House of Commons Hansard #44 of the 37th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was first.

Topics

Patent Act
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Pickering—Ajax—Uxbridge
Ontario

Liberal

Dan McTeague Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I want to salute the member for Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, as well as members on this side.

I know he is aware of the fact that, in 2000-01, it is this member who intervened with Oxfam and Doctors without Borders. He brought this issue to the attention of our caucus and the then prime minister, Jean Chrétien, after whom this bill is now named.

We had to ensure that something was done with regard to drug patents to relieve the burden of people living in Africa. Canada had to find not only the means to help regions such as South Africa, but also the delivery methods to help people in the field, that is doctors and the humanitarian infrastructure that is there now.

I was also pleased to see that, perhaps for the first time, the Bloc Quebecois is starting to change its rigid views on the drug patent issue. Indeed, the price of patents and drugs is increasing quite considerably, and this bill is very important for all the regions in our country.

Could I simply ask him whether he thinks that we can still send generic drugs to Africa, since previous court decisions on the drug patent system prevent these generic drugs from being produced in Canada?

It seems to me that this is only about one issue, that is, as was mentioned, the fact that pharmaceutical companies and the big innovative companies that form Rx&D are the only ones that are capable of making these products. Does the member not think that we could correct this flaw if we looked at the whole issue of drug patents?

Patent Act
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, first I would ask my colleague to forgive me because I do not remember the name of his riding. But I know that he is a hardworking member of Parliament.

However, he is a bit devious because he has shifted the debate from an international consensus to national considerations. There is one thing I want to tell him.

The Bloc Quebecois has an honest and powerful debate tradition. As critic for the health portfolio, I am very well aware that the status quo is not acceptable. Basically, what the member is asking for is some support towards the abolition of the liaison rule.

There is nothing to indicate that this is the way my party will go, but I suggest he look at the four proposals that I have tabled with the Standing Committee on Health. His colleague from Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik knows it.

I think that we have not achieved a balance in favour of consumer protection. Some current drug practices will have to be revised. I know that some pharmaceutical companies have behaved in a reprehensible fashion.

What is of concern here is not the 20 year intellectual property provision. I want to tell the member, who will hopefully listen, that what is more disturbing is the offensive behaviour of some of the innovative companies grouped under Rx&D where the patents are constantly renewed. I think that this has to be addressed.

However, we will defend the principle of a 20 year intellectual property because to me, if the pharmaceutical companies invest money—it cost about $800 millions to market a new drug—it is just normal that they get a return on their investment.

Consequently, we have to strike a balance between our obligations towards the intellectual property and the interest of consumers in getting pharmaceutical products at the lowest cost possible. In this regard, I do agree with him that we have to look at a number of practices that are unfavourable to consumers.

Patent Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Bloc

Yves Rocheleau Trois-Rivières, QC

Mr. Speaker, I too want to commend my colleague from Hochelaga—Maisonneuve for his very good speech. He knows what he is talking about and is very sensitive to the problems facing developing countries.

Does he not think that this is a great example of what can be accomplished where there is political will to tackle a problem and try to solve it within our means, that is the means of Canada?

Also, yesterday, at the Standing Committee on Justice, Human Rights, Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness, I had the privilege to meet a senior representative of the World Health Organization who reminded us that 6 million people die every year of HIV-AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis, that is 6 million deaths. There are currently no war or genocide causing as many deaths. It is almost a structural issue.

Although we may want to congratulate the Government of Canada for his actions, on a more structural level, given that the UN had recommended that international assistance reach 0.7% of GDP and that it does not even stand at half of that in Canada, far from it actually, should we not decry the government's lack of political will to uphold its international responsibilities, since we know what our country can do, as shown by this bill?

Patent Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga—Maisonneuve, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would say that the member for Trois-Rivières is a humanist akin to those of the 18th century. I am certainly not referring to his date of birth, but to the culture and tradition of the time.

I think he is right. The bill may be very positive and reflect a consensus, but we have to bemoan the fact that Canada has not lived up to the expectations of the international community with regard to the proportion of the GNP it has earmarked for international cooperation. I know there was a slight increase for that item in the last two budgets. However, I think that all parliamentarians should try to convince the government that it must allocate a higher percentage to international cooperation.

Patent Act
Government Orders

1:25 p.m.

NDP

Dick Proctor Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-9, the humanitarian bill. It is certainly important for all caucuses to support the legislation because the need for access to medicines has been recognized internationally. It is important that Canada participates and sets an example for the world, although it does remain to be seen whether we will have set a good example. I will have more on that later.

