House of Commons Hansard #93 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was health.

Topics

Quarantine Act
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the behaviour by the Bloc Québécois has been going on for some sitting days and it is quite disruptive to the operations of the House.

The particular provisions within the bill to do with rights of individuals will be sensitive issues to a number of members who have been active in the aspect of basic human rights and the rights and freedoms of the individual. When we consider the conflicting interests here, the rights of the individual and the responsibility of the health authorities to protect the health and well-being of Canadians, it does raise some important questions about whether there is a demonstrably justified infringement on the rights of the individual.

I recognize there are some conflicting interests here, but members know that there is a responsibility of discharging the health measures provided by the Quarantine Act to ensure the health and well-being of all Canadians. We had the example with SARS. We now have discovered and learned that the disease is a communicable one. Also, some evidence shows that it could be transmitted through the air.

Let me make a few other comments on the implications of the bill and its scope.

First, because the bill has not been modernized for many years, we have to take into account, as legislators, that over time things change. There are emerging and re-emerging health threats and SARS is certainly one example. The most important part of this is that these communicable diseases do not respect borders. It is much like pollution. For instance, we know that in the 401 corridor of Ontario, going from Windsor down to Toronto, the major source of pollution, of poor air quality and particulate matter, comes from the Ohio Valley in the United States, which is densely populated with coal-fired hydrogenerating stations.

Similarly, we have a situation where problems in Canada are not necessarily domestically sourced. Taiwan had a very similar problem with regard to people coming into Taiwan from mainland China.

Countries have to take important steps to ensure that we take all the defensive measures necessary and the best possible course to ensure that communicable diseases do not become a serious problem as they have in the past, particularly with SARS.

The advances in technology and rapid air travel is now a reality in the daily lives of Canadians. It replaces the long days that people used to travel on ships or by rail. The new age of jet travel has paved the way for increased population mobility. This is a very important issue. There are so many people coming and going. We are not just talking about people who are coming to visit Canada. We are talking also about Canadians who have travelled abroad in some affected areas and who come back. It is important that we take all those precautions as well. This does not just affect people who are visiting our country but also those who are returning from trips abroad, for whatever reason. An enormous number of people travel through the airports of our country.

Members may recall when the mad cow crisis was at its peak, travellers coming to Canada had to walk on a mat to disinfect their shoes. We were not sure whether they may have somehow picked up some materials that may have been a threat to the agriculture industry. This is yet another instance where defensive measures are extremely important.

We are told by experts that a serious communicable disease can spread to any part of the world within 24 hours. We know some of the impacts of these diseases, but we do not know anything about them. SARS was an excellent example. When it hit, we did not know what it was. We did not know how it acted. We did not know how it was transmitted. What we did know was that a large number of people with a common bond of association, whether it be from a nursing home or a hospital ward, all of had the indicators that there was the starting of an epidemic.

It required the immediate mobilization of a large number of people. It goes without saying that we are very grateful to the health care providers, the doctors and the nurses and all the other important health care providers, who literally put themselves in harm's way to help those who were afflicted by these diseases, without knowing. It is much like firefighters. Firefighters run in while others flee to save themselves. We saw that in 9/11.

Let us not forget the importance to the caregivers who tried their very best under situations of very little information on how to deal with it.

The new reality regarding the health of immigrants is becoming a growing transborder problem as well. Members of Parliament have an important responsibility in their ridings to deal with people who are being sponsored by constituents to come to Canada, either to obtain landed status and perhaps ultimately to become citizens.

We all know the health requirements to enter Canada are extremely rigorous as well. It is important that they be enforced. This is also a very important issue because of the transborder problem.

This entire situation has many health ramifications. This is one reason why we now have a public health representation in the cabinet. We also have the chief public health officer, both of whom have important roles to play in addressing any future disease outbreaks, such as SARS. We also have established a centre in Winnipeg similar to the Atlanta centres for disease control. Things are happening. Bill C-12 is part of that process.

The existing health protection system has served the interest of Canadians well. Obviously we have to update our laws to take into account the new reality of the mobility of our own population and the expanding numbers of people who are visiting Canada from other lands. It means that the policy and procedures we use in Canada must reflect and be updated to reflect this new reality.

