House of Commons Hansard #40 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was offenders.

Topics

The House resumed from April 22 consideration of the motion that Bill C-12, an act to amend the Criminal Code (protection of children and other vulnerable persons) and the Canada Evidence Act, be read the third time and passed, and of the amendment and of the amendment to the amendment.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to participate in today's debate on Bill C-12, an act to amend the Criminal Code (protection of children and other vulnerable persons) and the Canada Evidence Act.

As hon. members know, Bill C-12 proposes a number of criminal law reforms that seek: to better protect children against sexual exploitation, abuse and neglect; to facilitate testimony by child victims and witnesses and other vulnerable victims and witnesses in criminal justice proceedings; and to create a new offence of voyeurism. This last is an extremely important area. We have seen much of this in the media in recent years and I think every member in the House is concerned about this crime.

I believe that all of Bill C-12 is important and I support the whole of the bill. However, I will restrict my comments today to those provisions that respond to concerns relating to the age of consent to sexual activity.

The objectives of Bill C-12 on this issue are clearly articulated in the first paragraph of the preamble, which states:

Whereas the Parliament of Canada has grave concerns regarding the vulnerability of children to all forms of exploitation, including child pornography, sexual exploitation, abuse and neglect--

The focus of Bill C-12's response to concerns about the age of consent to sexual activity is on the exploitive conduct of the wrongdoer and not on whether the young person or victim consented to that conduct. I want to repeat that, because I think it is an extremely important part of the bill. The focus of Bill C-12's response to concerns about the age of consent to sexual activity is on the exploitive conduct of the wrongdoer and not on whether the young person or victim consented to that conduct. This is, in my view, both the right focus and the right response.

Voyeurism is an element of the bill that has not yet received much attention, but is one which I believe is important for the protection of a fundamental value of Canadian society, that is, the right to privacy.

Technology has made wonderful progress in recent years. It has simplified our lives by giving us tools that our grandparents never even dreamed of. The technological process has been particularly spectacular in the miniaturization of objects.

While new technologies have given us many advantages, they also have the potential to be misused. I think many of us recognize as we adapt to more and more technological change how that great technology can be abused and used against people.

One instance of this is the use that is made of miniature cameras. These cameras are so small that they can be easily hidden in any place. They may also be hooked up to a computer to enable a person to observe what happens in a room when that person is not only in another room but in another building.

These cameras are so small they can be almost hidden in a pen. We have seen that in terms of some of the science fiction shows and some of the crime programs. At one time we did not believe this was possible, but today it is, and we see this technology being used and used especially for voyeurism. It is an abuse of an individual's rights and it is an infringement on privacy.

Bill C-12 deals with that issue. The proposed creation of a new offence of voyeurism directly responds to this new threat on our privacy, the privacy of individuals. Of course, voyeurism is not new. There have always been what we call peeping Toms, who have observed others through a bedroom window or a keyhole. This conduct was dealt with by charging the person with the offence of trespassing or the offence of mischief. But these offences do not apply to the new ways in which voyeurism is now committed, hence the need for a specific offence of voyeurism.

The offence of voyeurism would have three elements. First is the observation or recording of a person in a surreptitious manner, which means that the person cannot reasonably be expected to see the person or the means of observing or recording.

Second, the person observed is in circumstances giving rise to reasonable expectations of privacy.

Third, one of the three following cases must apply. First, the person observed or recorded is in a place where one can reasonably expect a person to be in a state of nudity or engaged in sexual activity. I would think that a bathroom, a bedroom or a fitting room would qualify as such a place.

Second, a person is in a state of nudity or engaged in a sexual activity and the purpose of the observation or recording is to observe or record a person in that state.

Third, the observation or recording is done for a sexual purpose.

Bill C-12 would also criminalize the distribution of material obtained through voyeurism when the distributor knows that the material was obtained in this manner.

This new offence will not interfere with legitimate purposes. It will be a defence to a charge of voyeurism or distribution of voyeuristic material if the facts that constitute the offence served the public good and did not exceed what served the public good.

The bill would further protect the privacy of Canadians by providing for the seizure and forfeiture of voyeuristic material and deletion of such online material. This is an important element of Bill C-12. It protects a right that Canadians value dearly: their right to privacy.

We in this House have an obligation to ensure that Canadians' right to privacy is indeed protected. This is one more reason for the House to support the bill, in addition to the protection it will bring for children and other vulnerable people.

I want to take another moment and talk about Bill C-12 in its creation of the new category of prohibited sexual exploitation of a young person who is over the age of consent, that is, who is 14 years of age or older and under 18 years.

Under the proposed reform, courts will be directed to infer that a relationship is exploitive by looking to the nature and circumstances of the relationship, including the age of the young person, any difference in age, and the degree of control or influence exerted over that young person.

I understand that there continue to be calls to raise the age of consent for sexual activity. Why is this? As I understand them, these calls seem to be motivated by a number of different reasons.

For example, one reason sometimes given in support of raising the age of consent is that raising the age of consent to 16 or 18 will prevent others from forcing young persons into the sex trade. In response to this, I note that it is already an offence under the Criminal Code to force anyone under the age of 18 into prostitution. This offence carries a mandatory minimum penalty of five years' imprisonment.

Another reason that is given seems to be related to different understandings of what is meant by sexual activity. Canadian prohibitions against sexual activity do not differentiate between sexual activity and sexual activity that involves sexual intercourse. I do not believe that Canadians think a 14 year old or 15 year old girl is not mature enough to freely make a decision to kiss her 17 year old boyfriend, nor do I believe that Canadians want to criminalize a 17 year old for kissing his 14 year old girlfriend. Whether we adults like it or not, the reality is that adolescents do engage in sexual activity.

Bill C-12 in whole is a bill that the House should support and support extensively. It creates new penalties and it creates new offences. At the end of the day, it would mean that we would more greatly protect the most vulnerable in our society. I encourage all members of the House to support Bill C-12.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, does the member who has just spoken in regard to child pornography believe that there will be offenders, distributors or people who manufacture this material and who have broken the law who will ever claim that they have engaged in this activity because it is doing some public good?

Does he not honestly believe that whenever a person is arrested for this and is not using it for educational or medical purposes or whatever, the person indeed will claim he is, as did one individual recently? A judge agreed with that.

Are we going to see a number of people arrested for and charged with this offence making the claim that it is for the public good? Does he believe that will not happen?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, the public and I think the member well know that our position has been that the public interest is in fact a defence. Police officers and others can testify. I think there has to be balance in the bill so that the public interest is protected.

The whole thrust of the bill is to in fact deal with some of the issues that I congratulate the member opposite for raising concerns about. When I was solicitor general, he raised many of those concerns, legitimate concerns. I think this bill moves us forward in a balanced way toward protecting the public interest and dealing with those concerns, maybe not in exactly the way the member opposite wants to deal with them, but in a very positive and legitimate way.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

London West
Ontario

Liberal

Sue Barnes Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased that this member chose to speak on a section of this particular bill that has not had a lot of discussion in this chamber and that is the concept of voyeurism.

Some of the questions that have been put to me, when people have talked about the bill have dealt with surreptitious observation. For instance, will the prohibition of surreptitious observation not prevent reporters from observing a person and reporting on it during an investigation, for example, a prostitution or child pornography ring?

It is really important that we understand that to commit the offence of voyeurism, journalists would have to meet all of the requirements of this particular offence. They would have to observe from a place where the persons observed cannot see them, or place a web cam in such a place. The persons observed would have to be in circumstances giving rise to a reasonable expectation of privacy, which means they must have reasons to believe that they are in a place where nobody can watch them, and journalists would have to observe at a place where we would expect persons to be nude or engaged in sexual activity, such as a bedroom or bathroom, or they would have to observe persons nude or engaged in sexual activity for the purpose of observing persons in that state.

So, if journalists are in plain view of the persons observed while the other conditions are met, the observation is not surreptitious, even though the persons do not know that they are journalists. On the other hand, if the defence were provided for voyeurism conducted in the context of investigative journalism, it would allow journalists to put cameras in the bedrooms and bathrooms of Canadians and there is a public good defence.

I am really pleased that the member noticed and talked about this public good defence that would be available to journalists to cover situations serious enough to justify using investigative techniques that constitute criminal voyeurism. It is really important that we do not blank it and say there are no defences.

The hon. member has mentioned the police. I would ask the member, why does Bill C-12 not include the specific journalistic defence for voyeurism and why is it covered by the public good?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for her question. In response, all I can do is agree with what the hon. member has said.

She has outlined three points that journalists would have to meet in order to meet all the requirements of the offence. I think it is important to reiterate those points again for the record, because they are important points.

Journalists would have to observe from a place where the persons observed cannot them, or place a web cam in such a place. I believe the member mentioned that.

I outline these points because I think they are very important points. The persons observed would have to be in circumstances giving rise to a reasonable expectation of privacy, which means they must have reasons to believe that they are in a place where nobody can watch them. The last point is that journalists would have to observe in a place where we would expect persons to be nude or engaged in sexual activity, such as a bedroom or a bathroom, or they would have to observe persons nude or engaged in sexual activity for the purpose of observing persons in that state.

Therein lie the requirements to commit an offence of voyeurism. It is outlined fairly specifically. As I said earlier, the bill moves us ahead very considerably in the protection of the public interest. It is a good bill and indeed should be supported.

Criminal Code
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10:25 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I do not believe the member understood the question I asked.

In Alberta a pedophile has been arrested and charged for having possession of numerous items of child pornography. This person is not a bona fide doctor, not a bona fide teacher, nor a police officer. He is just a pedophile who has a job doing something else. His claim is that this material that he uses at night with some of his friends and family members to study is for educational purposes.

I see this bill protecting this man. Is it not possible that there could be a crack in the legislation because of the words public good? Must those words be tied to the bona fide factor that somebody who is using it for public good must be bona fide for that medical, scientific, or law enforcement purpose, or whatever it might be?

Why does he want to leave it as open-ended “public good” so that even this pedophile in Alberta can make a claim that he is only educating parents in his home, in privacy, and he is not a bona fide anything? There is a crack in it.

I was not born yesterday, but I think this crack is going to widen in the same way when the courts with some judge determined that some child pornography had some artistic merit. We need to be careful. Why do we not slam the door shut on that and include only the bona fide people who are in the position of doing the right thing when they are using it for educational, medical, or law enforcement purposes.

We must not leave the words in there open ended so that anybody, as the person in Alberta who is not a bona fide anything except a pedophile who is enjoying this weird stuff with his weird friends in the evening, can claim that they are educating--

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

The Speaker

Order, please. The member for Wild Rose is going to leave no time for the hon. member for Malpeque to answer, so I will call on him now for a brief answer.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I think the hon. member for Wild Rose and I could banter back and forth on this point all day and we probably would not agree on it. We see the public good, as he defines it, the protection of public good, differently.

That is a legitimate debate in the House. We have outlined in the bill the intent of the bill. We believe the bill is specific enough to deal with the concerns that the member opposite has raised.

I recognize his concern, but I hope he would recognize as well our intent that this bill does deal, in a progressive way, with this serious crime and protects the interests of Canadians.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I hope that you will understand that I was not prepared to speak to this bill, but sitting here and listening to the debate has just given me a motivation to get up. I want to plead with the government members on the other side to support the amendment and send the bill back to committee so that it can get it right.

I am very concerned about this. As the House knows I am father and a grandfather. When I think of any pervert using either my children when they were younger--they are now over the age of 18--or now my grandchildren for sexual purposes, I cannot express the degree of repulsion that it gives me in my mind.

I am very concerned that the bill, while it is being advertised by the Liberals as being a bill to protect children, is inadequate, It says that it is an act to amend the Criminal Code for the protection of children and other vulnerable persons. It just does not go far enough.

I would like to voice my opinion with respect to the specific clause that has to do with the public good. I ask the Liberal members to give this consideration. Sure, the public good can be used for a defence in protecting law enforcement agencies, and people who are involved in research and that type of thing. Perhaps to some degree that is legitimate and we need to protect that. I agree with that.

However, when a pedophile or other pervert is found out and charged in court, I guarantee that he will roll out the defence of the public good. I would like to read from the bill. It states:

For the purposes of subsection (6),

(a) it is a question of law whether an act serves the public good and whether there is evidence that the act alleged goes beyond what serves the public good, but it is a question of fact whether the act does or does not extend beyond what serves the public good; and--

When I read that, Mr. Speaker, do you not have a bunch of questions in your mind as to what the meaning of that is? It is a question of law and it is a question of fact. It seems that it talks about exactly the same things; whether or not it serves the public good.

This is of course what lawyers in court spend hours on: is it a fact, is it true or is it false, is the evidence accurate and is it covered under law? I am certain that persons who are charged under this bill will stand up in court and say that they plead the public good. They will make all sorts of arguments. Freedom of speech is a public good, freedom of expression, and personal freedom to go and to do what one wishes is a public good. I can see them making those arguments, and to a degree, we all agree with that.

We live in a country where we can move about in freedom. We live in a country where for the most part we can do almost what we want. I know this is getting close to moralizing and I will probably be criticized for it. However, we have people who have the freedom to go into all sorts of places of so-called entertainment which is really nothing but obscene and very disrespectful, usually of females. We have those freedoms. That is considered in our society a public good. If we can argue that that is a public good, then it is not a very great step to argue that for me to observe this art form is a public good.

I would like to urge the members of Parliament to support the amendment. We have a very serious duty to protect children and other vulnerable persons, especially women, from this kind of abuse and assault.

I would like to urge the members to send this back to the committee and have the bill state explicitly what the public good is, so judges and lawyers do not have to spend a bunch of time on a technicality that finds these perverts and obscene people not guilty of the offence. I am not a lawyer so I am unable to discuss the details of the technical part of this. However, it is very evident to me in the wording of the bill that there is the question, whether it is a question of law or a question of fact.

I urge members of Parliament to exercise their authority. The new Prime Minister has said that he wants democratic improvement and that he wants to give MPs more power. I appeal to all members of Parliament on both sides of the House to exercise that authority in this instance. This is a very important bill. It needs to be passed, but it needs to be amended, corrected and fixed up before it is passed.

The other area with which we have considerable difficulty is the age of consent, and this ought to be corrected. It talks about young people under age 14. This is another travesty of justice in the country. It is deemed that a 14 or 15 year old can consent to all sorts of sexual activity with an older person. This law would only protect those under age 14.

I know 14 and 15 year old young people and they need the protection of the law. It says in the preamble of the bill that this is for the protection of vulnerable persons. People 14, 15, even 16 year olds are terribly vulnerable in our society. Why would we not as members of Parliament and as legislators do everything possible to protect them against exploitation? They are so vulnerable, and it happens every day.

We read about it in the papers and hear about it on television news. It is despicable. It is incredibly sad when I hear of the things that are done to these young people. They are drawn into a relationship of trust, either through the Internet or through personal contact. Then the laws says that they are over 14 so they can make these decisions. We need to ensure that their decisions are the right ones. At age 14 and 15 they are so vulnerable to being persuaded by a powerful older person who can talk them into it. This needs to be amended in the bill.

My appeal is very simple. It is sincere. It is very important in my view that the bill be passed, but only after these serious shortcomings are corrected. I would like to see the members of Parliament over there exercise their wisdom on the bill. God has given them the intelligence to say to the government that the bill is not good enough, that it needs to be fixed and then they will support it.

If those amendments were made, I would gladly and happily support this bill. However, passing this bill so the Liberals can go out on the campaign trail telling the people, in my view falsely, that they have addressed the issue of children's vulnerability when they have not is a gross injustice and one which we ought not to perpetrate in the House.

My appeal, therefore, is sincere and I wish people would respond positively.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Sue Barnes London West, ON

Mr. Speaker, when I spoke on third reading debate, I also made an appeal to the House. Debate is wonderful. We have debated in the House, we have debated in committee and we have debated at report stage. I am appealing to the House to collapse the debate now so we can go on to the vote. We know another subamendment has been proposed to hoist this back to committee. What the country needs after debate is not just more debate, it really needs the bill.