Every day a countless number of people die in the developing world of diseases for which there are cures, diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria and pneumonia, simply because of a lack of access to medicines most often due to the high cost of pharmaceutical products.

Although there is yet no cure for the HIV-AIDS pandemic, there are drugs to ameliorate it. In Africa alone, every day 6,000 people die of AIDS, while 11,000 more contract the disease.

I think we would all agree that Stephen Lewis, the Canadian special envoy on this at the United Nations, has done more not only in Canada but around the world to raise this issue and to force us to realize it than any other human being alive.

On health, education and security, any initiative to improve in these areas will have many different components, and this bill seeks to address one of those core components, namely the access to medicines.

Improved health is linked to increased school attendance for children and their ability to do well while at school. As we all know, education is a lifelong process and has a lifelong impact on an individual's well-being and economic productivity.

We have heard lots of talk about security in recent days. In fact, the Prime Minister is talking about that very subject this afternoon in Washington. I firmly believe one of the most important ways that we can make our world more secure is through improving the health of the people in that world because it leads them to participate more fully in the social, economic and cultural events and aspects of their countries and their home communities.

Many studies show the devastating economic impact of infectious diseases such as malaria and the AIDS pandemic. The World Health Organization's recent commission on macroeconomics and health stated:

The evidence confirms that countries with the weakest conditions of health and education have a much harder time achieving sustained growth than do countries with better conditions of health and education.

There is no surprise there.

On the international process over the past several years, the background to this legislation is that when it is passed, Bill C-9 will be among the first pieces of legislation of its kind in the world, the end product of several years of negotiations on the international stage. It goes back to November 2001 at the WTO Doha round on intellectual property rights. The declaration affirmed that countries have the right to protect public health and improve access to affordable medicines, including through compulsory licensing of pharmaceutical products.

This international acknowledgement was incredibly important because, although many countries officially recognized the need for a better balance between intellectual property rights and human rights, the need for a north-south sharing of technologies and knowledge, the reality of intellectual property rights made the practicalities of that sharing difficult, which meant that little of substance was actually being done.

The WTO agreement last August is the practical solution to the principles agreed to at Doha and was historic in that it gave World Trade Organization members the right to export to developing countries those generic medicines still under patent without fear of trade retaliation and it acknowledged the importance and urgency of so doing.

On the competition aspects of the bill, because of intellectual property rights, patent holder or innovator companies have monopolies on their drug products in this country for a period of 20 years, which the health critic for the Bloc Québécois was explaining very well a few moments ago. That 20 year patent protection rule varies from country to country around the world.

In developing new drug products there is often many years of research and development and patent holders obviously must recoup their costs and these costs, particularly for new experimental drugs such as those used in HIV-AIDS, are often far too high for developing countries and NGOs delivering health services in those developing countries to meet the need and demand for the products.

As a result, many patent holders have entered into agreements with countries and specific programs to provide their drugs at lower prices or at no cost at all but those efforts have been insufficient to meet the demand.

Increasing competition, by allowing generic producers to enter the market earlier, is seen as crucial to ensuring that those needing treatment have access to those medicines as required. Increasing competition increases supply and decreases prices, and both of these are needed for developing countries in order for them to be able to meet the urgent health care needs of their people.

On the international obligation front, Canada has many international obligations in this area, including having recognized since 1945 the right to health as a fundamental right, the UN's special session on HIV-AIDS to make, in an urgent manner, every effort to increase the standard of treatment for people suffering from HIV-AIDS, including the prevention and treatment of opportunistic infections.

It is important to ensure that as parliamentarians we fully respect and reflect Canada's obligations to taking this important step toward the full realization of the human right to health, including the promotion of access to affordable medicines for all.

My colleague, the member for Windsor West, who has worked very hard and tirelessly on this legislation, presented both at committee and here at report stage several other pharmaceutical products that can be of use to developing countries. An amendment was made to include an important fixed dose drug for the treatment of tuberculosis and that was passed at report stage and, I am happy to say, is included in the bill.

Unfortunately, two other drug products that he had proposed were rejected at report stage. One of them is on the World Health Organization's pre-qualified list of drugs for HIV-AIDS and the other is currently indicated for pneumonia, which is the leading killer of children in the developing world under the age of five. This drug is also being studied for possible anti-tuberculosis use.

I sincerely hope that the Minister of Health and the Minister of Industry will together move quickly to receive advice on those two products and include them on a future schedule of drugs.