The member for Oakville previously mentioned that Dr. David Naylor prepared the main report on this. The report contained some very important recommendations. Those recommendations have been well taken into account, not only in this legislation, but in other activities.

I also want to comment on a couple of other aspects. Bill C-12 serves to modernize the Quarantine Act, but it is only one of the tools in our health tool box. As I indicated, we now have the public health agency with the appointment of Dr. David Butler-Jones, Canada's first chief public health officer, and the Canadian pandemic influenza plan. All are essential elements in the government's strategy for strengthening Canada's public health system.

As I indicated, the existing federal powers under the Quarantine Act are basically outdated. That is the reason why this legislation needs to be passed by Parliament. I hope the legislation will have the support of all hon. members in this place.

That is why we are moving forward quickly with the legislation. It will give the government the means to cope with and control disease outbreaks and ensure better communication, collaboration and cooperation among public health partners. This aspect was very evident during the SARS outbreak. There were more questions and answers, as can be appreciated, and there was a lack of coordination of the public health bodies across the country. Although there were regular press conferences to assure the public, the public also had an important need to know about how they could safeguard themselves.

In those types of serious circumstances we all need to be well informed so we can be part of the preventative measures to ensure a communicable disease outbreak does not spread any further and is in fact wrestled to the ground. The collaboration and cooperation that were necessary was demonstrated even within the government departments. An issue such as SARS touched virtually every department.

I recall the bulletin that came out informing the public about SARS and suggesting that if people had some questions or wanted further information they could go to a website or two but there was no website or two. There were about 21 different website addresses and they were all to different areas of the government, all of which, in their own way, had a reference to SARS as it related to their department.

With the creation of this new cabinet post, that will not happen any more. There will be a central communications point in which important information on a comprehensive basis can be communicated to all stakeholders, all interested parties, Canadians, caregivers and others who may be affected or involved in this.

The scope of the new act is limited to ensuring that serious communicable diseases are prevented from entering Canada or being spread to other countries. It will also mitigate the risk of future threats to public health at home and beyond, to our international partners.

Because of our experience in the SARS epidemic, Canada continues to be a leader in terms of being a model for other countries in terms of addressing matters such as this. I know the World Health Organization has taken great interest as have other countries. We have also had many visitations to Canada with regard to the way in which we have set things up.

With the proposed changes to the Quarantine Act, which I am sure will be passed by this place, I think Canada will finish the loop in terms of providing the best possible protection and prevention for Canadians as it relates to communicable diseases.

Quarantine Act
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

Bloc

Nicole Demers Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, I listened closely to the speech by my colleague from Mississauga South. I do not know whether he would agree with me in terms of a global strategy perspective. Does he agree that there needs to be support for the Bloc Québécois position whereby the Canadian government must commit to increasing its international aid immediately, especially to Africa, in order to reach the 0.7% of GDP level, as several European countries have already done? This would help African countries fight highly infectious diseases more effectively, diseases that could easily be transmitted here, as he so skilfully illustrated in his speech.

Quarantine Act
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I know the Prime Minister has been, as was the previous prime minister, well involved in the Africa issue and has made commitments very similar to what the Bloc has now adopted. I might remind the member that yesterday the Prime Minister again updated the House with regard to our commitment to Africa.

In regard to the member's question, I am glad the Bloc Québécois, in this regard, agrees with the Government of Canada.

Quarantine Act
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

Conservative

James Lunney Nanaimo—Alberni, BC

Mr. Speaker, a number of issues came up during debate in committee on this that caused some of us concern and I will give the House a couple of examples.

In clause 22(1), with respect to medical examination, it states:

If a quarantine officer has reasonable grounds to believe that a traveller has or might have a communicable disease or is infested with vectors, or has recently been in close proximity to a person who has or might have a communicable disease or is infested with vectors, the officer may require the traveller to undergo a[n] [investigation].

What concerned many of us were the “or”s. It is not that an individual has a disease but that the person may have been near somebody who might have had something.