I implore that hon. member. I understand his differences on the bill. His party has made them known. However, the bill has so many good provisions to help child witnesses, vulnerable witnesses and to address some of the issues that we have had to deal with legally in a respectful manner of the charter. I believe this side of the House and many people around the House feel that we have to respect the charter, but we have to do it by crafting a bill that complies with the charter and also helps with the travesty of when children are exploited.

That is my position, and I hope that the debate now ends. Would the member allow this debate to end so we can vote? The vote, as I say, is only on a hoist motion to take this debate back to committee. That is what he has asked for, so let us have that vote and democratically decide this issue.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, I do not know whether that member is a mother and a grandmother. I do not know about that part of her personal life. I spoke personally when I spoke to the bill, in view of my children, my grandchildren and their friends and other young people across the country of that age. I agree with the member that we ought to bring this to a vote, but will the Liberals support the amendment to send it back to committee?

The subamendment calls for the committee to report back by June 1. That is only a few weeks from now. We certainly can send it back to the committee, bring the bill back here, get it amended and fixed so that it actually does the job. The object is not to pass this bill, which is flawed. The object is to pass a bill which works.

I remember when I was an instructor at NAIT, one of my colleagues had a parchment on his bulletin board in his office that said, “If you don't have time to do it right, when will you find time to do it again?” This is my concern. We can pass the bill, but I presume the Liberals will vote against both the subamendment and the amendment because they want this bill to go through the way it is, with these serious flaws. I say no to that. The remedy is to send it back to committee, let it look at these things, let it amend the bill and send it back to the House. Then at least I would be most eager to pass the bill as quickly as possible.

Will I vote in favour of this flawed bill? The answer is no. The majority Liberal government over there will to jam through a bill which is inadequate and which does not protect our children. That is not good enough.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the words of the member who just spoke. I know they come from his heart.

I also appreciate the Liberal members talking about the good parts of the bill, and I agree. There are certainly some good things in the bill that we would like to see moved forward. However, I still believe the Canadian society and even people in the government do not realize how serious child pornography is in Canada and how many cases have been heard. People are being arrested daily.

In the last three week I have done a some research. There are a whole raft of charges that are to be laid against people who are involved in child pornography, pornography that hurts our children and puts them in a really dangerous situation.

We are asking for the bill to be to sent back so the child pornography part of it can be addressed. What good is it to have a law on child pornography, if it is allowed to exist in this land. Under the bill it definitely would be allowed to exist in the hands of those, and it should not. They will continue to exploit our children and they will use the two words left in the bill, “public good”, as a defence. We do not want that to have happen, and I am sure our colleagues over there do not want that either, but it will.

I have results of a lot of the cases where charges have been laid. I would like to ask my friend what he thinks about a number of examples I have. All of them, with the exception of one, are engaged in child pornography, downloading it, sharing it with friends and enjoying it in their evil ways. Those charged have received house arrest or community service and no jail time.

The headlines read, “No Jail Time in Kiddie Porn Case,” or “RCMP Officer Guilty of Sex Offences Gets House Arrest”. It goes on and on, case after case. These are daily occurrences throughout the land, not rarities. It happens continually, and has it become a billion dollar industry. People are profiting from this garbage.

We want it stopped. We want it stamped out. However, the bill contains two words that anybody could use as a defence. They might not be successful, but we have learned through the Sharpe case that some people can be successful.

Why would John Sharpe and other pedophiles across the land praise the Bill C-12 legislation if this were the real tough measure the government claims it to be?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Wild Rose has hit the nub of the problem, and that is there are loopholes in the bill that allow those who should be found guilty to argue in the courts and who probably would on this technicality go free with no jail time or restraint. They will still be out there in a position of abusing our most precious young people, our children.

It is interesting that our amendment posed by one of my colleagues my party, specifically mentions that. John Robin Sharpe has given a statement saying that this is a good bill. The person who has been charged with heinous crimes has said that this is a good bill because he can probably use it to get off. If that does not alert us as to what we are doing and the error we are making, then what will it take? I agree wholeheartedly with my colleague from Wild Rose that it is the loopholes in the bill that need to be corrected.

While the member opposite is saying that they want to collapse the debate so it can be voted on, I would like to emphasize that we indeed need to get to the vote, but the vote must be affirmative on both the subamendment and the amendment. We must say that the bill is to be sent back to the committee. The subamendment provides that the committee report back by June 1. That gives a very short timeline, but adequate to correct those serious flaws in the bill.

I urge members opposite, when it comes time to vote, to vote in favour of the subamendment and the amendment so we can do this one right.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Strahl Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I do not want to belabour this issue but I do want to raise a couple of points about it.

I must say that the Liberals' argument that this debate should collapse and that we need to rush this bill through is typical of the pre-election rush that I have seen on three occasions now since I have been in this place on bills that are not really expected to go through. Even if they pass here, are they expected to go through the Senate? It is unlikely. Are they expected to be proclaimed in law? Not this year. It is window dressing.

I saw it in the last Parliament with an aboriginal bill. We were told that if the bill did not pass all stages that day without debate, without going back to committee, it would be an injustice. I thought it was an injustice all right. It was an injustice to the aboriginal people who had to wait for the Liberals who waited until the last day of Parliament to try to get the window dressing bill through at all stages. They had been in office for seven or eight years and had all that time to get it through but they did not really want it to pass.

What we have in this bill, and this is a common dilemma for opposition members, is a bill that at least recognizes the problems. It is called the child protection act. The name sounds right. Some of the stuff in the bill is good. We have said we agree with it, that we like the direction of it and so on. In this case, it is not the enemy of the good is the perfect; unless we get it right, this bill is not good enough.

Opposition members only get to vote yes or no on this. That is the problem. The Liberals want to push it through saying that we will try to fix it some other day. Over on this side we keep saying that if we do not get it right, then is it the right thing to do to approve it? We cannot say that we approve of seven-eighths of the bill, that it is seven-eighths affirmative. There is enough wrong with the bill that we want it sent back to committee and we want it fixed. I would urge the government to think of that.

I know what the Liberals will say if we vote against it, and we are going to vote against it because of the problems already cited. They will say that we are against child protection, which is utter nonsense. They just will not address the crux of the issue, the tough part of the bill, the part that Liberals cringe over, which is to actually come down firm on something and say that enough is enough. When it comes to child pornography and exploitation of children, we have to say that enough is enough.

I have brought this up in the House before. The government passed a bill several years ago, four or five years ago, about giving us the ability to prosecute people who go to foreign countries to abuse children, in other words, people who go on these so-called sex holidays somewhere and they find children and abuse them. It is incredible but it is true. It is a multimillion dollar business. For window dressing they passed a bill that allows people who engage in that kind of crime to be prosecuted. This is a good idea.

The question which then comes up is how many people have been prosecuted? It is a multimillion dollar business. There are thousands of people apparently involved in it. It is something that needs to be addressed and stopped.

When that bill came through, we warned the government. We said that the child protection act was a good idea but would it actually get the job done? We said, “We are warning you, it will not get the job done”.

How many people have been prosecuted under that bill? None. How many have been convicted? None. Has the sex holiday business been curtailed? No. Has it helped protect children here or in other countries? No.

What does it mean? It means that we put window dressing on it, we pretend to have addressed it and the problem continues. In fact it is worse because we have veiled our eyes from it and said, “We have addressed this. It must not be going on”. Meanwhile, the poor kids in Thailand or in other countries around the world get abused by so-called holidayers on this binge of theirs, instead of addressing it and saying to those people, “If you are a Canadian getting involved in this, we will pass judgment . You will be doing serious time for exploiting children, for abusing them sexually”. But it has not happened.

There are no successful convictions, not one. If there were one, while I might not say it was a job well done, one would be a good start on what should be probably dozens and dozens of charges and convictions. We should throw the fear of the Lord into those guys who want to use children that way.

It did not work because it was not right. That is the trouble with this bill. It is not right. It will not work. That is why Sharpe likes it. He just says, “Perfect, man, this is just what I need and I will use it again”. The lawyers are all lined up. Their charter arguments are in place. The legislation is already being looked through by those people who defend this type of abuser.

That is what is wrong with the bill. If it is not right, if it is not going to get the job done, then we in the opposition have an obligation to critique it and we have an obligation to vote against it. I wish I could vote for seven-eighths of it, but the part that is wrong makes the rest of it meaningless. We on this side of the House cannot approve something on which people could come back to us five years from now and say, “They are using this defence and they are getting off scot-free”.

It is the same thing as the bill that was supposed to get those sexual predators who go overseas and abuse children because the laws are more lax over there. They go over there and practise their ploys, and if members think that those people leave Thailand or some other place where they abuse children, and come back here and spend the next 50 weeks being good boys, I think not. That is when they start practising their ugly crimes against children in our own country. That is when they download pornographic pictures from the Internet, share them, print them, distribute them, exploit children and abuse them. They do not just go for a week's holiday somewhere and then come back and become angels, having gotten it out of their systems.

That was what was wrong with that bill, and that is what is wrong with this bill. It is not right. That is why we should send it back to committee until we get it right. That is why I will be voting against the bill and in favour of the amendments.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, the bill talks about the public good and there is a bit of a definition of it. It says:

For the purposes of subsection (6), acts or material that serve the public good include acts or material that are necessary or advantageous to the administration of justice or the pursuit of science, medicine, education or art.

I have very little problem with it when it talks about public good including justice. Law enforcement agencies, lawyers and so on who are laying charges against an accused may have some of these images. It is legitimate. How about the pursuit of science, medicine and education? I suppose, to some degree, if one is training young doctors or nurses about anatomy, some of these things are not pornographic and they would be able to use that defence as having these things in their texts, et cetera, totally legitimately.

However I ask, and I do not usually use this word in my vocabulary but I use it now advisedly and correctly, what the hell is happening with arts? At what stage would the member say the public good is served by pornographic pictures of children in art? Where is the public good in that? I would like my colleague to give his impression of this definition.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

The Deputy Speaker

I am prepared to cede the floor to the hon. member for Fraser Valley if he has a very brief response, but I would suggest that we proceed to members' statements and then come back to the issue of the day following question period.

National Volunteer Week
Statements By Members

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, this being National Volunteer Week, I rise to pay tribute to the thousands of Canadians who give of their personal time to volunteer to help their neighbours and communities.

In rural communities volunteerism has quite literally been one of the pillars upon which our communities have been built. The helping of neighbours and the building of our rural communities would never have happened and could not be sustained without the contribution of those volunteers.

All those who volunteer give of their personal time, time away from family and businesses. These efforts deserve recognition and appreciation. Those who volunteer in emergency services where they sacrifice their time when called, assume personal risk, not to mention the risks to their business. It was in this spirit that Bill C-505, which will ensure equality under tax law for all emergency worker volunteers, was tabled in the House.

I recognize, congratulate and thank all volunteers.

Liberal Party of Canada
Statements By Members

10:55 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Deepak Obhrai Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, Canadians in my riding of Calgary East are fed up with the Liberal government's culture of corruption.

What we now have is another abuse of taxpayers' dollars. In recent weeks, Liberal candidates have been spending taxpayers' dollars and not their own to buy votes. Between the turncoat member for Kings--Hants, the environment minister and the finance minister, they have doled out $225,000 so they can get re-elected.

Corruption, abuse of tax dollars and patronage are all becoming synonymous with the Liberal government. Canadians are getting sick of this.

In the upcoming election, it is bon voyage to the scandal plagued Liberal Party.

Senator Gérald-A. Beaudoin
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, Senator Beaudoin recently had to leave his seat in the upper chamber because he had reached the retirement age stipulated in the Constitution.

Appointed to the Senate on September 26, 1988, he carried out his role as a parliamentarian meticulously and with great dignity. During his career he has won a number of distinctions, including the Ramon John Hnatyshyn award for law in 1997 and the Walter S. Tarnopolsky award for human rights in 2002, and has been an officer of the Order of Canada since 1980. Senator Beaudoin has written a number of publications on constitutional law.

We are sad to see him leave the Senate and Parliament, but we are all confident that we will continue to benefit from his expertise. He is a great jurist, a loyal Canadian and will be known as a great senator. Thank you, Senator Beaudoin.

Arts and Culture
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Eugène Bellemare Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Mr. Speaker, today is World Book and Copyright Day and on April 26 it will be World Intellectual Property Day. These are two excellent opportunities to celebrate the contributions of all the Canadian creators who enrich our daily lives.

World Book and Copyright Day was created to promote reading, publishing and the protection of intellectual property through copyright.

World Intellectual Property Day serves as a reminder to promote and teach the importance of intellectual property as a tool for economic and cultural development. This year the theme is “Encouraging Creativity”.

I encourage all Canadians to show their appreciation for the talent and passion that all creators invest in their works to enhance our cultural experience.

Vancouver Kingsway Constituency
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Sophia Leung Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have had the honour to serve as the member of Parliament for Vancouver Kingsway for the past seven years. I want to congratulate all the residents in my riding, which is enriched by all the vibrant cultures in the world.

It has been a special privilege for me to work closely with many members of the community and various community organizations.

As their federal representative, I was able to seek government support in the areas of health, education, affordable housing, along with social support for families and senior citizens.

I was also able to seek government infrastructure money to build the Millennium Sports Facility and to rebuild the South Vancouver Neighbourhood House. Every summer I worked with HRDC to create 78 summer jobs for high school and college students.

Congratulations to the residents of Vancouver Kingsway for their efforts in making positive progress in their community.

National Volunteer Week
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Rex Barnes Gander—Grand Falls, NL

Mr. Speaker, as National Volunteer Week comes to a close I would like to take this time to recognize and celebrate the contributions made by all volunteers in our country.

National Volunteer Week is a time to say thanks to the 6.5 million volunteers in Canada who prove again that Canadians have the ability to give generously and selfishly of their own time and expertise in order to make the lives of others better.

Volunteers strengthen communities. Volunteering is an investment in our communities and volunteers are our most valuable resource.

Where would our communities be if we did not have the commitment of our volunteers?

Winston Churchill once said “We make a living by what we get, we make a life by what we give”.

Mother Theresa once said “Small things done with great love bring joy and peace”.

And a wise unknown author said “Volunteers do not necessarily have the time, they just have the heart”.

On behalf of my constituents and myself, I want to thank all volunteers for their efforts to make our community better and to make Canada strong.

Fédération des caisses populaires acadiennes
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Beauséjour—Petitcodiac, NB

Mr. Speaker, I take great pleasure and pride in recognizing the Fédération des caisses populaires acadiennes, which held its annual meeting in Moncton last week.

I also congratulate the chair of the federation's board, Roland Cormier of Scoudouc, on his re-election. Roland Cormier has served this movement with energy, dignity and great success.

Roland Cormier is a real leader.

In addition, the new president and CEO, Camille Thériault, will provide vigour and leadership in coming years.

In 2003, the movement had the best year in its history. This financial institution is essential to the development of Acadia and it is in very good hands with Roland Cormier and Camille Thériault at the helm.

Armenian People
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Bloc

Gilles-A. Perron Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, this week we witnessed a historic moment. The House of Commons voted decisively in favour of a motion recognizing the Armenian genocide.

Although the Minister of Foreign Affairs has tried to minimize the import of this motion by my colleague from Laval Centre, the fact remains that the representatives of Canadians and Quebeckers will have had the last word on the meaning to be attributed to this other tragic crime against humanity.

Tomorrow is the sad anniversary of the Armenian genocide of 1915, which claimed over 1.5 million victims.

The Bloc Quebecois sympathizes with the Armenian community and, together with them, we will continue to remember this event and remind future generations of it so that such terrible acts are never repeated.

Agriculture
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

David Kilgour Edmonton Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, our chicken farmers in B.C. are facing the very worst: birds with a seriously contagious virus have been found in 31 farms in the Fraser Valley and about 950,000 infected birds have been destroyed thus far.

Even birds from uninfected farms within a one kilometre radius of an outbreak are being slaughtered in an aggressive effort to end the spread of this terrible virus.

At times like these, farmers in Abbotsford, Mission and the rest of B.C. need to know that the rest of the country stands with them shoulder to shoulder.