We first saw Bill C-9 as Bill C-56, which was introduced last November but died on the Order Paper when the House of Commons prorogued on December 12. It was reintroduced in its initial form on February 12 but the government proposed many changes following that.

Testimony was given at committee from a variety of groups, and while all witnesses appearing made it clear that they were supportive of the initiative, many problems with the bill that were identified by those expert witnesses. They included the first right of refusal, which would have allowed the patent holder, the pharmaceutical companies, to scoop a contract negotiated by a potential generic producer. This would drive up the cost of the eventual drug.

With regard to the schedule, testimony on this aspect was clear. It was felt that there should be no schedule of drugs. It was felt by the overwhelming majority of witnesses that this would be flawed at the outset and that having a schedule, regardless of how flexible it may be intended to be, would add another unnecessary step in the process of getting drugs to the developing world. The reason for that is that if the drug is not listed on the schedule there would have to be a process to first, get it on the schedule, and then get it to where it was needed.

Respected organizations, such as Doctors Without Borders, testified that the language did not allow for the participation of non-governmental organizations. It was felt that the wording would not allow them to participate because NGOs do not consider themselves as agents of any government and they play a crucial role in many developing countries in providing health care services, including access to medicines.

Many witnesses also presented testimony about the need to expand the schedules of eligible countries. In its original form only WTO member developing countries and least developed countries were eligible, while many witnesses testified that there was no requirement by international trade rules to exclude those several dozen other developing countries, such as Vietnam, Iran and Iraq, countries which also face substantial health issues that we see regularly on our television sets and that could be better addressed if they had access to medicines at affordable cost.

I want to turn now to the major problems that we see in the bill. Over 100 amendments that were submitted by my colleague, the member for Windsor West would have done several things, including eliminating the first right of refusal, extending the list of eligible countries and drug products and, lastly, clarifying the language around the participation of non-government organizations.

After the committee hearings, the government took more than a month to present its amendments to the bill. It made substantial amendments, including eliminating the first right of refusal, allowing for other developing countries to apply through diplomatic channels to be eligible to participate and to allow NGOs to participate. Although some of these changes presented further additional problems that may affect the workability of the bill, myself, the member for Windsor West and my colleagues in the New Democratic Party caucus are supportive of the majority of those proposed amendments.

We did raise at committee the new concerns around the increased opportunities for legal battles between patent and generic drug companies that could seriously impact how this bill will actually work in reality, the unnecessary requirement that developing countries wishing to be added to the list of eligible countries are required to be added specifically with reference to a particular drug product and it is unclear what process has to be followed after that.

My colleague from Windsor West was pleased to have the support of the committee and wanted it recognized on several amendments, including those to ensure that humanitarian concerns be considered the first determination if the Federal Court is required under the appropriate section as to whether a royalty rate has been established according to the formula that will be prescribed in the regulations.

The section on page 12 of the bill now reads:

The Federal Court may make an order...taking into account

(a) the humanitarian and non-commercial reasons underlying the issuance of the authorization;

(b) the economic value of the use of the invention or inventions to the country or WTO Member

We can see the importance of reversing those two clauses.

Another amendment ensures that there is a minimum of a 30 day waiting period that a potential generic producer must observe to apply for a voluntary licence from the patent holder before applying to the Commissioner of Patents for a compulsory licence.

The third amendment was a language change to ensure that the minister be required to establish an advisory committee to advise on the inclusion of further drug products in schedule 1.

There are some continuing problems that have been identified and the first that remains is on the scheduling. As the House has heard before, there is a consensus that the presence of a schedule at all provides further inflexibility in ensuring that countries have access to the drugs that they require.

A list by its nature is exclusionary because it does not include all possibilities and the negotiations that led to the historic WTO waiver last August examined and rejected the idea of creating a list.

Under Bill C-9, if a country wants a drug that is already approved for use and sale here in Canada, it will have to start a process to get that drug included before a generic producer could apply for a voluntary or compulsory licence to supply the country with that medication.

We presented at committee and in the House amendments to improve the schedule, and we will continue to monitor the impact of the existence of the schedule on the workability of the bill.

The second major problem that remains, in our opinion, is that NGOs in countries where they are legally entitled to purchase and distribute pharmaceutical products to contract directly with generic suppliers in Canada. Again, NGOs play a crucial role in many developing countries in their broader health care programs, including purchasing and distributing of essential medicines, and this barrier is a major cause of concern around the workability of this bill.