Clause 28.1 states that beyond examination an individual could be detained if:

(d) the quarantine officer has reasonable grounds to believe

(i) has or might have a communicable disease or is infested with vectors, or has recently been in close proximity to a person who has or might have a communicable disease or is infested with vectors,

Something that is of more concern is clause 26 which states:

If a quarantine officer, after the medical examination of a traveller, has reasonable grounds to believe that the traveller has or might have a communicable disease or is infested with vectors, or has recently been in close proximity to a person who has or might have a communicable disease or is infested with vectors, the quarantine officer may order the traveller to comply with treatment or any other measure for preventing the introduction and spread of the communicable disease.

I do not think anyone is overly concerned about someone having to be examined in order to contain the disease. However, after having been examined and no evidence is found that someone is sick, the person can still be compelled to be quarantined for up to a week. What troubles me is that after a week, if in the officer's opinion the individual still might be a threat, the individual can be detained further even if there is no sign of the disease. The person can also be compelled to have treatment or some other preventative measure just because they were near someone who had a disease.

Does the member agree with forcing an individual to have treatment just because an officer thinks the individual has been near someone who might have a disease but the individual shows no symptoms of the disease?

Quarantine Act
Government Orders

May 6th, 2005 / 10:45 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is certainly the big question that has been raised by a number of members. It has a great deal to do with the rights of the individual and Canadians at large covered under the charter and the responsibilities of a government and health authorities to protect us against something that the consequences of which could be enormous. The consequence could be a pandemic that could kill hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people if not checked and dealt with at its early stages.

When the member read from clause 22, he may have misspoke himself when he said that it would require a traveller to undergo an investigation. The bill in fact states “medical examination”.

If we are talking about a quarantine officer, a medical officer, a doctor, a nurse or whoever is going to be responsible for making these assessments, I do not believe they are there to do harm. They are properly training and are there to protect Canadians. They will not detain someone for some personal whim, personal bias or whatever it might be.

In clause 26, the member said, “if the quarantine officer has grounds to believe”. This is not a matter of frivolous grounds. In a matter of emergency someone has to make some serious decisions and we first need to ensure that those who are put in those positions of authority have the tools to do these things, are properly trained and are acting in the best interests of Canadians.

The member kind of asked the questions almost in the context of what if we get somebody who maybe is not doing things in good faith and is just doing it to somehow disrupt the rights and freedoms of individuals, of travellers or to be invasive.

Medical examination is one thing but a medical examination does not tell us where the person has been, who the person has seen and in which place where there were problems has the person been. Those things are not part of a medical examination. A medical examination is with regard to that individual and the individual's own condition.

If there is some basis for looking at people's travel documents, or whatever it might be, and it would be helpful to get information to do an investigation, then I would say that it is a proper thing to do and a responsible thing to do because individuals themselves coming into a country who have gone through a medical examination may not even know what exactly has been going on, what the problem is, what the disease is or what causes it. There is an awful lot of information, much of which is not readily available through simply the process of a individual screening or maybe some sort of a medical exam.

This is a very good example of where parliamentarians often get into the situation where we have conflicting interests, and sometimes people will describe it as the lesser of evils, but in this particular case the act is prescribing the tools to be used by properly trained medical professionals who are prepared to take on the responsibility and to discharge that greater responsibility, which is to protect public health. It is in the best interest of not only that individual, it is also is in the best interest of the country at large, which is the greater question. We do make these tough decisions. In this regard I would say that the provisions, in my opinion, within Bill C-12 are fair and reasonable.

Quarantine Act
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Bloc

Jean-Yves Roy Matapédia—Matane, QC

Mr. Speaker, today's debate is not on the bill, but rather on the Senate amendment. As a result, the proposed regulations would be considered by the appropriate committee not only of the House of Commons but also of the Senate. This is the first point I want to address and one I find completely absurd.

Having the appropriate committee of the House take the time to examine the bill and the regulations is justifiable. But, in my opinion, having a Senate committee duplicate the work of the House is completely absurd. It is appropriate for the House and its committees to intervene in a debate on proposed legislation. Consequently, the Bloc Québécois cannot support the Senate's amendment.