Ethics Commissioner
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Ken Epp Elk Island, AB

Mr. Speaker, Dr. Bernard Shapiro has been chosen by the Prime Minister as the new ethics commissioner. His personal credentials seem impressive but we are singularly unimpressed with the method of appointment and the restrictions on his role when it comes to addressing ethical breaches of cabinet ministers.

The Prime Minister talks about the democratic deficit and giving more power to members of Parliament but in this very important matter, MPs are relegated to being as impotent as the furniture in this place.

Cabinet ministers are shielded from parliamentary and public scrutiny. Questions about ministerial misconduct will still be dealt with behind closed doors, just like in the old Chrétien days. Where is the direct reporting to Parliament on this one?

This whole exercise is just another example of appearance over substance. The Liberals want to have it appear as though they are addressing the deep ethical deficit in this government but they are unwilling to do anything substantial about it.

National Volunteer Week
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Gurbax Malhi Bramalea—Gore—Malton—Springdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, April 18 to 24 marks National Volunteer Week, an occasion to recognize Canadians who devote their time and efforts to their fellow citizens. These dedicated volunteers are living examples of the value Canadians place on caring for their communities.

With increasing demands on people's time, it is important to salute the efforts of those who fit participation and service to others into their busy schedules. The Government of Canada supports volunteering through its Canada volunteerism initiative.

From boardrooms to soup kitchens, volunteers serve our communities in many ways. They coach our children, visit the elderly and help new Canadians adapt to our society.

On behalf of the Government of Canada, I want to thank Canada's 6.5 million volunteers.

Burma
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to condemn, in the strongest possible terms, the government of Burma for the prosecution and the subsequent sentencing to death of nine Burmese workers on charges of high treason. The charges brought against these individuals are on the grounds of making contact with the United Nations International Labour Organization.

One defendant received the death sentence for having been found to be in possession of a report of the ILO on forced labour in Burma. I had the honour of working on the ILO document, as did the Minister of Labour for Canada.

The prosecution of individuals for making contact with the ILO is a violation of fundamental human rights. We highlight the blatant hypocrisy of the Burmese government that pledged to work with the ILO to stamp out forced labour while prosecuting individuals on the grounds of treason for making contact with a UN agency.

The Burmese authorities must drop the charges of high treason against these workers and ensure that they are released from prison.

I urge our Minister of Labour and our Minister of Foreign Affairs--

Burma
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Rosemont—Petite-Patrie.

World Book and Copyright Day
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Bloc

Bernard Bigras Rosemont—Petite-Patrie, QC

Mr. Speaker, “Lire, un plaisir qui se partage”, is the theme Quebec has chosen for World Book and Copyright Day.

The Bloc Quebecois wants to take this opportunity to pay tribute to the authors whose works, often a critical view of society in the form of novels, short stories, poetry or other genres, immortalize thoughts, eras, and epochs. Through their works, these writers inspire reflection, feed our imaginations, and allow us to dream.

If literacy is the sword of emancipation of individuals and peoples, reading is what keeps that sword sharp and instills a taste for escape and freedom.

But if literary works are to blossom, there must be protection for authors and respect for their creations. That is why the Bloc Quebecois is fighting to have these rights recognized and has, for years, proposed the abolition of all obstacles to the democratization of reading. In fact, its first move was to call on the federal government to eliminate the GST on books.

This day is an opportunity for the Bloc Quebecois to encourage—

World Book and Copyright Day
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

The Speaker

The member for Lanark—Carleton.

Health
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Scott Reid Lanark—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, six years ago the federal and provincial governments signed agreements to provide care, not cash, to those who contracted hepatitis C through the blood system before 1986 or after 1990.

Under this agreement, $55 million was given to the Ontario government. However none of these funds have yet been allocated to the delivery of health care services. Instead, the Ontario government insists that it is still studying the problem. As a result, some people, who have been disabled with hepatitis C and can no longer work, are being forced to pay out of their own diminished income for health care.

I would invite Health Canada to investigate this lack of cooperation and, if it cannot induce the province to act on its word, to claw back the transfer and instead provide the funds directly to hepatitis C victims.

The fact that Canadian citizens contracted hepatitis C through the blood system is a national tragedy. The fact that 15 years later there is still no enforceable national standard for assistance to these victims is an embarrassment and a shame.

Health
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Sue Barnes London West, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a well-known fact that our national health care system is a cherished legacy that the Liberal government will never abandon.

Through its ongoing support of our national health care system, the Liberal government helps women maintain and improve their health. For example, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research bring together the best researchers from across Canada to study the issues of concern to women. We also provide stable, ongoing funding to the Canadian breast cancer initiative and provide funds to improve pre-natal nutrition, food safety, food supplementation and to support referral and lifestyle counselling.

In areas of concern to Canadian women, such as primary care, home care and access to drug coverage, the Liberal government is helping to accelerate changes to the health care infrastructure.

In budget 2004 the Prime Minister committed an additional $2 billion in funding for health care, bringing the annual federal contribution to public health spending in Canada to $36.8 billion, about 40% of the total.

The Liberal government is proud to support health and health care and women issues as a priority.

High School Graduations
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, during the graduation season I would like to share with my colleagues the lessons I share with the students during the ceremonies. It is entitled “Everything they need to know about life I learned from Noah's Ark”. The lessons are as follows:

Number one: Don't miss the boat.

Number two: Remember that we are all in the same boat.

Number three: Plan ahead. It wasn't raining when Noah built the ark.

Number four: Stay fit. When you're 600 years old someone may ask you to do something really big.

Number five: Don't listen to the critics, get on with the job that needs to be done.

Number six: Build your future on high ground.

Number seven: For safety sake, travel in pairs.

Number eight: Speed isn't always an advantage. The snails were on board with the cheetahs.

Number nine: When you're stressed, float a while.

Number ten: Remember the ark was built by amateurs, the Titanic by professionals.

Number eleven: No matter the storm, when you're with God there is always a rainbow waiting.

I send my congratulations to all the grade 12 students who will be graduating this summer.

The Environment
Statements By Members

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Alan Tonks York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, Earth Day was celebrated yesterday and let me present a bright and simple idea for this occasion. It is called the compact fluorescent light bulb.

Last month our government launched the one tonne challenge. It is a campaign to directly engage Canadians in making environmentally friendly choices and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Compact fluorescent light bulbs are an ideal solution to reducing energy consumption. One such light bulb will use only one-quarter of the electricity required by a standard bulb. It will also last up to 10 times longer.

If we replaced just one regular light bulb in every household in Canada with one of these compact fluorescents, we would save $73 million in energy costs and reduce greenhouse gases by almost 400,000 tonnes. This would be equivalent to taking 66,000 cars off the road. This is literally a bright idea.

I urge fellow parliamentarians to lead by example and install one fluorescent light bulb in every house in the country.

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jason Kenney Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, what a tangled web we weave. First, the Prime Minister pretended to be as clean as the driven snow when it came to government contracting, advertising and polling, but the testimony from Chuck Guité today and yesterday at the public accounts committee confirms yet again, along with documentary evidence, that this Prime Minister was up to his neck in political interference to steer government contracts for polling and research to his friends at the Earnscliffe Group.

How can Canadians trust this Prime Minister to get to the bottom of the ad scam when in fact, going back 10 years, he was so clearly involved in breaking the rules to benefit his political friends?

Government Contracts
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, nothing could be further from the truth.

I think that first of all we need to clarify the record. This has nothing to do with sponsorship. What we are talking about here is an issue around advertising in the Government of Canada at a period of time between 1994 and 1995. In fact, if we look at the document, if we look at the record, nobody interfered on behalf of Earnscliffe. Nobody interfered on behalf of anyone.

If hon. members have read the documents I have, it is pretty clear that during this period of time, anyone working for the then minister of finance was arguing for a more competitive process, a--

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Calgary Southeast.

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jason Kenney Calgary Southeast, AB

That is utterly ridiculous, Mr. Speaker, a more competitive process that ended up with only one firm putting in a bid: Earnscliffe. Why? Because it was a rigged contract. Why? Because the Prime Minister and his buddy the finance minister wanted to make sure that tax dollars got steered to their shadow leadership campaign over at Earnscliffe.

I want to know, why is it the Prime Minister can pretend to be completely innocent of the wrongdoing that happened in ad scam when he was into it up to his neck, steering government contracts and violating government rules in order to do so?

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Edmonton West
Alberta

Liberal

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

I can only say again, Mr. Speaker, that nothing could be further from the truth. Let us in fact look at the record. First of all, this has nothing to do with the sponsorship program. Everybody should keep this in mind.

Then, again, when I look at these documents from 1994 that people keep referring to, all these documents speak to a desire on the part of those working for the then minister of finance to open up the process, to have a more competitive process. In page after page of copies, nowhere is Earnscliffe mentioned in any of these documents. In fact, one of these documents goes so far as to say that if there are any other firms that have indicated--

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Calgary Southeast.

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

11:15 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Jason Kenney Calgary Southeast, AB

That is just plain wrong, Mr. Speaker. Documents tabled by Mr. Guité do refer to Earnscliffe Research, and of course the documents we tabled earlier this week show that the Prime Minister was up to his neck in trying to break the rules.

Is it not interesting that yesterday we heard testimony that Terrie O'Leary, the then finance minister's chief of staff, called Mr. Guité and met with Mr. Guité at the finance minister's office? Scott Reid, the Prime Minister's spokesman, denies that these meetings ever happened. Where did Mr. Reid come from? Earnscliffe Research. Why is the Prime Minister's own denial man denying his connections to the very firm that he came from?

Government Contracts
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, again let me clarify the record. No one in the Prime Minister's Office has ever said that Terrie O'Leary did not meet or speak with Mr. Guité, but what the Prime Minister's Office has made clear is that at no time--no time--did Terrie O'Leary intervene on behalf of Earnscliffe.

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Diane Ablonczy Calgary—Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, if the Prime Minister was so innocent, why did Public Works rap his knuckles? Why did public works say his actions were completely unacceptable? The fact is that the Prime Minister did try to intervene in the process and it was improper, and he did get his knuckles rapped because it was improper. How does the Prime Minister's supposed anger over ad scam square with his direct interference in advertising contracts?

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Edmonton West
Alberta

Liberal

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

Again, Mr. Speaker, it is outrageous that hon. members of the House would make allegations like that.

As I have said, first of all, let us go back to the basics. This has nothing to do with the sponsorship program. Let me go further and say this: that which was done by the staff of the then minister of finance was all about ensuring there was a more open process, a more competitive process with names of companies which the then minister's office wanted added to ensure that the taxpayers of Canada got the best possible service.

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Diane Ablonczy Calgary—Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, interference in contracting is interference in contracting. It does not matter which program is at issue.

If all of this was so innocent, why did the documents that were leaked this week show that there was such a rigging of the process that only Earnscliffe could qualify? That is what public works found; not what we found but what public works found. Public works castigated the Prime Minister for it and said it was inappropriate that he rigged the system in favour of Earnscliffe. Yet the Deputy Prime Minister--

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Calgary—Nose Hill I think may have been here yesterday when I suggested that the use of the word “rigging” had more to do with sailing and we would not be using it in relation to members of the House in arranging matters. The hon. member for Calgary Southeast came close on that, but the hon. member for Calgary—Nose Hill I think has stepped over the line, and we will not have that. I would urge hon. members to use appropriate caution in their remarks.

The hon. Deputy Prime Minister may respond.

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Edmonton West
Alberta

Liberal

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

Again, Mr. Speaker, all contracts that are in question here were let in an open and transparent way. All requests for proposals had criteria and in fact the whole import of any involvement on the part of the then minister of finance's office was to ensure that more firms were able to bid so that in fact they could be assured that the taxpayers of Canada got the very best quality product for their money.

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-De- Beaupré—Île-D'Orléans, QC

Mr. Speaker, in the sponsorship scandal, Charles Guité has confirmed that the system that allowed the worst abuse of public money was dreamt up at the highest echelons of the government. Mr. Guité said that his role was to do as he was told and that it was not him, but the Privy Council Office and the Prime Minister's Office that decided to run the program that way.

Will the Prime Minister, who says he wants to get to the bottom of the sponsorship scandal, now have the courage to take the blame and admit that the political direction, whose existence he himself has acknowledged, came directly from Jean Chrétien's office?

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Vancouver Quadra
B.C.

Liberal

Stephen Owen Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member misrepresents what Mr. Guité said yesterday. He said very explicitly that there was no political interference with respect to which advertising companies should be chosen or which events should go on. He said the only information he received was advice on which event should be sponsored. Then he made the decision, exercising his authority as the manager for that program.

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-De- Beaupré—Île-D'Orléans, QC

Mr. Speaker, since the government is so big on transparency it should stop playing on words. Let us look at what Mr. Guité said. He admitted that the Prime Minister's Office and the ministers took some decisions with respect to granting contracts to specific companies, that he and Alfonso Gagliano agreed on the awarding of contracts, that he looked at the list with Jean Pelletier, and that it was Jean Chrétien who signed the requests for funding.

Will the Prime Minister admit that the political direction given by Jean Chrétien's office was so specific that it went so far as to indicate which Liberal-friendly companies should receive the contracts?

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Vancouver Quadra
B.C.

Liberal

Stephen Owen Minister of Public Works and Government Services

Mr. Speaker, we have heard mentioned previously this morning the memo from Terrie O'Leary dated May 30, 1994, explicitly asking for more competition in this process. Against that, we have some testimony from Mr. Guité yesterday, going back in memory to a conversation he says occurred 10 years ago.

We know that in fact-finding processes when there is a difference of opinion, it is much more credible to rely on the printed word contemporaneous with that time rather than a 10 year old memory of a conversation.

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Laurentides, QC

Mr. Speaker, not only is the government now refusing to condemn the actions of the politicians fingered in the sponsorship scandal, but at the time the office of the now Prime Minister, who knew very well how the whole thing worked, interfered politically to benefit his own friends at Earnscliffe.

Charles Guité confirmed yesterday that, in 1994-95, the chief of staff to the current Prime Minister indicated to him that “Paul would prefer”, “Paul would be happier” if Earnscliffe were chosen. Who is that Paul, if not the current Prime Minister?

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Edmonton West
Alberta

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I go back to what I said earlier. In fact, if we look at the documentation from that period of time, we see that what the then chief of staff of the former minister of finance said was that she wanted a more open process.

There are lists of firms which were to be added in a competitive, open process, a process of requests for proposals where there were criteria. In fact, what the then chief of staff of the then minister of finance was trying to achieve was an open, competitive process where the taxpayer got the best value for their dollars.

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Laurentides, QC

Mr. Speaker, there is still more. What Charles Guité has said is confirmed in a letter from Warren Kinsella complaining about political interference by the then finance minister, who not only was funding the scandal but also wanted to see his friends benefit from it.

Is this not proof that this Prime Minister, who claims to be as pure as the driven snow, also sought to favour his friends?

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Edmonton West
Alberta

Liberal

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

Again, Mr. Speaker, I go back to the fact that the record does seem to be pretty clear here in that what the then chief of staff of the then minister of finance was trying to do was ensure that more firms could tender, could in fact bid in relation to important work being done by the Department of Finance and the Government of Canada. There were criteria in these requests for proposals. Everything was transparent.

In fact, looking at these documents, I think we should be applauding what the then chief of staff of the minister of finance did, because she wanted to ensure--

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Winnipeg North Centre.

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, over the past 24 hours we have heard how close associates of the present Prime Minister curry favours for his friends. Over the past 73 days we have heard how close associates of the last Liberal prime minister curried favours for their friends.

Canadians are simply sick and tired of the cronyism, corruption and government over martinis that the Liberals represent.

Is the reason the public inquiry has not started that the Prime Minister knows Liberals are knee-deep in this mess no matter which side of the feud they are on?

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:25 a.m.

Edmonton West
Alberta

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, let me remind the hon. member that it was this Prime Minister who made it plain that we wanted to get to the bottom of this matter. It was this Prime Minister who put in place a public inquiry.

That public inquiry is independent. Mr. Justice Gomery will carry that inquiry forward as he sees fit, but it was this Prime Minister who asked that the public accounts committee get to work quickly so that Canadians, all of us, could get to the bottom of this matter.