The third major problem stems from those amendments the government proposed at committee stage to replace the first right of refusal. The new legislation, as amended, now includes opportunities for patent holders to take generic products to the federal court about the royalty rate and the price of the product. Over the past decade there have been at least 300 cases brought against generic producers in federal court and court battles can be lengthy and costly, as we all know. Given that the price generic producers can charge is now to be regulated by a fixed and flexible cap, there is concern that they may not be able to participate to increase supply on the variety of products that might have been possible without these new sections and without the first right of refusal clauses. Generic producers will have significant outlay of cost to increase their own research and development and operational costs to get into this business of increasing supply, and with the price cap there may be a serious disincentive for generic producers to participate.

Problems, as I have tried to indicate, do remain with the bill, but it is in the best interests of the people who the bill is intended to assist for us to give the regime a try and to pass the legislation quickly.

Canada has made numerous international commitments, which I and my colleagues in the New Democratic Party caucus support, to help address the pandemic of HIV-AIDS and other diseases like tuberculosis and malaria. While we continue to be critical of some government action, or better said, inaction, in some of these areas, if Bill C-9 actually works to increase pharmaceutical products through competition, then it will be an important tool and broader strategies to improve health in countries across the world.

We have gone through the process of hearing expert witnesses, amending legislation and exchanging ideas on how we think the bill should work. However there was a definite mindset and will be in all parties, including my own, to ensure that we deal with the bill as quickly as possible to ensure that we at least try to get cheaper pharmaceutical drugs on the market.

We in the NDP will continue to watch and monitor how the bill works and whether it provides enough incentive for generic producers to actually get into the business of producing cheaper versions of drugs for export to developing countries, the role and efficacy of the advisory committee and the schedule of drugs.

Just before I take my seat, I was interested to hear that this bill has been named the Jean Chrétien bill. While I do not wish to take anything away from the former prime minister and I know his interest in Africa, there will be very few Canadians who will think that this should be related to Jean Chrétien. It should be known as the Stephen Lewis bill. It was Stephen Lewis who brought this to the attention of Canadians and, indeed, people around the world and it is important that it be recognized at this time.

Patent Act
Government Orders

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Charles Caccia Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, first of all, I would like to thank the House for giving me this opportunity today to speak to Bill C-9.

The purpose of this bill is quite clear and simple; the bill amends the Patent Act to facilitate access to pharmaceutical products to address public health problems afflicting many developing and least-developed countries, especially those resulting from HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other epidemics.

I would like also to indicate that it would be quite appropriate in this discussion to congratulate the member for Algoma—Manitoulin, the chair of the industry committee, for the outstanding work that he has performed in getting this bill through. There were, I am told, over 200 amendments and they were dealt with very thoroughly through hard work and extended hearings. Finally, the bill was reported back to the House for third reading yesterday. It recognizes the dedication of the chair and the members of the committee to this cause. It is only appropriate that we should recognize this because the working committee is seldom publicized and brought to the attention of constituents.

Next, it is desirable to indicate that while the title of the bill reads in a rather cut and dry manner, an amendment to the Patent Act and Food and Drugs Act, which would be very obscure unless it was explained at large, it also carries a subtitle to which other speakers in this debate have already made reference. The subtitle, which is in brackets, and I am very glad to see it, reads “The Jean Chrétien Pledge to Africa”.

I find this most appropriate and desirable considering the tremendous effort that the former prime minister made in advancing the cause at international fora, particularly at the G-8 meetings, to the dramatic and tragic situation of the African continent. He did that on a number of occasions, particularly in Kananaskis in 2002, when the NEPAD policy was launched with the support of the G-7. Africa was put on the political map of those gathered at Kananaskis with complete support, by way of funding, by all the leaders who met on that occasion.

It seems to me, and I take into full account the comments just made by my colleague from the NDP, that perhaps there are many who have advanced the cause of dealing with pandemics in Africa. It is most appropriate that the leadership of the former prime minister be recognized and given appropriate exposure in this legislation and hopefully also beyond Canada's boundaries.

The purpose of the legislation is of course much larger than just the scope of the bill. The legislation intends to be part of a larger government effort intended to provide aid and medicinal assistance to countries in need. It is my understanding that Canada has already committed $100 million to the global fund to fight HIV and AIDS, and in addition to that some $62 million to the Canadian fund for Africa.