Yesterday, my colleague from Peterborough spoke on this bill, which concerns the Quarantine Act. Even if this bill is limited solely to human beings, he drew a comparison between this bill and what happened during the mad cow crisis.

Over the past century, travel has undergone such an enormous and rapid evolution that the spread of communicable diseases is a constant threat. Insofar as possible, this bill seeks to rectify this situation through the imposition of quarantines and other measures to prevent, to the greatest extent possible, the introduction of communicable diseases into Quebec and Canada.

I would not call this is a pipe dream, although it is extremely difficult to control such diseases, even with the proposed measures. At best, it is almost a pipe dream.

I want to give the very concrete example of invasive alien species. Over the past 25 or 30 years, we have seen our waterways invaded by numerous alien species, which are destroying our environment and our resources. Attempts to control such invasive alien species have been unsuccessful.

Now, we have before us a bill that seeks to prevent the introduction of communicable diseases so as to prevent their spread among the general public.

I listened to the question put by my colleague from Laval. I think she is absolutely right. Of course a bill has to be passed. However, as a developed country, we would have to invest more in public health and hygiene in developing countries where there is great potential for communicable diseases to originate and develop. As my colleague for Montmorency—Charlevoix—Haute-Côte-Nord says, an effort has to be made initially to solve the problem at the source. And so investment in public health is needed.

Last night, I watched a report on Médecins sans frontières, or Doctors Without Borders, and its work in a central African country. This organization has almost replaced the institutions that should be supported by the government. That is exactly what these people were saying. Extremely dangerous situations are allowed to develop. The problem of AIDS in Africa, for example, exemplifies this eloquently.

In the early 1970s, this previously unknown disease was discovered to be spreading like wildfire around the world, because no one knew how to predict or prevent its virulent spread. Today, in some countries of Africa, over 50% of the population is infected with the AIDS virus, and a major catastrophe is brewing.

Apparently, other diseases are becoming more common with the overuse of antibiotics. The effect, especially in developed northern countries, is that people's immune systems become much more sensitive and therefore more vulnerable to diseases of this type. Pandemics can spread very quickly in our part of the world.

We support the bill in principle, and of course the establishment of protective measures. However, they must be taken with all of the provinces, which are responsible for health care and social services. This is extremely important.

Systems have to be linked in order to have interventions coordinated and provincial jurisdictions respected. Each province is responsible for its health care system. Therefore they must all be involved in coordinating the whole—

Quarantine Act
Government Orders

11 a.m.

The Speaker

I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member in the middle of his speech. There are 13 minutes remaining for him to finish his remarks after oral question period, or when the bill comes before the House once again.

We will now move on to statements by members. The hon. member for Ottawa South.

Canadian Association of Research Libraries
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to rise today to offer congratulations to Ms. Leslie Weir of the University of Ottawa. Ms. Weir has been the chief librarian at the University of Ottawa since 2003. She is widely admired in the profession as an innovator in providing electronic information to the teaching and research community that the University of Ottawa serves.

In April of this year Ms. Weir was elected vice-president and president-elect of the Canadian Association of Research Libraries. She will serve as president from 2007 to 2009. This association is the leadership organization of Canadian research librarianship. Its members are the 27 major academic research libraries across Canada, Library and Archives Canada, the Canada Institute for Scientific and Technical Information, and the Library of Parliament.

I ask all members to join me in congratulating Leslie Weir for the considerable honour of her election as president of the Canadian Association of Research Libraries.

Samuel Ian Seright
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this moment to reflect on the life of one of my fine constituents who recently passed away after a life well lived.

Mr. Samuel Ian Seright was a man who lived to set an example for all of us. He cared a great deal for his community, his province and his country. He was often referred to as the unofficial mayor of Calgary East.

I had the privilege of presenting Ian with the Queen's Golden Jubilee Medal not long ago, a small reward for his countless years of service to others. Ian loved life and enjoyed the simple things. Ian took pride in attending community events even after his wife died. Ian did not just stand by and watch his community change; he celebrated the change and embraced new people.

I remember Ian saying in response to the growing demographic change in his community, “It changed, but all of us here mix really well. It's the spirit of the area”.