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, let me remind the Deputy Prime Minister that it has been 73 days since the Prime Minister appointed Judge Gomery to head the public inquiry and it still has not started. The British government could do it in 10 days, but this Liberal government has taken 73 days and counting because it does not want the truth to come out.

We have had enough and we have heard enough: boutique contracts for this Prime Minister's friends and cushy money for nothing contracts for the last prime minister's friends. If the Prime Minister will not start the public inquiry, will the Deputy Prime Minister at least stand up today and say that Earnscliffe will not get another penny of taxpayers' money--

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. Minister of Public Works and Government Services.

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 hon. member seems to forget that the whole point of appointing an independent judicial inquiry is that the inquiry be independent. Justice Gomery is preparing his proceedings and they will take place in due course.

The opposition likes to quote what they like from Mr. Guité and avoid otherwise, but let me quote from Mr. Guité's lawyer's letter to the chair of the committee, dated March 10:

It is clear that the Members of the Opposition comprising the Committee see these hearings as an opportunity to advance their political positions with respect to--

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Crowfoot.

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Kevin Sorenson Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, even the Liberals are questioning the so-called wisdom of the Prime Minister's right-hand man in Quebec. Former separatist Jean Lapierre apparently wants the RCMP to lay charges in the sponsorship scandal, not because he wants to see people held accountable for the fiasco, but because he believes it would help this Liberal government going into an election. It would help them in the polls.

This is the man who is the voice of the Liberal Party. He is the voice of the Prime Minister in Quebec. Now he is the one who wants to put pressure on the RCMP: public pressure on the RCMP for political purposes. Why does this government--

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. Deputy Prime Minister.

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Edmonton West
Alberta

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, as I said yesterday, the RCMP will conduct its criminal investigation independently. The RCMP is not influenced by the comments of anyone, including Mr. Lapierre.

Let me remind the hon. member that any final decisions in relation to prosecution will rest with the attorney general of the province of Quebec.

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Kevin Sorenson Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, it was the member for Toronto—Danforth who said that Lapierre was making the sort of statements “where there is no filter between his brain and his mouth”. For once I agree with the member for Toronto—Danforth.

These remarks by the Prime Minister's lieutenant are either just plain dumb or they are a deliberate attempt to put pressure on the police for political reasons. Which is it?

When will the Prime Minister reprimand the Quebec lieutenant for this type of behaviour and conduct?

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Edmonton West
Alberta

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, let me again reiterate that the RCMP will conduct its investigations in an independent and transparent fashion. The RCMP will not be influenced by the personal comments of anyone, including Mr. Lapierre.

I remind the hon. member that if and when charges are laid and prosecution is undertaken, those are decisions that will be made by the attorney general of Quebec.

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Vic Toews Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, wherever the Prime Minister goes in Quebec on his pre-election non-campaign who is in the photo? Jean Lapierre. There they are standing close together.

Canadians assume that when Mr. Lapierre speaks it is on behalf of the Prime Minister. Why then is the Prime Minister refusing to reprimand Lapierre for blatantly trying to exert political pressure on the RCMP into the sponsorship scandal?

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Edmonton West
Alberta

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, first let me say that nobody speaks for the Prime Minister but the Prime Minister. He speaks for himself.

Let me reiterate what I said before. The RCMP will conduct its investigations in the way that it sees fit and the personal opinions expressed by anyone will be irrelevant to the conduct of those investigations.

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:30 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Vic Toews Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, not even the Deputy Prime Minister, never mind the Prime Minister, is willing to stand up and say that those comments are irresponsible. She will not even say that in the House.

By keeping Mr. Lapierre at his side and with the Deputy Prime Minister refusing to admonish Mr. Lapierre, they are sending out a very clear message to the RCMP investigators. The commissioner is her deputy minister.

Why do the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister remain silent when their political appointees are trashing the justice system?

Sponsorship Program
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Edmonton West
Alberta

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, far from remaining silent, I have been absolutely clear in this matter.

The personal comments by anyone, including Mr. Lapierre, are completely irrelevant to the conduct of the criminal investigation being undertaken by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, how can the Prime Minister claim he was aware of nothing, when he knew how the system worked and his office did not hesitate to use political interference to steer contracts toward Earnscliffe, as the Warren Kinsella memo confirms?

Given the constantly increasing evidence, will the Prime Minister continue to claim he knew nothing?

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Edmonton West
Alberta

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, as I said before in relation to this matter, everything was done in an open and transparent way.

Requests for proposals had clear criteria. Those criteria were there to deliver the best value for dollar to the Canadian taxpayer. When we look at all this documentation that has been provided by the opposition and that is before the committee, all this documentation speaks to opening up the process and having a more competitive process in which more companies would be able to participate.

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Yvan Loubier Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, QC

Mr. Speaker, what is clear from all this, even if the Prime Minister informs us that politics under him will never be the same again, is that there is no difference at all between the old and the new government.

Will the government acknowledge that the old and new governments are linked by the same old common thread, and that the Liberal way is first and foremost to help its friends to public funds?

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Edmonton West
Alberta

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, again I go back to the fact that if we look at this documentation, it is about ensuring the best, most open, most competitive process for the Canadian taxpayer.

I have reviewed these documents and they are all about identifying any firm that might be interested in bidding and making sure their name gets on the list.

I go back to the fact that the request for proposals had clear criteria. Everything here was transparent and everything here was done to ensure the highest--

Government Contracts
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Verchères--Les-Patriotes.

Apparel Industry
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Stéphane Bergeron Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, a study by the Canadian Apparel Federation confirms that the sector may lose between 19,000 and 50,000 jobs in Canada over the next five years. Montreal will be particularly hard hit because 58% of apparel industry jobs are located in Quebec.

Is the government going to do its part to save the apparel industry from extinction and, to do so, is it prepared to eliminate the tariffs on textiles that are not produced in Canada and thus reduce costs for Canadian apparel manufacturers?

Apparel Industry
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Willowdale
Ontario

Liberal

Jim Peterson Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, I would like to say that—

Apparel Industry
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.

Apparel Industry
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

The Speaker

Order, please. The hon. Minister of International Trade.

Apparel Industry
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Jim Peterson Willowdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is true that this is a very important industry, and the Minister of Industry recognizes that international competition presents great challenges for these industries. That is why the minister has already acted in this area.

Apparel Industry
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Stéphane Bergeron Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, on a related topic, if we want the safeguards to have their full effect and not cause problems for the textile industry, they must necessarily be narrowly focussed.

Accordingly, does the government intend to impose temporary import barriers on certain textile products manufactured here, as the WTO agreements permit, as a safeguard?

Apparel Industry
Oral Question Period

11:35 a.m.

Willowdale
Ontario

Liberal

Jim Peterson Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, it is obvious that changes must be made to deal with international competition. That is why the Minister of Industry has already announced—this year and last year—over $80 million for adjustments.

I shall continue to work with the textile industry to help the workers in that sector.

Softwood Lumber
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Charlie Penson Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, days before the Prime Minister and the Minister of International Trade travel to Washington, Canadian softwood industry groups are sounding the alarm that the government is willing to sign a deal that will sacrifice Canadian sovereignty. The U.S. Department of Commerce wants to dictate to the provinces how to manage their resource.

Do the Prime Minister and the Minister of International Trade not realize that accepting this deal will mean the surrendering of Canadian economic independence?

Softwood Lumber
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Willowdale
Ontario

Liberal

Jim Peterson Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, as I have said in the House many times, this is such an important industry to all of Canada and this is why I am very pleased the hon. member has asked this question.

We will continue to pursue our two-track policy on this. One is litigating before the WTO and the NAFTA, and the second is to come to some type of negotiated settlement.

So far we have not had a prevailing view in Canada as to what that type of negotiated settlement would be and therefore it is quite premature for him to prejudge what we would be doing.

Softwood Lumber
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Charlie Penson Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, any deal has to respect Canadian sovereignty and according to news reports the trade minister believes a deal may be close. However the December proposal from the U.S. would have given the American softwood lumber companies about half of the $2 billion paid in duties by Canadian companies. This is not only insulting, this has been ruled illegal by the World Trade Organization.

Does the government not realize that handing over softwood lumber duties to our American counterparts is no way to achieve free trade in softwood lumber?

Softwood Lumber
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Willowdale
Ontario

Liberal

Jim Peterson Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, I very much appreciate the hon. member's interest in this file because it is so important to all of us. I can assure him that I carried the provinces' view to the United States on January 11, and one of the reasons that this was rejected unanimously was for one of the reasons that he stated.

Fisheries and Oceans
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Lunney Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, onshore processing of Pacific hake marketed as Pacific whiting means hundreds of jobs to Canadians, most of whom live and work in Ucluelet and Port Alberni, coastal communities in my riding. It also means spinoff employment and improved environment through proper waste management and optimal management of a fragile biomass.

At this crucial time the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans is under pressure to reinstate foreign offshore factory ships and to double the total allowable catch. This would benefit a small cadre of commercial fishing interests but it would endanger our plants, our local economies and sustainability of the fishery.

Will the minister honour his commitment to shore base processing by continuing the moratorium on offshore foreign fleets?

Fisheries and Oceans
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Halifax West
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Geoff Regan Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, I met recently with my provincial colleague in British Columbia, Mr. John van Dongen, the minister there, about this topic. We both agreed to work together on this issue with interested stakeholders to find a resolution before the season begins.

Fisheries and Oceans
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

James Lunney Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, the U.S. has prudently decided to harvest only half of its total allowable catch. Local communities, the union and my own office have all asked the minister to do the same.

Why would the minister put the interests of foreign offshore commercial fleets ahead of our coastal communities, the environment and sustainability of the resource?

Fisheries and Oceans
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Halifax West
Nova Scotia

Liberal

Geoff Regan Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, the fact is that I am working with the province of British Columbia on this matter. We both consider it an important issue. The moratorium remains in place for the time being. If we make a decision to change that, we will let my hon. colleague know.

Labour
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Sophia Leung Vancouver Kingsway, BC

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

I understand that the Council of Marine Carriers and the Canadian Merchant Service Guild reached an impasse yesterday in their collective bargaining negotiations to end the labour dispute that is affecting shipping in British Columbia.

What is the Minister of Labour doing to help the parties conclude a settlement and restore normal shipping service to the west coast of Canada?

Labour
Oral Question Period

11:40 a.m.

Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe
New Brunswick

Liberal

Claudette Bradshaw Minister of Labour and Minister responsible for Homelessness

Mr. Speaker, yesterday I asked the mediator to make written recommendations to settle this dispute. The mediator provided the parties with his recommendations for settlement last night and asked the parties to respond to him by 4:30 Vancouver time today.

The union has accepted the mediator's recommendations for settlement and is prepared to return to work immediately if the employer accepts them. I am currently waiting for the employer's response to the recommendations. I urge the employer to accept these recommendations and take the steps necessary to bring this dispute to a rapid conclusion.

Finance
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, shares optioned to the officers and directors of a company as part of their executive compensation constitutes a significant liability that shareholders and investors deserve to know about.

In the interest of restoring confidence in our equity marketplace, will the government agree that the Corporations Act should be amended so that stock options must be listed in the expense column of a company's annual financial statements?

Finance
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Willowdale
Ontario

Liberal

Jim Peterson Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his excellent suggestion. I know that many changes have already been made in this area so that stock options have to be expensed.

Turks and Caicos
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Alexa McDonough Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, three decades ago the NDP championed a formal relationship between Canada and the Caribbean islands, the Turks and Caicos.

Yesterday the Nova Scotia legislature adopted a motion unanimously to invite the Turks and Caicos to join the Canadian federation. New Democrats support this initiative provided that we treat the citizens of Turks and Caicos as full partners in the Canadian family, either as part of Nova Scotia or as a separate territory, not as a colony.

Now that the Prime Minister's Office has been considering this proposition, is the government ready to support the Turks and Caicos as part of the Canadian family?

Turks and Caicos
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Toronto Centre—Rosedale
Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I think it is very important in matters like this that we should get an indication from the people of Turks and Caicos as to whether they wish to join Canada.

This matter was studied by a parliamentary committee some years ago. We have looked at the issue. The Prime Minister has had a telephone conversation with the leader of the Turks and Caicos.

We are more than happy to consider this issue and discuss with the people of the Turks and Caicos, as Canadians, how we can work with them, whether it is by way of an association or by working with all of our Caribbean partners to make the Caribbean a better place for all of us.

Agriculture
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Strahl Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, last week I wrote a letter to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food urging him to address the avian flu crisis by announcing a compensation plan that would cover more than just the cost of the birds. It needs to address the farmers' lost revenue. It should address the concerns of other dependent industries impacted by the government's depopulation order. Finally, we need it now, not months or years from now.

Everyone's first priority is to get rid of the disease. Now, after two months, can the minister tell us the details of the compensation plan that he has designed to help all of those affected by this outbreak of the avian flu?

Agriculture
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk—Brant
Ontario

Liberal

Bob Speller Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Mr. Speaker, as the hon. member is aware, I am in the process of depopulating some 18 million birds. This is a very large undertaking. I want to give my appreciation to his province, the Government of British Columbia, for its help in this matter.

As he knows, under the Health of Animals Act, I do have the ability to compensate farmers for the value of that. In fact, to date, some 54 cheques have gone out, in the neighbourhood of some $2.4 million.

Agriculture
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Strahl Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, here is an example of one of the problems. It turns out that the pigeons ordered destroyed in the valley were not diseased, cannot carry the avian flu, and were in no danger to either poultry or humans.

Yet the CFIA carried out a depopulation order that affected Doug and Susan Rudnisky's family which lost 16,000 birds for no reason. Neville Eccles lost thousands of dollars worth of birds for no reason. These birds were not diseased and were not a problem. Now the CFIA has reversed its position.

What compensation will these people receive for what will break their industry and break their farms if the minister does not address their concerns?

Agriculture
Oral Question Period

11:45 a.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk—Brant
Ontario

Liberal

Bob Speller Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food

Mr. Speaker, as the hon. member is aware, this is an issue being dealt with on the best science that we know. In fact, at the time, we believed that we needed to depopulate all of the birds in that area.

In terms of specific cases such as that, the CFIA will be speaking with those people and will be working with them.

In terms of broader compensation, the Government of Canada is now talking with the industry and the province of British Columbia. We are trying to find out exactly what is happening on the ground now in terms of what the need will be.

Once those discussions are completed and once we are through this area of depopulating, then we will be in a better position to talk about the longer term--

Agriculture
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Gander—Grand Falls.

Equalization Payments
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Rex Barnes Gander—Grand Falls, NL

Mr. Speaker, in February I raised the issue of the government's failure to address changing the equalization and transfer payments to the province.

The unrest in Newfoundland and Labrador is evidence of the federal government's failure to act. Newfoundland and Labrador is cash strapped. The federal government's failure to revamp the equalization formula is responsible.

When will the government stop funding its friends and provide the provinces with a better equalization deal so that Canadian taxpayers' money can be better spent?

Equalization Payments
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Scarborough East
Ontario

Liberal

John McKay Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, as the member knows, the equalization issue was dealt with in the last budget. Many of the issues that were raised by a variety of provinces over the course of that five year term were addressed in the budget, the most significant of which was the smoothing provisions where finance ministers had different expectations over the course of a year.

The minister has in fact addressed the issues of Newfoundland and Labrador, along with all of the other equalization-receiving provinces.

Equalization Payments
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Progressive Conservative

Rex Barnes Gander—Grand Falls, NL

Mr. Speaker, the government's vague and empty answer is typical of a government that refuses to act. The government is all lip and no action.

Many provinces are being hurt by the present equalization formula. The government has turned its back on the needs of the provinces. It has refused to negotiate with the provinces for a better equalization system.

When will the government take the request of the provinces seriously and alleviate their financial problems by doing something better for the equalization formula?

Equalization Payments
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Scarborough East
Ontario

Liberal

John McKay Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, in fact, if the hon. gentleman would read the budget, he would realize that quite a number of the issues that have been put forward by the provinces were addressed in the budget, including an enhancement of the actual moneys available to the various equalization receiving provinces.

When the minister travelled and met with the finance ministers, the specific issues were addressed. I was present for those meetings. The issues that the hon. member raises were in fact addressed in the budget.

