign adverse drug reaction databases, it discovered that these anemias caused by Merital might be fatal. As a result of this research, the manufacturer announced the worldwide withdrawal of the drug a year later.

The exact motion before the House states:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should considering making it mandatory for health care professionals to forward to Health Canada information on all “serious” adverse drug reactions within 48 hours of their occurrence.

I think that is important to know. I think the motion gets my Liberal colleague's support because it says that the government should consider. It is not exactly a directive but obviously the intent of the motion is to make it mandatory. However I think it should be broad enough to include members who possibly do have concerns about how this will be implemented. The fact that the motion is more general than a specific piece of legislation should also cause more members to support the motion.

The reporting of adverse drug reactions by both health care professionals and by individual Canadians is extremely important. The fact is that many Canadians are unaware of the adverse drug reaction database that currently exists. Part of this problem is because the reporting system is voluntary. National adverse reaction reporting activities are co-ordinated by the marketed health products directorate of Health Canada. Yet how many Canadians actually know that we have a marketed health products directorate in Health Canada? It would be interesting to actually know that.

That is why the motion is being introduced. It is why an editorial in the Globe and Mail today describes the reporting of adverse reactions to certain drugs as haphazard. There is no system in place that covers all these reactions.

While manufacturers are legally responsible to provide Health Canada with any important safety information for health products they sell in Canada, doctors, nurses and health care professionals are not required to make any reports.

The information gap that exists could be contributing to preventable illnesses and even deaths. Health Canada estimates that only 10% of adverse drug reactions are reported. If more physicians, pharmacists and ordinary Canadians reported reactions, it would certainly save the health care system money.

I want to address that issue, and I know the hon. member for Yellowhead has talked about this a number of times. The health care system should be moving forward. In Alberta they are moving forward with what is called a personal electronic health care record, which, hopefully, will improve the way in which health care services are delivered. It will also have the complementary effect of making Canadians more aware of their health care and the benefits they are receiving because it will allow personal records to follow with the patient. This will allow physicians and pharmacists to compare and contrast notes to ensure that the drugs their patients are receiving are complementary, that they are not receiving one drug that could have an adverse effect if taken with another drug that they have been prescribed.

I see the motion as working hand in hand with that type of a system of moving toward the personal electronic health care system.

Before I conclude I want to address the concerns of the member of the Bloc Quebecois who spoke about provincial jurisdiction. I think, quite frankly, that the motion does not interfere with provincial jurisdiction. One could, I am sure, get the consensus of all the provincial health ministers with this motion. This is essentially a motion to improve the reporting and look after the health and safety of Canadians, whether they are in Quebec or in any other province. We should not let this get caught up in a federal-provincial debate here.

I would like to emphasize that the intent of the motion is certainly beneficial and we in the Conservative Party will be supporting it, and we hope all parties will as well. It would be beneficial for all Canadians to be aware of this database and to use it more frequently, and that is why we think that making this mandatory would be a good step. The bottom line is that only good things can come from such a database if it does have more information, if there is a more systematic information system in place. Hopefully we can prevent some of the tragedies we have seen from adverse drug reactions.

Again, I encourage all my colleagues to support this excellent motion of my colleague, the member for Yellowhead.

Adverse Drug Reactions
Private Members' Business

2:20 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Rob Merrifield Yellowhead, AB

Madam Speaker, I listened intently to my colleagues as they deliberated and discussed the merits of this motion. All parties of the House, except the Bloc, are in favour it. The only opposition the Bloc has is that it deals with provincial jurisdiction. In recognizing that, this is not an attack against any province.

In fact, just as many of those hardworking and well-intended individuals in Quebec are dying because of adverse reactions as any place in Canada. If anything, this is something that the Bloc should be applauding because it would stimulate that province into facilitating this and ensuring that it happens within that province.

We have to gather the data somewhere and that is now happening in Health Canada. We should expand that to make it mandatory reporting. We have a database which is not interfering with provincial jurisdiction. It is working hand and glove. That is the way our health care system was designed originally and the way it should continue to be moving forward into the 21st century.

We should design a health care system that puts the patient first and then works in the best interests of the patient. All levels of government, provincial and federal, must work together to that end. That is indeed what we are trying to promote in this motion and why I would encourage the Bloc members to reconsider their support.

This is about sending a message of awareness to the country and Health Canada. This is something that absolutely must happen and must happen in a mandatory fashion.

Some of the things we should consider is why this is quite timely. In the Globe and Mail today, one of the editorials talks about pushing for mandatory reporting. The CBC has been discussing this all week long. This is more faith than anything else. It is sort of a lottery where this motion comes forward at a time when in a week there is such interest in the nation on this issue.

The program Disclosure last week had a half-hour documentary exposing the problem and considerations of why we should be doing it. There is no question that tens of thousands of individuals are passing away on a yearly basis in Canada on our watch because we are not doing anything about it. Would this save all of those individuals? No, but it is a stepping stone toward putting in place a system that would help. We need to consider and deliberate on what is actually happening.

I have spoken with the Canadian Medical Association this past week. It has always reneged with regard to support for the idea of mandatory reporting; however, it is not resisting like I had thought it would. I am meeting with the president next week and we will be discussing this and other issues, I am sure.

I look forward to that deliberation because this is not an attack against the professionals. This is an ability for us to work in collaboration with them in order to set up a system. We need to listen to them to hear their concerns and to understand how we can streamline this mandatory reporting in a way that will be palatable to them and to others.

I encourage all members of the House to consider this. I encourage them to talk to their colleagues who are not here, and to talk to their friends and families because if they do not know of someone who has been affected by an adverse reaction, those other people do. This is an important issue. The health and welfare of Canadians is hanging in the balance and, on our watch, we should do something to solve it.

Adverse Drug Reactions
Private Members' Business

2:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Hinton)

Is the House ready for the question?

Adverse Drug Reactions
Private Members' Business

2:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Adverse Drug Reactions
Private Members' Business

2:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Hinton)

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

Adverse Drug Reactions
Private Members' Business

2:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Adverse Drug Reactions
Private Members' Business

2:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Adverse Drug Reactions
Private Members' Business

2:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Hinton)

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

Adverse Drug Reactions
Private Members' Business

2:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Adverse Drug Reactions
Private Members' Business

2:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Hinton)

All those opposed will please say nay.

Adverse Drug Reactions
Private Members' Business

2:25 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Adverse Drug Reactions
Private Members' Business

2:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Hinton)

In my opinion the yeas have it.I declare the motion carried.

(Motion agreed to)

Adverse Drug Reactions
Private Members' Business

2:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mrs. Hinton)

It being 2:27 p.m., this House stands adjourned until Monday next at 11 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 2:27 p.m.)