Therefore, we can see that the legislation is coming in as a reinforcing element within the framework of a broader policy effort, and it is most appropriate and timely. It is also a demonstration that the global community is taking on a responsibility for a problem that is hundreds of miles away, but nevertheless touches us all because we are all members of a human community that ties us together.

The situation in Africa is desperate. It is important to put on the record some data. It is a fact that there are some 36 million people apparently who are affected by AIDS at the present time. Two-thirds of these 36 million souls live in five countries: Ethiopia, India, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa. In five other African countries, namely, Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe, one adult out of five who registers positively on tests for AIDS or has already incurred into the AIDS pandemic. This data is from the World Health Organization.

As a result, the average life expectancy in many African countries has been reduced by 23 years. When we are witnessing a trend in the opposite direction, namely longer and longer life expectancies, we have a continent where the life expectancy is going down and being reduced as a result of this pandemic. There are other countries which seem not to be completely exempt from this terrible disease. Reference has been made to the Bahamas, Cambodia, the Dominican Republic, Guyana and to Haiti where it is expected that the average life expectancy is to be reduced by at least three years.

These statistics necessarily are cut and dry, but they hide another very important social reality. That is that as a result of the deaths within a population, there is a dramatic decrease in the number of teachers in the schools, workers in agriculture and in industry, clerical workers, people in the health care sectors, in hospitals, et cetera. Therefore, the fragile and limited structures in these countries are affected by this disease. In other words, there is an impact on numbers and social structures in the countries I mentioned earlier. These are poor countries which lack the resources to remedy the situation, in particular to provide, acquire and purchase the medicines and drugs necessary to stop the spread of this pandemic.

Therefore, we have these initiatives by Canada and other like-minded countries in trying to come to grips with getting to the root of the problem and to prevent the spread of this disease. In this respect we are all very proud of the fact that Canada is in the forefront of this initiative. This is why this bill is so important, why it has received the support of every party and why there is an element of urgency attached to the bill itself.

I would like to continue in my presentation by adding some words on the intervention yesterday by the Minister for International Cooperation. However, since you wish me to recognize the clock, Mr. Speaker, I will yield the floor and perhaps resume my comments after three o'clock.

Patent Act
Government Orders

1:55 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Bélair)

The hon. member will have nine minutes left in his speech after question period.

Cruelty to Animals
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Liberal

Peter Adams Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, the animal cruelty legislation introduced years ago in another Parliament is now Bill C-22. In its previous form, it passed through this House to the Senate, where the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs proposed several amendments.

After years of debate, this important legislation is still stuck in the Senate. This is legislation that is important to all those who care about animals. It is equally important to those who own pets as it is to farmers who care for their livestock.

This is not draconian legislation. It simply brings old provisions designed to protect animals into the 21st century. Enough is enough.

I urge the Senate to return this legislation to the House of Commons for immediate passage into law.

Forest Industry
Statements By Members

1:55 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

John Duncan Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, the government is discriminating against woodlot owners under the Canadian agricultural income stabilization, or CAIS, program. The wood from woodlots has been arbitrarily excluded, even though it was covered by NISA. Woodlot owners are having a particularly difficult time with the softwood dispute, beetles, wildfires and hurricanes.

The Minister of Natural Resources said that the CAIS program covers tree farming. However, the CAIS website states clearly that wood is not covered. Since anything other than Christmas tree farming produces primarily wood, most woodlots are excluded. CAIS staff in Winnipeg confirm this.

Tree farmers who legitimately produce farm income are being selectively excluded. The CAIS program must be amended to include wood from woodlots. This is only fair and complies with the minister's own words.

Quebec Mining Week
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Bloc

Richard Marceau Charlesbourg—Jacques-Cartier, QC

Mr. Speaker, this is Quebec mining week. It should be a proud moment and a time to commemorate the hard work of thousands of miners, but it has become, in the Thetford Mines region, a real nightmare for over 450 workers.

Chrysotile fibre is not like the asbestos of the past. What explanation then is there for the Liberal government's failure to adequately defend the responsible and safe use of this mineral.

The most serious consequence of this inaction is the indeterminate closure of the Lake Asbestos Mine in Black Lake and its disastrous effects on the regional economy.

In order not to upset certain trading partners, the Liberals chose to ignore a region unlike any other in the world and reneged on their commitments in favour of chrysotile.

On behalf of the Bloc Quebecois, I want to tell the workers at LAB Chrysotile, their families and everyone in the Thetford Mines region that we are on their side.