The Environment
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Bloc

Suzanne Tremblay Rimouski-Neigette-Et-La Mitis, QC

Mr. Speaker, a month ago, citizens occupied the offices of the Prime Minister in Montreal while others held a demonstration when he went to Sainte-Anne-des-Monts, calling for a moratorium on the construction of a toxic waste incinerator in Belledune. Despite numerous demonstrations by citizens who are aware of the negative impact of the presence of such an incinerator, the federal government is turning a deaf ear and refusing to get involved.

Knowing full well that the minister can invoke the Fisheries Act to prevent the incinerator from being built, will the Prime Minister finally listen to the people of Gaspé and intervene in the Bennett case in Belledune?

The Environment
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Victoria
B.C.

Liberal

David Anderson Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, it is incorrect to say that we are not examining this situation closely. The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency has looked into it. I have yet to receive the report, but if there are cross-border problems between New Brunswick and Quebec, then the federal government may have certain responsibilities. However, New Brunswick, not the federal government, has most of the responsibility in this.

The Environment
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Bloc

Suzanne Tremblay Rimouski-Neigette-Et-La Mitis, QC

Mr. Speaker, the minister is fully aware that this incinerator may be catastrophic to the water resource of Baie des Chaleurs.

Does the Prime Minister really think that the people of Gaspé are going to wait for the result of your investigation, after the election? Personally, I do not think so. What do you think?

The Environment
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Victoria
B.C.

Liberal

David Anderson Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I do not know exactly where the question lies in this. I can assure the hon. member that public health is the most important thing. Also, we are certainly going to take into consideration the natural resources of the region, including the fishery.

Justice
Oral Question Period

11:50 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Peter Goldring Edmonton Centre-East, AB

Mr. Speaker, hundreds of boys were sexually abused and assaulted inside and outside Kingsclear Training School in New Brunswick. Victims have named 14 assaulters, yet only Karl Toft was charged criminally. Millions were paid in hush money, including to RCMP Staff Sergeant Clifford McCann's victims. Victims who have come forward have been told by the RCMP not to make complaints.

Will the Deputy Prime Minister seize the pre- and post-Kingsclear files, conduct a review of the files independent of the RCMP, and report back to Parliament?

Justice
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Edmonton West
Alberta

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member and I have had the opportunity to speak about this matter. Indeed, I thank him for his longstanding interest in this regard and, in particular, in relation to those who were the victims of abuse at Kingsclear.

As the hon. member knows, the RCMP major crimes unit did conduct a comprehensive and exhaustive investigation into these matters. The RCMP in New Brunswick have indicated that no charges would be laid in the matter. The decision regarding the laying of charges in New Brunswick falls under the attorney general of the province.

Justice
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Peter Goldring Edmonton Centre-East, AB

Mr. Speaker, this matter involves the integrity of our nation's police force.

Kingsclear boys were taken with the knowledge of New Brunswick's corrections officers and the RCMP into the back seat of RCMP patrol cars, and to the house of RCMP Staff Sergeant Clifford McCann.

If the Deputy Prime Minister will not, will the Prime Minister act on his previous promise and have the pre- and post-Kingsclear files seized and conduct an independent investigation outside of the RCMP? Will he complete his promise?

Justice
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Edmonton West
Alberta

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, obviously, the hon. member has made some very serious allegations in relation to what may or may not have happened in relation to the Kingsclear events.

As I have said, the RCMP did conduct a comprehensive and exhaustive investigation into the matters. If the hon. member has additional information that he thinks could help us understand more of that which happened in relation to the situation, I would be more than willing to meet with him and continue my discussions with him in relation to--

Justice
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Glengarry—Prescott—Russell.

Official Languages
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Don Boudria Glengarry—Prescott—Russell, ON

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister responsible for Official Languages. The government has established a list of priorities and is about to meet with provincial authorities regarding health care funding.

Since the Minister of Health is also the minister responsible for the action plan for official languages, is he prepared to add to the federal government's list of priorities health care for official language communities, as promised in the action plan?

Official Languages
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Papineau—Saint-Denis
Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, access to quality health care in French all across the country is a priority that we have identified in our action plan for official languages. Our plan provides for substantial investments in three policy sectors, namely networking, training for health care professionals and primary care.

As was announced in this House on November 6 by my predecessor, who is now the Deputy Prime Minister of the country, I am prepared to put health care access for official language minority communities on the agenda of the next official meeting of federal, provincial and territorial health ministers.

International Aid
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Deepak Obhrai Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, yesterday CIDA announced a $3 million contribution for a social work intervention program in China. Canadian tax dollars are now going to an initiative that supports the social services network in China.

Can the Minister for International Cooperation or the foreign affairs minister explain why the Liberal government continues to send Canadian dollars to a regime that sends a man to space? Why?

International Aid
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Toronto Centre—Rosedale
Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, the Canadian government does not send money to regimes.

The Canadian government, on behalf of the Canadian people, has a policy of engagement with China, an extremely important power but also one where many Canadian citizens who have a direct interest.

CIDA seeks to help programs in China which advance human rights and living conditions of people in that country. These programs are supported by the people of this country because we understand that the Chinese population appreciates our concerns and appreciates our aid. Canadian citizens want to be active and we will continue to do that.

International Aid
Oral Question Period

11:55 a.m.

Canadian Alliance

Deepak Obhrai Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal government gave out more than $54 million in international assistance to China in 2002-03. China is now the fourth largest recipient of bilateral international assistance. Out of the top five countries receiving country to country assistance, only one African country, Ethiopia, is in the top five.

Can the minister explain why China is getting more international assistance than developing nations in Africa and Latin America?

International Aid
Oral Question Period

Noon

Toronto Centre—Rosedale
Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham Minister of Foreign Affairs

It is precisely because, Mr. Speaker, much of the assistance to which the member refers is assistance in terms of training judges in China, to get the Chinese people to understand how to incorporate their very important country into the international community, to teach the Chinese people about human rights, the judicial system, and how we can modernize that very important country for our world.

These efforts are of capital importance for Canada and for the people of Canada, and we will continue them.

National Unity Fund
Oral Question Period

Noon

Bloc

Odina Desrochers Lotbinière—L'Érable, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs is justifying the government's slowness to account for the use of the secret funds for national unity by saying that they have to examine numerous programs and activities, over a period of a number of years, thus suggesting that the Privy Council had no record in connection with this fund.

My question is for the President of the Treasury Board. Since this issue comes under his responsibility, does he agree with the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs that no record exists regarding the use made of the national unity reserve?

National Unity Fund
Oral Question Period

Noon

Papineau—Saint-Denis
Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, the government speaks with one voice, be it through the Treasury Board or through the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs. The Treasury Board Secretariat continues to scrutinize very closely the use of this national unity reserve. We have to look in each department that used this envelope to extend existing programs. Those involved in this process are working diligently.

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Question Period

Noon

Liberal

Dominic LeBlanc Beauséjour—Petitcodiac, NB

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and the great member for Yukon.

The aboriginal summit this week was a historic moment for aboriginal people. Aboriginal leaders in my riding were pleased with the engagement of the government. However, they are wondering and want to know how soon will the government move forward on other issues and other initiatives to help aboriginal people?

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Question Period

Noon

Yukon
Yukon

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the member for Beauséjour—Petitcodiac for the question and for his excellent work for the people of New Brunswick.

I am delighted to say that work for aboriginal people has started. Two hours after the summit we were back here in the House debating another bill to help aboriginal people.

In fact, this was a historic week for aboriginal people where the debate in the House was dominated by bills to help them out: the Westbank self-government agreement; the Tlicho self-government and first nation agreement; and today hopefully, the first nations financial institutions act. All this time, the minister is in Nunavut helping the Inuit people move forward.

I think the greatest thing this week was that I sensed in the House a new determination of optimism and goodwill to help the lives of aboriginal people.

Public Service
Oral Question Period

Noon

Canadian Alliance

Jim Pankiw Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, I had a gem of a question, but it has disappeared. This is utterly irrational. Wait a minute, it is in my pocket.

Last year in the national capital region anglophones were under-represented by 20% in the federal government, held only one-fifth of all bilingual jobs, received less than a third of the promotions, and reports show bilingual testing is stacked against anglophones. When will the Liberals end the systemic discrimination against anglophones in government hiring and promotion?

Public Service
Oral Question Period

Noon

Leeds—Grenville
Ontario

Liberal

Joe Jordan Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, a good question deserves a good answer. That was not a good question.

Government Response to Petitions
Routine Proceedings

Noon

Yukon
Yukon

Liberal

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

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

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Lyle Vanclief Prince Edward—Hastings, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the report of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology in relation to Bill C-9, an act to amend the Patent Act and the Food and Drugs Act.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Deepak Obhrai Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the residents of Calgary East, I am presenting a petition that states that due to family breakups, more and more grandparents are being denied the right to have access to their grandchildren, that grandchildren suffer unnecessarily as a result of family conflict and that grandparents also suffer and grieve for the loss of these relationships.

Therefore, the petitioners call upon Parliament to enact legislation allowing grandparents the right to have access to their grandchildren when it is deemed to be in the best interest of these children.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Duncan Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to present petitions from the Canadian Alliance For Social Justice and Family Values Association which contain over 22,000 signatures. This is the largest petition I have delivered in my 10 and a half years as a member of Parliament.

The association has a large and growing membership whose principal purpose is to redress social injustice, protect constitutional charter and social rights, traditional family values and parental rights and to promote the establishment of traditional schools. This group, based in Vancouver, is 80% Canadian Chinese and has worked tirelessly on important family and social issues in British Columbia and nationally.

The petitioners ask Parliament to preserve the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman to the exclusion of all others. The petitioners also ask Parliament to acknowledge their opposition to the incorporation of the wording “sexual orientation” in the Criminal Code of Canada for several reasons. In particular the charter rights of freedom of speech and freedom of religion will be significantly eroded once the bill becomes law. Sexual orientation is a vague term as it could include all conceivable types of sexual gratification.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very honoured to table petitions signed by hundreds of Canadians as part of the signature of hope petition, sponsored by the Beads of Hope Campaign through the United Church of Canada.

The petitioners are concerned about the fact that we are dealing with a global HIV-AIDS pandemic. They would like leadership from this country and this government.

They specifically call upon Parliament to do the following: use its influence in the international financial institutions to cancel multilateral debt of impoverished countries; to increase Canada's official development assistance to meet the goal of 0.7% of GDP, or gross national income; to ensure that patents or trade related intellectual property rights do not block access to public goods, like life saving medicines; and finally, to double funding to the federal government's domestic program, the Canadian strategy on HIV and AIDS to address HIV and AIDS in Canada.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I too would like to table two different petitions today.

In the first petition, residents of Canada call upon the House of Commons to ban trans fatty acids from processed foods. They make the point that these hazardous manufactured fats cause obesity, heart disease and diabetes. The recommended daily dose is zero.

The petitioners urge the Government of Canada to eliminate these harmful trans fatty acids from processed foods that Canadians are eating.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, the second petition I have today deals with the immigration issue.

The petitioners, many thousands from all across Canada, ask the federal government to lighten up on the family sponsorship category of immigration so that once in a lifetime, a new Canadian could sponsor one family member who would not ordinarily fit into the qualification category of family sponsorship.

These Canadians urge the Government of Canada to show latitude in the family sponsorship category of immigration.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Scott Reid Lanark—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions to present today. The first petition is in relation to Steven Truscott who in 1959, and I believe all of us know, was charged, convicted and sentenced to be executed because he had been found guilty of murdering a neighbour.

The petitioners draw to the attention of Parliament, as many petitioners have before, the unusual circumstances surrounding the case, and suggest that Mr. Truscott was found guilty unfairly. They call upon Parliament to ask the Minister of Justice to re-examine the case within a reasonable period of time and to ensure that justice be restored to Mr. Truscott and that he be pardoned.

Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Scott Reid Lanark—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, the second petition is one that relates to natural health care products. The petitioners call upon Parliament to provide for freedom of choice in health care products. They point out that these should be classified properly under our food and drug regulations as a food and not arbitrarily classified as a drug. They also point out that much benefit can be derived from the use of natural health care products through a self-regulated system.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Yukon
Yukon

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, the following question will be answered today: No. 64.

Question No. 64
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Gary Schellenberger Perth—Middlesex, ON

What progress, in detail, has been made by the government on the review and analysis of tax prepaid savings plans?

Question No. 64
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Wascana
Saskatchewan

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, the budget presented in the House of Commons on February 18, 2003 noted the importance of supporting saving through the tax system. It also stated that the government would review reprensentations it had received on the tax treatment of savings and would conduct analysis to identify possible improvements. The budget also included a commitment to consult on the question of whether tax pre-paid savings plans, TPSPs, could be a useful and appropriate savings vehicle for Canadians.

The budget presented in the House of Commons on March 23, 2004 noted that Department of Finance officials consulted with interested groups, experts and academics on the tax treatment of savings and TPSPs. The discussions were helpful in gathering views on TPSPs and other possible ways to improve the tax treatment of savings. The department is reviewing the views brought forward during the consultation and is continuing to examine TPSPs and other approaches to improve the tax treatment of savings.

Question No. 64
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

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

Question No. 64
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is that agreed?

Question No. 64
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Question No. 64
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

If the House will indulge the Deputy Speaker at this time, I failed to read into the record, under Petitions, what I should have before proceeding to Questions on the Order Paper.

It is my duty pursuant to Standing Order 36(8)( b ) to inform the House that the matter of the failure of the ministry to respond to the following petitions presented in the House is deemed referred to several standing committees of the House as follows:

Petitions Nos. 373-0366 and 373-0367, presented by the hon. member for Charlesbourg—Jacques-Cartier to the Standing Committee on Health.

Petitions Nos. 373-0369 to 373-0371 presented by the hon. member for Ottawa West--Nepean are referred to the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

Petition No. 373-0372 presented by the hon. member for Halifax is referred to the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

Petitions Nos. 373-0373 to 373-0378 presented by the hon. member for Edmonton Southwest to the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

It is also my duty pursuant to Standing Order 39(5) to inform the House that the matter of the failure of the minister to respond to Question No. 56 on the Order Paper, standing in the name of the hon. member for Vancouver Island North, is deemed referred to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs, Northern Development and Natural Resources.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-12, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (protection of children and other vulnerable persons) and the Canada Evidence Act, be read the third time and passed, and of the amendment and of the amendment to the amendment.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Chuck Strahl Fraser Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, just before question period the member for Elk Island asked me a question dealing with child pornography that is dealt with in some ways in Bill C-12, an act to amend the Criminal Code. He was quoting from subsection 7(7). This is dealing with pornography. It says:

For the purposes of subsection (6), acts or material that serve the public good include acts or material that are necessary or advantageous to the administration of justice or the pursuit of science, medicine, education or art.

The member asked what I thought about those categories. I agree with him that this material is necessary for science or medicine for treatment of people who have a disease of addiction to child pornography for example, or education where police officers have to be taught what it is they are looking for and so on.

The category we are wondering about is art, to have the idea of public good and use it in the category of art.

John Robin Sharpe is pleased with the bill. I think he is pleased in part because he sees this as a loophole. He will use it as he used the artistic merit argument in times past to try to get away with some of the filth that he thinks is worth having and sharing.

On the issue of art, I want to share a story that moved me years ago, if I can get through the story. It was a story related by Dr. James Dobson. James Dobson was the president of Focus on the Family, a well-respected psychologist who was appointed years ago to sit on the President's panel dealing with pornography in the United States. I heard him give a talk on this one time.

He told how he had to travel from town to town to do these investigations. Part of that involved looking at pornographic material in order to see just how bad it was. I cannot imagine doing that for weeks on end.

He said that the final blow came for him when there was a series of pictures that he was forced to look at. They started with a healthy, happy two year old child. The progression of pictures eventually ended with a picture of a two year old with a butcher knife through its chest.

He was at a meeting and I do not know in what city. He said he just gathered up his papers, went to the airport and took the first plane home. He said the pictures were so filthy and so incredibly evil that he just had to get home and hug his family.

I know there would be an argument that we cannot banish pornography because we have to have a way of judging it. There is a problem in the United States and here too, that when the picture, and they call it art, is reproduced, it is frequently seen as just that; it is just a picture, just a photograph.