We will miss him but can take a great lesson from his life.

New Horizons for Seniors
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, on April 29 I was pleased to join with my colleague, the Minister of State for Families and Caregivers in announcing additional funding for seniors programs under the New Horizons for Seniors program.

Two community service agencies within my riding of Davenport received funding under this excellent program. Both St. Christopher House and the Working Women Community Centre were recipients of funding under new horizons. Once again the Government of Canada has demonstrated its strong commitment to seniors across Canada.

I congratulate both St. Christopher House and the Working Women Community Centre for their successful grant applications and for the outstanding work they do within the community of Davenport each and every day.

Cycling
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am extremely proud that the first international BMX race in Quebec will be held in Crabtree on July 9 and 10.

The decision by the International Cycling Union to give the Crabtree organizing committee its approval is historic and marks Quebec's entry into the international scene in this discipline.

Crabtree being selected to host this event is a sign of recognition of the quality shown in the past by its organizers, and will strongly encourage the development of this discipline in Quebec. With the introduction of BMX as an official discipline at the 2008 Olympic Games, the arrival of an international race in Quebec in 2005 is timely.

I want to congratulate the local organizers, Nathalie Houle, president, Dylan Vanier, general manager, and Mélanie Desrochers, four-time Canadian champion and Crabtree resident, as well as Louis Barbeau, general manager of the Fédération québécoise des sports cyclistes for this major achievement.

Health
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Marlene Catterall Ottawa West—Nepean, ON

Mr. Speaker, one of the most important things we can do to ensure a sustainable public health system for future generations is to keep Canadians healthier.

The hon. Minister of State for Public Health has launched a series of consultations across the country with citizens and experts from the provinces and territories to help develop national public health goals.

On Monday, May 9 I will be holding a public health forum in my constituency of Ottawa West—Nepean with the hon. Minister of State for Public Health as our keynote speaker.

I invite all the constituents of Ottawa West—Nepean to attend on Monday night to give the minister and myself their ideas on how we can keep Canadians healthier. I encourage all members of Parliament to do the same.

Employment Insurance
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Souris—Moose Mountain, SK

Mr. Speaker, is it genuine concern or another example of the tail wagging the dog?

Shortly after the announcement of the Conservative Party subcommittee plan for a comprehensive wage earner protection fund to operate through the EI program, the Minister of Labour, with all the bluster he could muster, announced that he had an immediate announcement. What was the announcement and how immediate? It was the government's intention to move quickly on its intention to introduce a package for a worker protection fund. I would not bet on it.

It was a knee-jerk reaction no doubt, but more like the tail wagging the dog. What was the real reason for the minister's sudden burst of social consciousness? The NDP-Liberal budget amendment which was agreed to by a minority government. The government, under the duress of a non-confidence motion, added a clause saying that $100 million would be invested for the protection of workers in the event of a bankruptcy.

All of a sudden the minister's focus has sharpened. The problem has been here for years, just as the minister has been since 1988, as parliamentary secretary to the minister of industry on small business in 2003 and now as labour minister. During these years over $45 billion collected from employers and employees have gone to general revenue and now the minister wants to give back less than a quarter of 1%, a mere pittance. How--

Employment Insurance
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

The Speaker

The hon. member for Parkdale—High Park.

Constitution of Poland
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Sarmite Bulte Parkdale—High Park, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to the Polish-Canadian constituents in my riding of Parkdale—High Park, who on May 3 celebrated the Polish constitution of 1791, the oldest written constitution in Europe and the second oldest in the world. That event unites Polish communities throughout Canada and the world in their proud tradition of defending democracy and civil freedoms, not only in their home country but also in their adopted countries.

May 3 was a day to reflect upon and celebrate the heritage and ideals of humanitarianism, tolerance and democracy. The constitution of May 3, 1791 was the instrument that gave rise to parliamentary supremacy. It also gave Polish citizens new-found access to parliament. Constitution Day is a proud heritage for Canadians of Polish descent and a confirmation of the basic values and freedoms of our own society.

I am proud to offer my best wishes for this very memorable anniversary.