I also want to take this opportunity to highlight the outstanding work of the president of the PROAmiant Chrysotile movement, Rénald Paré, whose dedication to the region is well known to all.

The Environment
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Charles Caccia Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, the International Joint Commission has identified 15 hot spots in the Great Lakes region yet to be cleaned up, plus the phenomenon of infestation by zebra mussels and other foreign species.

The Canadian Institute for Environmental Law and Policy presented yesterday to the Standing Committee on the Environment and Sustainable Development a number of recommendations for the Government of Canada.

Prominent among them were: first, the conversion of tax incentives to promote sustainable instead of unsustainable practices in the Great Lakes; second, the requirement of pollution prevention plans for industrial discharges to waste water treatment plants, also in the Great Lakes region; and third, the restoration of funds to ensure the cleanup and monitoring of the remaining 15 heavily polluted areas of the Great Lakes by the year 2015.

I urge the government to act on these recommendations without delay.

National Poetry Month
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Sarmite Bulte Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, April is National Poetry Month. Established in 1999, the month is an opportunity for poets, publishers, educators and the general public to promote poetry in Canada, and Canadian poetry beyond our borders.

This April the League of Canadian Poets will celebrate its first ever baker's dozen, a list of 13 must-read Canadian poetry books made available to booksellers across the country as a guide to readers exploring Canadian poetry. The baker's dozen is meant as a starting place from which we promote Canadian poets and their poetry. It is important to the League of Canadian Poets to communicate the richness and depth of poetic talent in this country.

The League of Canadian Poets has also created youngpoets.ca, a website designed for young people and educators to help introduce poetry to Canadian youth in and out of the classroom.

Poets across the country will celebrate National Poetry Month's 2004 theme “Poets in our Communities” by reading in some unusual, community-inspired venues.

Old Tyme Heritage Fiddlers
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Liberal

Rose-Marie Ur Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, ON

Mr. Speaker, I wish to congratulate a group of 13 musicians in my riding of Lambton--Kent--Middlesex, the Old Tyme Heritage Fiddlers. They volunteer their time and talents to play for events in Melbourne and surrounding area. The musicians have never accepted cash for their service, but simply ask that a donation be made to a charity of the event's choice.

On May 6 the Old Tyme Heritage Fiddlers will be proudly celebrating the fact that through their entertainment, $50,000 has been raised for charities. The charities that have benefited are: the Canadian Cancer Society, Heart and Stroke Foundation, and the Canadian Diabetes Association.

The 13 individuals that I am proud to recognize today are: Bernice Cross, Albert Aitken, Cherry Chupa, Christine Welch, Madeline Forbes, Bill Dougal, Shirley Dann, Harold Stuart, Bob Reid, Stuart Lee, Paul Vanderploeg, Roger Vanderploeg, and Jack Roemer.

I wish to congratulate the Old Tyme Heritage Fiddlers on this accomplishment. Their music not only brightens people's spirits but helps to make a difference in all the lives they touch.

Bill C-250
Statements By Members

2 p.m.

Canadian Alliance

Vic Toews Provencher, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to express my concern at the decision of the Liberal majority in the Senate to invoke closure on Bill C-250 and to pass the bill into law. Bill C-250 broadens the hate propaganda provisions of the Criminal Code.

Former Prime Minister Diefenbaker warned that enacting these kinds of laws could have an adverse effect on fundamental Canadian freedoms, such as freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom of expression. His concerns are directly applicable to Bill C-250.

Unfortunately, most of the Liberals in both the Senate and the House of Commons rejected Conservative efforts to amend the bill in order to address these concerns, while at the same time ensuring that Canadians were properly protected against criminal action.

I would like to thank concerned citizens across Canada, including those in my riding of Provencher, for their ongoing efforts and dedication to prevent this ill-conceived bill from becoming law.

RAI International
Statements By Members

April 29th, 2004 / 2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Bernard Patry Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, today I would like to reaffirm my support for Canadians of Italian heritage in my riding of Pierrefonds—Dollard and elsewhere in Canada who are calling for access to Italian digital television, RAI International.

Many of my Liberal colleagues have addressed the House recently to show their support for the application initially made to the CRTC by the member for Saint-Léonard—Saint-Michel in support of their request.

I want to join with them because I believe that this action is totally justified and I hope, for the sake of Canadians of Italian origin in my riding and throughout Canada, that the CRTC will respond favourably to this legitimate request, which is supported by a petition containing more than 106,000 signatures as well as over 330 letters.

RAI International is already available in 238 countries, but not in Canada.