A crime was committed but there is no crime in the circulation of the documents. There can be pictures of children being abused in the most heinous ways, graphic, awful and evil pictures, but the distribution of it, if it is considered artistic by somebody, in and of itself is not a crime. In the commission of the crime, if they could catch the guy perpetrating it, they would throw him in jail. But the circulation of it to people who somehow get their jollies from this should also be a crime.

I only relate that story. I do not want to go on a panel to look at this stuff for weeks on end. I do not want to look at any of it.

All I am urging is that the government consider that when there are loopholes, people will try to use them. My solution is to send the bill back to committee and come up with a better solution than the public good. I just do not think that this section, which leaves this as a loophole, is wise. It will be abused. Or if it is not abused, it will be seen as such a big loophole that law enforcement agencies will say that there is no use in prosecuting. We see that all the time with crime. Chief Fantino from Toronto would say, “What is the use of prosecuting?” If we bring forward something with a loophole, they get off almost every single time.

The police do not have the resources, the people and the perseverance to follow through. They have collected millions of photos. They have confiscated stuff. They try to ride herd on it, but the truth is that without tough and strict laws, they cannot really dig this evil out.

To answer my colleague from Elk Island, this clause is the worrisome one. That is why it should go back to committee. Most of this bill improves things for children and I am happy to support it. However, this part I am not convinced is the best way to address this particular evil. It is a bad and ugly evil that is pervasive in society. Police tell me that it is out of control.

I know the government takes this seriously but I would urge it to reconsider this and send it to committee. Let us get this fixed. Let us make the police happy, the courts happy and Parliament happy with the section that I think is crucial to the implementation of this bill.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is the House ready for the question?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

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

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

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

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

All those opposed will please say nay.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

In my opinion the nays have it.

And more than five members having risen:

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Pursuant to Standing Order 45, the division stands deferred until Monday, April 26, 2004, at the ordinary hour of daily adjournment.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, discussions have taken place between all the parties and, if you were to seek it, I think you would find consent to further defer the division from Monday at the end of government orders until Tuesday at 3 p.m., at the end of oral question period.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Accordingly the vote just deferred has now been further deferred from Monday, April 26 to Tuesday, April 27, to take place at the end of question period on that day.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Liberal

Derek Lee Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Mr. Speaker, on a point of order, there have been discussions between all the parties in the House and I believe that you would find consent for the following motion:

That the 20th report of the Standing Committee on Procedure and House Affairs concerning the membership of committees be deemed tabled and concurred in.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Does the hon. member have the consent of the House to propose the motion?

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

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

Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

International Transfer of Offenders Act
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Toronto Centre—Rosedale
Ontario

Liberal

Bill Graham for the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness

moved that Bill C-15, an act to implement treaties and administrative arrangements on the international transfer of persons found guilty of criminal offences, be read the third time and passed.

International Transfer of Offenders Act
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Anjou—Rivière-Des-Prairies
Québec

Liberal

Yvon Charbonneau Parliamentary Secretary to the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness (Emergency Preparedness)

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to Bill C-15, the International Transfer of Offenders Act, at third reading stage. After second reading and consideration in committee, this bill has received strong support from all members who have taken part in this debate so far. Now is the time to move on to the third and final stage.

The current Transfer of Offenders Act came into force in 1978, following a United Nations meeting where member states agreed that international transfers were desirable because of increasingly greater mobility and the need for countries to cooperate on criminal justice matters.

Since 1978, only technical amendments have been made to this act. Policy issues relating to international transfers have expanded due to Canada's greater experience with treaties and legislative amendments brought about by the Corrections and Conditional Release Act in 1992, Bill C-41 on sentencing in 1995, and Bill C-45 on sentence calculation reform in 1996.

Bill C-15, which we have before us for third reading, would modernize the legislative framework authorizing the implementation of treaties, including multilateral conventions on the international transfer of offenders. I am particularly proud to sponsor this bill because of its objectives relating to public safety and the humanitarian objectives it will advance.

The purpose of this bill concerning the transfer of offenders and related treaties is essentially humanitarian. Canadian citizens are often imprisoned in countries where they are unfamiliar with the language and culture. Furthermore, it is not unusual for the places where they are held to fall short of even the most rudimentary Canadian standards for health, hygiene and safety. The isolation felt by Canadians in these difficult conditions of detention adds to the hardship they face, especially without regular contact with family and friends. Awareness of these conditions also causes suffering to the offenders' families in Canada.

This legislation has another important goal. It will contribute to protecting Canadian society. For offenders who are serving prison terms outside Canada, rehabilitation may be impossible. Often, the countries where they are imprisoned do not have any treatment programs or parole systems. In addition to this shortfall, there is the lack of direct support by family and friends, which is often the key to reintegrating offenders into society. This lack of programs and support reduces their chances of long term rehabilitation, and this has an impact on public safety. That is why it is so important to be able to repatriate Canadians.

The International Transfer of Offenders Act will also contribute to the administration of justice. Canadian offenders who are returned to Canada must serve their foreign sentences right to the end. When they arrive in Canada, they come under the authority of the Correctional Service of Canada, or a provincial corrections service, which is responsible for their gradual and controlled reintegration into society. This solution is preferable to deporting offenders to Canada at the end of their sentences. If they are deported, they arrive here with no correctional monitoring and no help in reintegrating into society.

Most states recognize the importance of cooperation in criminal justice matters.

The states enforce criminal laws and sentences to dissuade people from committing illegal acts. However, offenders do not escape justice by purging the remainder of their foreign sentence at home. The international transfer of offenders program allows countries to do this.

In its consideration of this legislation, the government consulted 91 private and governmental organizations. These consultations and consideration confirmed the need to clarify and update the current Transfer of Offenders Act, which, as I mentioned, dates back to 1978.

This resulted in proposals to amend the legislation that would reflect traditional international treaty principles, close identified gaps, ensure consistency with other legislative provisions, and improve efficiencies of the transfer of offenders.

For example, Bill C-15 would integrate a clause stipulating that the purpose of this new legislation is to contribute tothe administration of justice, the rehabilitationof offenders and their reintegrationinto the community by enabling them toserve their sentences in the country of whichthey are citizens. This important characteristic would clarify the intended purpose of this legislation. It would contribute to the interpretation of the legislation and to ensure parliamentary endorsement of the approach and policy behind legislation.

The voluntary consent of the offender to his transfer is also a key principle which, in reality, serves as the foundation for Canada's participation in the international transfer of offenders. This notion is based on the traditional humanitarian objectives of treaties. This is a critical notion, because the prospects for an offender's successful rehabilitation and reintegration would likely be compromised if an offender were forced to transfer against his or her will.

Foreign states may also be less inclined to approve a transfer on humanitarian grounds if the offender has not willingly consented. This is why Bill C-15 would reflect this important principle.

To ensure truly informed consent, the bill provides that Canadian authorities must explain to offenders how they would serve their sentence upon their return to Canada. In this context, the bill also provides that Canadian authorities must give to any foreign offender who asks for a transfer to his country of origin information provided by that state and describing how the offender would serve the rest of his sentence in that country.

The current Transfer of Offenders Act does not provide for the transfer of young offenders who are on probation. This omission is not compatible with the provisions of the act. Indeed, the act authorizes the transfer of adult offenders who are on probation, or who are serving a term of imprisonment. Bill C-15 would correct this inconsistency by making young offenders who are on probation eligible for a transfer.

The current Transfer of Offenders Act does not provide for the transfer to Canada of children who may be serving a sentence abroad. Bill C-15 would correct that by authorizing the transfer to Canada of children of Canadian origin who are under 12 years of age and who are being detained abroad. The bill also provides that, following their transfer to Canada, children would not be detained under the terms of their foreign sentence. Instead, they would be covered by the legislation dealing with the well-being of children in the relevant province or territory. This is an illustration of the humanitarian nature of the bill.

These provisions would broaden the scope of the offender transfer system and advance the primary objective of this legislation.

At this time, Canada may enter into a treaty for the transfer of offenders only with recognized foreign states. Recent international events such as the dissolution of the U.S.S.R. and Yugoslavia highlight the need for a transfer mechanism for Canadians serving sentences in jurisdictions not recognized by Canada as foreign states.

In these cases, a considerable amount of time must pass before the jurisdictions are formally recognized as foreign states. Consequently, Canadians incarcerated and serving sentences in these jurisdictions do not have access to the international transfer process when a treaty does not exist between Canada and a foreign state or when one has been negotiated but ratification is still years away.

In all these cases, there may be compelling reasons to return an offender to the home country. That is why Bill C-15, clause 31, which is a major clause in this bill, provides for the negotiation of administrative arrangements with a foreign entity or non recognized state, in order to render the transfer system more sensitive to the international situation. It would allow Canada to transfer its citizens back home under the authority of Correctional Services Canada, which would be responsible for the gradual and controlled reintegration of these offenders into Canadian society.

Most offenders benefit from transfer agreements. Although the number of entities having signed and ratified treaties or conventions on the transfer of offenders is still limited, it is increasing. Serving a sentence in a foreign country adds to the seriousness of the sentence and often denies the offender access to the correctional programs and community support that are essential to his reintegration. It is not in society's best interest for things to continue this way.

The Transfer of Offenders Act and the treaties and conventions implemented by that act have achieved their goal and continue to play an important role in Canada's international relations. Major progress has been achieved in prisoner transfers. Every year, about 85 Canadians are transferred to Canada under a treaty or a multilateral convention for the transfer of offenders. Since 1978, more than 1,000 Canadians have been repatriated and more than 100 foreign offenders transferred to their country of origin. Once again, while these numbers are not large, they will surely increase once this bill is in place.

I would like to highlight the need for more flexible legislation to advance the humanitarian objective Canada has in mind with this bill on the international transfer of offenders. The need for more cooperation between countries as far as criminal justice is concerned is obvious, as is the need to protect the public by reintegrating offenders into society safely and gradually, and with proper monitoring.

Bill C-15 would meet all these needs by reflecting the traditional principles of international treaties, remedying detected shortcomings and ensuring consistency with other legislative measures. This bill would contribute, among other things, to expanding the system to a wider range of offenders and including more entities within the category of those with whom Canada could enter into transfer agreements.

For all these reasons, I urge hon. members to support Bill C-15 at third reading.

International Transfer of Offenders Act
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Kevin Sorenson Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to debate Bill C-15, amendments to the transfer of offenders act. This legislation was first introduced as Bill C-33 in the last Parliament and was debated almost a year ago.

In fact, I stood in the House on April 29, 2003, condemning the Liberal government because it came forward and provided less than 24 hours between the time we received a copy of the bill and had a first chance to look at the legislation and the time we were asked to first stand and debate the bill. It was less than 24 hours later that we were asked to debate the bill.

I said that the government's move to force debate was “indicative of its inconsideration” for Parliament and of its “disrespect” for Parliament and also for the opposition. It was totally inconsiderate of the government to provide so little time for us to digest the content of this legislation before initiating debate. In my mind, the only rationale for such inconsideration and such an irresponsible move was that the government was devoid of any other meaningful legislation. In other words, I said then, the government's agenda was “empty”.

Now, a year later, the agenda remains that way because this government has yet to seek a mandate to govern. Quite obviously the government is in neutral, or worse, it is coasting backwards. It is losing ground. Nothing has changed since April 2003, when the Prime Minister, then only a leadership hopeful, said:

But in recent times a kind of complacency--a certain amount of drift--has set in. We've lost some of the energy and enthusiasm that Canadians are looking for.

He was talking about Parliament. The member for LaSalle--Émard, now the Prime Minister, after months of silence on his government's agenda and his own plans for moving the country forward, at that time was chronicling his predecessor's lack of achievement and inaction.

Pointing toward Ottawa's strained relationship with the United States administration over the war in Iraq, the lack of focus on the waiting lists in the health care system, and the outbreak of SARS, the member for LaSalle—Émard said that these areas required immediate attention.

Well, Mr. Speaker, this Prime Minister has now been the Prime Minister for over four months and he has not moved the agenda forward at all. We are still in limbo because, again, this Prime Minister does not have a mandate to govern.

With regard to the legislation before us today, Bill C-15 repeals and replaces the old Transfer of Offenders Act to expedite the transfer of Canadian citizens serving sentences in penal institutions abroad from those institutions to penal institutions in this country. It also provides for the expedited transfer of foreigners serving sentences in Canada to their home countries.

Bill C-15, in my opinion, is nothing more than a reaffirmation that public safety and the rights of the victims are not priorities at all with the government. Bill C-15 is but one more attempt by the government to tip the scales of justice in favour of the offenders.

Clause 3 of Bill C-15 states:

The purpose of this Act is to contribute to the administration of justice and the rehabilitation of offenders and their reintegration into the community by enabling offenders to serve their sentences in the country of which they are citizens or nationals.

In a press release on Bill C-33, the former solicitor general stated that the Transfer of Offenders Act was more than 20 years old and only authorized the transfer of offenders between Canada and recognized states. Furthermore, he stated:

...this bill is significant from a humanitarian perspective. Conditions of confinement in some countries impose severe hardships on Canadians.

If Bill C-15 were about humanitarian efforts, if it were to ensure that Canadians would not be subjected to inhumane treatment, we would support the bill. We would support it because the fundamental principle within our justice system is the right to a fair trial and the right to humane treatment. However, as members will note, even if we look at the summary of Bill C-15, that is not what this is about.

If we look at the purpose and principle section of Bill C-15, the legislation is not about humanitarian efforts. This legislation is not only about allowing Canadian citizens who commit crimes in other countries to serve their sentences in more humane prisons, it is about bringing them home and, in some cases, putting them in prisons that are club fed types of institutions, resorts. It is about reducing the sentence imposed by another country.

Bill C-15 sets an alarming precedent in its attempt to impose the norms of the Canadian criminal justice system upon crimes committed and adjudicated somewhere else.

Clause 14 reads:

Subject to subsection 17(1) and section 18, if, at the time the Minister receives a request for the transfer of a Canadian offender, the sentence imposed by the foreign entity is longer than the maximum sentence provided for in Canadian law for the equivalent offence, the Canadian offender is to serve only the shorter sentence.

This is because under clause 13 it states:

The enforcement of a Canadian offender's sentence is to be continued in accordance with the laws of Canada as if the offender had been convicted and their sentence imposed by a court in Canada.

In essence what we have here is that a Canadian citizen could go to another country, commit a crime for which there would be a much more substantial penalty, and be transferred home to serve a lesser sentence. What this could amount to is immunity of Canadian citizens. In my opinion, that is wrong. It flies in the face of recent Supreme Court of Canada jurisprudence.

In Kindler v Canada, Justice McLachlin, writing for the majority, observed:

The simple fact is that if we were to insist on strict conformity with our own [criminal justice] system, there would be virtually no state in the world with which we could reciprocate. Canada...would be the loser.

Furthermore, in the United States v Burns, the Supreme Court of Canada made the following observation:

A competing principle of fundamental justice is that Canadians who are accused of crimes in [a foreign jurisdiction] can ordinarily expect to be dealt with under the law which the citizens of that jurisdiction have collectively determined to apply to offences committed within their territory, including the set punishment.

I agree that if a Canadian citizen commits a crime in another country, that person should pay the price--

International Transfer of Offenders Act
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Guay)

The hon. member for Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-de-Beaupré—Île-d'Orléans on a point of order.

International Transfer of Offenders Act
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-De- Beaupré—Île-D'Orléans, QC

Madam Speaker, I apologize for interrupting my colleague from the Conservative Party of Canada, but I would like you to verify whether we have quorum.

And the count having been taken:

International Transfer of Offenders Act
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Guay)

We have quorum now. Resuming debate. The hon. member for Crowfoot.

International Transfer of Offenders Act
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Kevin Sorenson Crowfoot, AB

Madam Speaker, I agree that if a Canadian citizen commits a crime in another country he or she should pay the price imposed by that country and not by this country, a country that is well-known under this government for its bleeding heart approach to justice.

The former solicitor general's press release also stated that “society is best protected when offenders participate in correction programs in Canadian institutions and communities and when their release is supervised”.

I disagree. Society is best protected when offenders spend an adequate period of time incarcerated to prevent others from being harmed and for allowing rehabilitation to effectively occur.

The government is not concerned or interested in preventing Canadians from being harmed. It is not interested in putting in place adequate penalties that act as deterrents. It is not interested in restitution being made to victims.

The Liberal government is only concerned about treating offenders as poor, misguided persons who are somehow not responsible for the crimes regardless of how heinous or how terrible those crimes have been and how many victims they have left scarred, sometimes for life.

On the subject of victims I must point out that under clause 8 of Bill C-15 the consent of three parties is required for a transfer: the consent of the offender, the consent of the foreign country or entity and the consent of Canada. Nowhere in the bill do we see that the consent of the victim is required. In other words, if a child is raped in this country and a foreign entity requests the transfer of the offender, the victim and the victim's family have absolutely no say in the transfer and, therefore, no say in the parole assessment and decision, and they are not apprised of when the offender is released in the foreign country. I see no provisions for this in Bill C-15.

In 2003 the Department of Justice introduced the Canadian statement of basic principles of justice for victims of crime in which it states that the need for victims should be taken into account in the criminal justice system. Consequently, these needs should be taken into account in the decision of whether a transfer is or is not warranted.

Subclause 10(4), in reference to young offenders being transferred, clearly states:

In determining whether to consent to the transfer of a Canadian offender who is a child within the meaning of the Youth Criminal Justice Act, the primary consideration of the Minister and the relevant provincial authority is to be the best interests of the child.

In other words, if a 17 year old goes to a foreign country and rapes an 11 year old, for which the punishment in that country may be fairly substantial, the person would be transferred here and given the maximum of three years. What about the 11 year old victim? What is in the best interest of this victim? What is in the best interest of closure for the victim and closure for the victim's family? What is in the best interest of society or the best interest of our children who may become the next victim of this offender? Where is the consideration for public safety?

In closing I would like to point out another aspect of the bill that is, in my opinion, in question, and that is clause 38, transitional provision, which reads:

This Act applies in respect of all requests for transfer that are pending on the day that this section comes into force.

In other words, the bill would become retroactive. We will push the bill through and make it retroactive to effectively deal with all of those who are facing this kind of incarceration in other countries at the present time.

Why is it that when an act favours the offender, the one who has committed the crime, that it can be retroactive but when retroactivity does not favour the offender, such as in the sex offender registry or the DNA data bank, it is not retroactive?

We can draw some very conclusive reasons. The government is more concerned about the rights of the offender than it is about the victim. It is more concerned about the offender, the one who has caused sorrow and pain, than it is about the one whose family has been victimized.

We cannot support the bill for those reasons. It is unjustly unbalanced in favour of the offender over the victims and over the protection of society.

International Transfer of Offenders Act
Government Orders

12:55 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-De- Beaupré—Île-D'Orléans, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-15, which, the House will recall, was introduced by the former solicitor general, the current member for Malpeque, on April 28, 2003. The purpose of the bill at that time was to replace the old Transfer of Offenders Act. The Transfer of Offenders Act has been in effect for over 20 years.

I would like to say as I begin that the Bloc Quebecois will oppose this bill. I shall explain the reasons. We must admit, however, that there are certain elements in the principles of the bill with which we agree. I will talk about them after I have listed the main reasons that we cannot support the bill. In short, the Bloc Quebecois will oppose it.

We know that the bill proposes substantial amendments to the current act; in section 3, it clearly states that the primary purpose of this act is to contribute to the administration of justice and the rehabilitation of offenders and their reintegration into the community by enabling offenders to serve their sentences in Canada or in their country of origin. Later provisions of Bill C-15 set out the conditions and procedures used to achieve this purpose.

The fact that this bill is directed towards facilitating this administrative procedure is totally desirable and the Bloc Quebecois will be supporting the guiding principle.

In brief explanation of what this bill contains, I will say that clauses 4 and 5 list the criteria for eligibility to make a request for transfer.

The consent requirement set out in clause 8 is essential to the smooth operation of this procedure if it is to respect the principles of fundamental justice. It is clearly stipulated that the transfer requires the consent of the foreign entity, Canada and the offender. Clause 9 sets out the rules governing the consent of Quebec and the provinces. It is specifically stated that consent must be given before any transfer for which Quebec and the provinces will be responsible.

Once again the Bloc Quebecois, which regularly reaffirms Quebec's jurisdiction in a number of areas and which condemns federal interference in those jurisdictions, agrees with this section that consent will be required before any transfers to Quebec can take place.

The assessment criteria are set out in clause 10 of Bill C-15. As stated in this clause, it is up to the minister to assess the factors related to the transfer. It is also a matter of whether the offender's return would constitute a threat to the security of Canada. The minister will also take into consideration the offender's intentions of residence, and finally whether family ties are sufficiently strong to warrant granting the request for transfer.

If a foreigner has been found guilty of an offence in Canada, the minister must also take into account the likelihood of the offender's subsequently committing acts of terrorism. In light of the events of September 11, 2001, the whole notion of whether an offender is likely to subsequently commit acts of terrorism becomes important.

Paragraphs 3 and 4 of this clause address factors relating to assessing requests from young offenders. Clause 11 stipulates that requests must be in writing and refusals must be justified.

Clause 12 of Bill C-15 would make verification of the offender's consent the minister's responsibility.

Clauses 13 to 15 deal with the continued enforcement of offenders' sentences, with the purpose of complying with the criminal law of foreign countries, a principle with which we agree. The rule of law must be upheld.

Clause 16 sets out conditions for probation and the related equivalency.

As for clauses 17 to 20, they deal with the terms and conditions for the transfer of young people.

The Bloc Quebecois is of the opinion that special attention ought to be paid to these clauses. Expert advice could certainly enlighten us, especially in the context of the opinion of the Court of Appeal of Quebec. That is the position of my party.

I thank my colleague, the member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, for giving me the opportunity to speak to this important bill. The member for Saint-Hyacinthe—Bagot, who is a public safety critic, had the opportunity to say—and he will also have the opportunity to repeat—that the Bloc Quebecois is against Bill C-15. I will explain why.

We cannot be in favour of this bill since, despite the recent opinion of the Court of Appeal of Quebec in the Government of Quebec's order regarding the reference concerning Bill C-7, an act in respect of criminal justice for young persons and to amend and repeal other acts, the federal government decided to go ahead and impose adult sentences on young persons.

In the context of this debate on Bill C-7, I would like to take the opportunity in this House to acknowledge the work the Bloc Quebecois has done on the bill and to remind hon. members of the work of our former colleague and Bloc Quebecois member for Berthier—Montcalm, who literally went crusading to every corner of Quebec, where Quebeckers reaffirmed his opposition to the treatment of young offenders.

The Quebec Appeal Court ruled that the provision in Bill C-7, an act in respect of criminal justice for young persons and to amend and repeal other Acts which established that adult sentences could be imposed on young offenders aged 14 and over, rather than 16 and over, for serious crimes, contravened the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The court ruled that this provision violated section 7 of the Charter, by requiring the young offender to prove he should not be sentenced as an adult.

Hon. members will understand the importance of what is termed in law the burden of proof. The burden of proof is on the young person to convince the court why he ought not to be sentenced as an adult. The Quebec appeal court judges found that this presumption constitutes a breach of the rights, freedom and psychological welfare of young offenders and does not conform to the principles of fundamental justice.

Bill C-15 provides that young offenders aged between 14 and 17 transferred to Canada will automatically be deemed to be serving an adult sentence, as defined in the Youth Criminal Justice Act, if their sentence is longer than the maximum youth sentence that could have been imposed in Canada.

This is where we have a problem. We in the Bloc Quebecois feel this clause contravenes the very principles set out by the Quebec appeal court and thus violates section 7 of the Charter.

In conclusion, the Bloc Quebecois will be unable to support Bill C-15, which includes provisions that are in contravention of the Charter and impact negatively on young offenders' rights.

International Transfer of Offenders Act
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Yukon
Yukon

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, in recognition of National Volunteer Week I want to congratulate the thousands of volunteers in my riding of Yukon for all their help.

The second previous speaker in this debate suggested that the government had no agenda with regard to Bill C-15. It is fairly ironic that party would suggest such. The reality is that party has no agenda. That is why those members are frightened to go to an election.

Since we came back after Christmas, those members have had very few questions with regard to taxes, debt, foreign aid, or social programs. They have had few questions with regard to helping businesses. They have had few questions with regard to anything.

That party has no agenda. The media is finally realizing that the king has no clothes. The Conservative Party has no platform or policies. When we ask the ex-progressive conservatives to name one single policy that the new combined party has adopted, they cannot name one. They have the old polices of the Alliance. Because no one can agree, how can they put a policy program forward to the public? I sympathize with the difficult problem they will have in coming up any kind of policy. I am sure they will not have any questions in question period and will keep trying to avoid an election until they come up with some kind of policy.

The throne speech contained very vibrant policy. Once again they could not ask questions about it in question period or criticize it because it was popular. There was a whole section on social programs for aboriginal people. There were three different initiatives included for disabled people. Early childhood education was also included in the throne speech. Also included was the broad theme of the new economy in the modern world which included initiatives in learning, skills, and innovation.

The third broad topic on the agenda that those members say we do not have is increasing Canada's place in the world. This includes increasing our foreign aid and our role in both Afghanistan and Haiti.

There is also the important new bill regarding Africa. Canada is the first country in the world to deal with the tricky regulations and patents of multinational drug firms, which will make it possible for people with disease in Africa to receive more relief than they otherwise would. Other countries agree that Canada has taken a leading role in the world. We received feedback from people in my riding and from other ridings about that bill and made important amendments to it to ensure that it would work and be effective.

With regard to environmental contamination, the government has included a contaminated sites bill, which will involve the biggest expenditure in the history of Canada. How can those members say the government has no agenda?

The government included in the Speech from the Throne very creative initiatives relating to the voluntary sector. We have added to our research agenda. We have provided a new deal for communities by giving them relief from the GST. We have formed new partnerships, not only with municipalities, but with the aboriginal people, as members saw on Monday with the historic meeting with aboriginal people.

I do not think the Conservative Party should suggest that the government does not have an agenda when it has been unable to demonstrate in question period all year that it has one. It has been unable to demonstrate that it has anything new from the old Alliance party. We would appreciate it if those members would refrain from making such ironic and inaccurate statements.

We are debating the transfer of offenders act today. In fact we have debated a number of acts all week so I do not know how the Conservative Party can say that we have no agenda. The House has been full. We debated the Westbank self-government agreement. We debated the Tlicho land claim and self-government agreement. We debated a number of smaller bills in between. Today, there are four or five bills waiting. The financial institutions act is waiting for discussion.

I do not know where those members could possibly have dreamt up the idea that the government has no agenda. If they would be a little more cooperative, we could get a lot farther in our agenda. If they would like to challenge that statement, I could tell them the number of times they have used obstructionist methods since Christmas which have actually delayed our agenda. They obstructed good bills which would help Canadians and wasted several days of Canadians' time by delaying them. I will not go into more of these until they challenge that assertion.

On the Transfer of Offenders Act, this act provides for the implementation of treaties with other countries for the international transfer of offenders. The purpose of the act and the treaty signed between Canada and foreign states is essentially humanitarian. It allows for Canadians convicted and detained abroad under difficult conditions to serve their sentences at home, and for foreign nationals to return to their home countries.

The Transfer of Offenders Act serves public protection purposes. It allows offenders to serve their sentences in Canada and to be gradually released into the community. Otherwise, they would simply be deported at the end of their sentences.

For Canadians, primarily their highest priority is not revenge, it is rehabilitation. What they would like to see is that they will be safe in the future, and that the person will no longer reoffend. We obviously do not have all the answers yet because of the high rates of recidivism. It involves a very thought out process in the treatment of offenders, reintroducing them into various stages of society, halfway houses, and training to ensure that it is not a huge, impossible leap back into society. We want them to integrate slowly and effectively, under more and more reduced supervision, so that we can protect Canadians and ensure that they are safe when they ultimately have their total freedom.

That would not happen without the Transfer of Offenders Act. What would happen is that the person convicted of a serious crime in another country would serve whatever the length of the sentence was in that country. A number of countries do not have any rehabilitation programs, education programs, or reintegration into society programs because the offenders are not even of the society into which they are going to have to reintegrate. They would be dumped back into Canada the day they got out of prison as hardened offenders. Then, we would all be at risk.

By allowing Canadians to be transferred back, they can go through our system. We can help them out through training programs that are relevant in Canada, in social support, in anger management training, in interpersonal relationship training, and all the programs that they would need to successfully reintegrate into society.

Then they can go into partial reintegration with probation, with halfway houses or whatever the system feels would be most effective to ensure that under partial supervision they could slowly integrate under careful, watchful eyes, and take remediation steps. This way Canadians will be safe. That is one of the advantages of the Transfer of Offenders Act.

This act is in place today, but we are talking about some amendments. There have been no major amendments since its proclamation in 1978. Only technical amendments have been made to it, and substantive issues were identified. We did some consultation, and through those consultations these issues were documented. We put out a consultation document in 1997. There was then a comprehensive review which revealed that the Transfer of Offenders Act was in need of modernization and clarification.

The consultation was fairly broad. There were 91 private sector and government agencies consulted. Overall, the majority of the agencies responded to the consultation document, reacted favourably to the consultation questions, and expressed support for the proposals set out in the document.

I want to outline what some of these proposals were. To make it easier to understand for people watching at home who may have just tuned in, I am going to break them down into different categories so they are easier to follow.

The first category contains proposals that reflect the traditional treaty principles in order to broaden the act out and have a better description of those principles of the treaty that it is meant to fulfill. We are going to incorporate a purpose clause and principles, such as non-aggravation of sentence, dual criminality, adaption and continued enforcement that support the legislation's purpose.

The second thing we are going to do is add a new information sharing requirement. The person designated by the minister and the authority responsible in the province or territory for the administration of prisons would have the duty to inform a foreign citizen under its jurisdiction of the existence and substance of an international transfer treaty between Canada and the country of that person's citizenship.

We can understand how people would feel in a foreign country where they did not understand the language. In some countries people would probably be treated very badly after having committed a crime. Some countries do not have full human rights, where one would have no idea of the jurisprudence. That is difficult even in Canada, if one is not a lawyer, but imagine how difficult it would be for someone to understand the laws of another country if for some reason a person ended up, rightly or wrongly, in one of their jails.

Under those circumstances, how would people know what their rights are? How would one know, especially a first time offender who has no experience with the legal system, that there is an international transfer treaty?

We have to guarantee Canadian citizens their rights so that they know that such a treaty exists. We must put that into the law so that they have those rights and it is mandatory that they be informed of their rights.

Canada has the highest standards of human rights. We want to ensure that all our officials in those prisons and institutions are aware of the treaty and of their obligations to tell the prisoners who are residing temporarily in our institutions of their right to be transferred home so that they can start their healing, reparations, reintegration, and move toward being a safe citizens back in their own country.

The next category of amendments is related to new provisions regarding the consent to transfer. For example, foreign offenders in Canada could withdraw their consent to the transfer at any time before the transfer takes place.

Perhaps foreign offenders, for whatever reason, may determine that they would be in danger and may not understand the full consequences of being transferred, but for whatever reason, they would have the right to not have to take that transfer, up to the time when the transfer is made.

The next category of gaps in the Transfer of Offenders Act is a set of proposals to ensure consistency with other legislative provisions. These are more housekeeping tools to ensure the legislation fits in with other legislation.

These proposals would include provisions for the transfer to Canada of young offenders who are on probation, children under the age of 12 years, and the transfer of mentally disordered offenders.

It would add provisions requiring explicit provincial consent for the transfer of Canadian and foreign nationals who are under probation, provincial parole, provincial temporary absence, conditional sentence or intermittent sentence.

As our esteemed colleagues from the Bloc pointed out, it is very important that when there are services that are under provincial jurisdiction, the province should have to provide its consent if it is going to have new costs, new customers, new inmates, or people it has to place on parole or probation throughout its system. This would include all the accompanying remedial activities that could occur which we talked about earlier in this debate.

The third item under this category of consistency provisions will be to incorporate a provision requiring that offenders be informed of the minister's reason for not consenting to a transfer.

Therefore, if prisoners ask for a transfer and it is denied, they will feel they were denied their human rights. They could feel they were segregated for one reason or another. They need to know why the transfer was denied. Of course, there may be legitimate reasons. There could easily be legitimate reasons why one country would not allow the transfer of an offender, either out or into its country. However, the offender has every right to know what those reasons are. One cannot stand accused of a crime or accused of something, or denied a right without being told why this right is being denied.

The fourth provision is under the block of revisions that are to ensure consistency with other legislative provisions. They are provisions to clarify the sentence calculation rules and align the Transfer of Offenders Act with the Criminal Code, the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and other legislation, such as the Youth Criminal Justice Act. In more recent times, some of these acts have been amended, so we have to make the clarification to ensure that the Transfer of Offenders Act matches the other acts in the system.

The fifth item under this group of identified gaps is to ensure consistency with other legislation. It involves adding a new provision to reflect the legal requirement that Canada must take appropriate action upon being advised by a foreign state that it has taken compassionate measures in respect of an offender's conviction or sentence, such as setting aside the conviction or reducing the sentence.

The sixth item under this category of ensuring consistency with other legislative provisions is to incorporate a new provision that would ensure that unless the court declares the transfer of an offender invalid because he or she is not a Canadian citizen, the sentence would be enforceable in Canada. Also, where the transfer is declared invalid, the minister would notify the Minister of Justice for possible extradition and the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration for possible removal of the offender from Canada.

The seventh proposal in closing the identified gaps of the Transfer of Offenders Act and ensuring consistency with other legislative provisions would be to include the considerations for transfer, which are currently set out in the regulations, into the act. This would give more permanency and make it much harder to change. It could not be changed as easily and would give more certainty to those involved.

The last set of proposals that would improve efficiencies include the following. It would remove the reference to schedule and the schedule from the Transfer of Offenders Act. The item is a technical amendment. It would add provisions to allow for administrative arrangements for the international transfer of mentally disordered persons and offenders detained in countries or regions that are not recognized as states, such as Taiwan, Hong Kong or states with which a treaty is not in force.

There are many communities around the world, such as Taiwan and Hong Kong that Canada, although it does not have official formal relationships, with which Canada has excellent diplomatic relationships. We have excellent trade. We have friendships. We have many relatives and immigrant families that have come from those parts of the world and they have close interaction with Canadians and our culture. It is one of the things that makes Canada so exciting and culturally diverse.

There is a lot of interaction among these communities in the world. Because of that, of course, these provisions, which apply to the countries with which we have treaties and other countries of the world that have this legislation, should also apply to these areas where we have a very large amount of interaction, of flow, of interpersonal family connections and friends. Just for efficiency, we would want those provisions of the act to apply.

In summary, I would like to say that looking at this act and making sure that it works well is in the interests of everyone, so that primarily offenders get back to society with the best and safest conditions possible for those other people in society.

International Transfer of Offenders Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Bloc

Michel Guimond Beauport—Montmorency—Côte-De- Beaupré—Île-D'Orléans, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have followed the speech by the hon. member for Yukon attentively. One point struck me particularly. He commented that he found it inconceivable that the opposition members were doing everything possible to slow up passage of a bill like this and implied that we did the same with most bills.

I would like the hon. member for Yukon to explain to us the events of the past three days in this House. We saw the same thing with two bills. I am sure there is a sizeable aboriginal community in Yukon, so I would like to hear his explanation of why the Liberal members literally carried out a filibuster on those two bills, C-11 and C-21. Systematically, these past three days, no one but Liberals spoke, and we in opposition had nothing more to say on those bills, C-11 and C-12. So, is it the opposition who is slowing things down?

I will give the answer myself. This government has a very slim agenda. It has nothing to say, and does everything possible to slow down the few bills we do have before us. I would like to hear his response to that.

International Transfer of Offenders Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Larry Bagnell Yukon, YT

Mr. Speaker, I am terribly disappointed in the Bloc member. When we want to have aboriginal people speak on our bills, they say we are filibustering. They had their chance to speak to those bills. If they have no interest and do not want to speak to them, that is their problem. Of the last three speakers on the Westbank First Nation, our two aboriginal members and I were refuting problems brought up not by the Bloc members but by the opposition. I am sure that if there are injustices put forward in a bill the Bloc would want the members of the House to hear about that.

I am very disappointed that they would deny our aboriginal people the chance to put their views on bills relating to aboriginal people. There are not that many aboriginal people in the House and they at least should have a chance to speak to those bills.

Also, if problems with bills are brought up, they should not be left without answers A number of solutions were put forward in a very constructive way because people brought forward objections and complaints, but we cannot leave these complaints unanswered for the permanent record on the bill.

They are talking about the legislation we do not have, but I ask them to look at today's order paper. I would be delighted to get through it, but I do not think we are going to get through all the bills, even those on today's order paper. There is a lot of legislation. This comment is not actually levelled at the Bloc members because they did not make the original comment that related to legislation and the lack of legislation. All my complaints were directed at the Conservatives, but if the Bloc wants to be brought into it now, the Bloc was part of that--

International Transfer of Offenders Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Whether it gets into it or out of it, let me proceed. 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.

The House resumed from February 23 consideration of the motion that Bill C-471, an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act (sexual assault on child--dangerous offenders), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

Vancouver Centre
B.C.

Liberal

Hedy Fry Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak against Bill C-471 regarding dangerous offender designations for repeat sexual offenders against children. This bill proposes to impose mandatory dangerous offender designations against any offender who can be shown to have had a previous conviction for a predicate sexual offence against a child.

My colleagues who spoke on this matter a few months ago have indicated that this particular provision poses a serious problem from a constitutional point of view. I also note that some members opposite have argued that there is no constitutional problem, as the provision allows for the respondent to rebut the presumption that he or she should otherwise be designated a dangerous offender.

While this is an attempt to respond to the obvious charter issues this provision raises, I cannot agree that it in fact overcomes those specific issues cited by the Supreme Court of Canada in the leading cases of R. v. Lyons and R. v. Johnson.

These cases discussed the ability of the Crown to impose an indeterminate prison sentence while remaining within our Constitution. Our Constitution has entrenched in it fundamental principles of justice. The court made it clear that if the Crown seeks to impose an indeterminate sentence in order to protect society in addition to the regular sentence available for the specific crime the accused is convicted of, then certain principles had to be followed.

In the first place, the burden must be on the Crown to prove that the individual before the courts is in fact a clear danger to commit a violent offence. Second, if that burden is met within the specific requirements of the dangerous offender provisions, the Crown must also meet the burden of demonstrating that the particular risk posed to society by that particular offender cannot be managed by any other method available, in particular the new long term offender designation in section 753.1.

In effect, the Supreme Court of Canada has established that if the Crown is unable to satisfy the sentencing court on the evidence that the risk of serious re-offence cannot be managed by the less onerous long term offender designation, then the dangerous offender application cannot succeed.

Finally, the Supreme Court stipulated that even if the Crown meets those burdens, the sentencing judge must retain discretion to refuse to permanently jail the offender. Without this discretion, indeterminate incarceration is simply not viable under our charter of rights.

If we look at the bill, we see that it is inconsistent with these clear principles laid down by the Supreme Court in Lyons and Johnson. The proposal in Bill C-471 requires a judge to impose the dangerous offender designation. There is no discretion. The bill says “shall,” not “may”. The provision that the judge can refuse the application if the offender satisfies a reverse onus is almost certainly not adequate in this regard. As I see it, this proposal does not meet the principles enunciated by the Supreme Court of Canada in Lyons and Johnson.

The objective of the bill is not only to automatically jail indefinitely anyone convicted for a second time of specific sexual offences against a child under the age of 18, but to also make it much more difficult for such offenders to be granted parole.

However, this is already so. Under the current provisions of Part XXIV of the Criminal Code, an offender who is designated a dangerous offender is not entitled to a parole hearing until the seventh year of incarceration. This position was significantly toughened by our government in 1997.

Before that, dangerous offenders could apply for parole after only three years. It is now seven years. The reason for the change was, among other things, to prevent the inconsistency in parole applications between someone sentenced to a 10 year imprisonment for the same offences but who was not designated as a dangerous offender.

Bill C-471 seeks to establish a very specific set of criteria for a very specific group of dangerous offenders. Under the proposal, the National Parole Board would have one set of statutory rules for current dangerous offenders and another set for this particular group of sex offenders.

The National Parole Board is an independent administrative tribunal with a legislative mandate under the Corrections and Conditional Release Act. To make decisions about the timing and conditions of release of offenders into the community, board members are required to make decisions in regard to the specific factual circumstances of the individual case, guided by the law, policies and Canadian court precedents in coming to their decisions.

There are a number of principles in the Corrections and Conditional Release Act that direct the work of the Parole Board.

The paramount principle, in considering a parole case, is the protection of society. In doing their case by case analysis, board members are required,by law to take into consideration all available information that is relevant to the case.

Therefore, the National Parole Board currently has in place a policy that dictates that at least one sessional assessment by psychologists and psychiatrists is required for all dangerous offender parole applications. Such assessments provide critical information about the mental state of an offender and other characteristics and factors that may raise the risk of reoffending. Therefore, the psychological assessment that Bill C-471 asks for already occurs.

The member for Crowfoot is asking for more than one assessment. I am not sure why. There is no doubt that an assessment is an important piece of the puzzle in parole applications for dangerous offenders, but it is certainly not the only piece. An assessment is only one element of the comprehensive analysis that board members must, by law, undertake in reviewing each case.

As I mentioned above, the current system ensures that public safety is paramount in all cases, including dangerous offender cases. However, by putting an overly important and restrictive emphasis on the psychological assessment alone, I believe a dangerous precedent could be set, and the National Parole Board may feel compelled to release an offender if the assessments indicate any chance of success in the community, even though there may be other factors that dictate against release.

I believe it is critical that the National Parole Board remains an independent administrative tribunal operating at arm's length from the Government of Canada. The legal authority within which the National Parole Board operates is clearly set out in statutes, including the Constitution Act, the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Criminal Code of Canada, the Corrections and Conditional Release Act and its regulations and other legislation.

In making quality decisions regarding conditional releases and pardons as well as recommendations in clemency cases, the board's primary objective is the long term protection of society. The National Parole Board's mandate ultimately requires that public safety can best be achieved by timely and supervised conditional release and through the effective administration of sentences. However, while the board is autonomous and independent, it is also accountable for its actions to Parliament and ultimately to all Canadians.

The board is headed by a chairperson who reports to Parliament, through the Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness. The minister does not and should not give direction to the board in the exercise of its decision making powers regarding the conditional release of individual offenders. It would be the same as the Minister of Justice dictating to judges who is guilty and who is innocent and how sentences should apply, and that is absolutely unacceptable.

The independence of the National Parole Board helps to ensure the impartiality, objectivity and integrity of the parole decision making process. There is no political interference in decision making in individual cases and there should not be. It seems to me that the restriction being proposed regarding conditional release for dangerous offenders in Bill C-471 would unnecessarily fetter the case by case discretion which the board now uses to make decisions.

The Parole Board, under current law, cannot release dangerous offenders unless they can determine that they do not pose an undue risk to society. In the rare cases when dangerous offenders are granted parole, they are subject to intensive supervision for the rest of their lives. The fact is that a very few dangerous offenders are paroled and in the vast majority of cases, only when they are quite elderly. In the rare cases where these offenders are paroled, they are subjected to rigorous reporting and supervision conditions for the remainder of their lives.

In summary, I do not believe these amendments to the Criminal Code would be constitutional. Nor do I believe that the amendments in Bill C-471 would be effective in enhancing the protection of children. As such, I respectfully decline to support the bill.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:40 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Taking note that no other member is rising, I will give the floor to the member under whose name the bill stands. Under right of reply, I will give him the final minutes which are left.

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

1:40 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Kevin Sorenson Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to conclude the debate on my private member's bill, Bill C-471.

If enacted, the bill will amend section 752 to section 761 of the Criminal Code, automatically making anyone convicted of two or more sexual offences against a child a dangerous offender. The onus will be on the individual designated a dangerous offender to provide the grounds or arguments against such a designation. Furthermore, the private member's bill would amend the Corrections and Conditional Release Act restricting release.

Under Bill C-471, the National Parole Board shall not grant parole, unescorted temporary release or statutory release to an offender who has been designated a dangerous offender under subsection 753(1.1) of the Criminal Code, unless the board has first received at least two medical expert opinions following thorough psychiatric assessment of the offender.

The assessors must be of the opinion that the offender, if released, is not likely to commit another offence and will not pose a threat to persons under the age of 18 years.

This private member's bill was prompted by the fact that our current law does not, in my opinion, deal appropriately with those who pose ongoing risks to society, especially to the most vulnerable of society, our children. My private member's bill was also prompted by a Supreme Court of Canada ruling last September, which makes it harder for the courts to declare someone a dangerous offender.

In a nine to zero decision, the Supreme Court justifies that no matter how many crimes an individual commits against innocent people, lower court judges must pay attention to the possibility of rehabilitation, rather than hand out indefinite sentences for those who have already shown they plan to follow on and continue in a life of violent crime.

As a result of this precedent setting ruling, on March 31 a Toronto judge rejected a dangerous offender application for Ronald Roberts. This career criminal was convicted in August 2002 of severely beating a fellow patron in a pool hall. He had 30 previous convictions over 19 years, including two sexual assaults at knifepoint.

On April 2, Douglas Donald Moore hung himself while in jail on charges of 11 sexual offences against children. This sexual predator is believed to have also killed 15 year old René Charlebois, Robert Grewal and Giuseppe Manchisi.

Moore was a monster. He sexually assaulted four boys in 1986, a 12 year old boy in 1988, then fled parole and sexually assaulted a 14 year old boy in 1991.

After serving only four years of an eight year sentence, Moore was eligible for statutory release in 1995. The National Parole Board refused to release Moore because it believed he was a high risk to public safety and that he would reoffend. However, 18 months later he was released after the parole board claimed he had become a positive role model after taking sex offender treatment.

Since his release in 1997, it is believed that Moore assaulted numerous children and killed at least three people.

Moore was a habitual child molester, who virtually every expert would agree could not be cured. Studies show that neither punishment nor rehabilitation can help many child sex offenders. Experts tell us that the least likely offenders to be rehabilitated are sexual predators, especially pedophiles. In fact they state:

Repeat sex offenders are more than twice as likely to commit further sex offences, much more likely to violate conditional release conditions and more likely than other offenders to reoffend with a non-sexual offence.

This information is fully supported by a number of studies that repeatedly indicate that sex offenders have one of the highest recidivism rates of any criminal group. An estimated 40% of sex offenders reoffend within five years of release.

As well, research indicates that offender treatment programs have shown limited results. In fact practitioners in the field of sex offender treatment do not claim ever to cure sex offenders, but rather to manage the risk of reoffending.

With regard to Douglas Moore, an article in the Hamilton Spectator said:

Why would a man with his history not be subject to a dangerous-offender hearing, to let a court decide if he should be detained indefinitely?

The answer goes on:

Responsibility lies with the federal justice department and provincial Crown attorneys and judges.

After September 2003, the responsibility for child molesters freely roaming the streets rests with the Supreme Court of Canada. Earlier this month many other cases came forward.

I believe the only way we can achieve the measure of protection, protection for the most vulnerable members of society, is to automatically make all those convicted of two or more sexual assaults against a child dangerous offenders. The only way to stop these sadistic predators is to keep them behind bars. Repeat child sex offenders should be incarcerated until there is absolutely no doubt that they will not reoffend.

I implore all members on all sides of the House to support my private member's bill.

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Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

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

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Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

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Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

No.

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1:45 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

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

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Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

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1:45 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

All those opposed will please say nay.

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1:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

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The Deputy Speaker

In my opinion the nays have it.

And more than five members having risen:

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Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the recorded division stands deferred until Wednesday, April 28 immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

It being 1:47 p.m., this House stands adjourned until Monday next at 11 a.m. pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 1:47 p.m.)