House of Commons Hansard #125 of the 38th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was oil.

Topics

Request for Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Request for Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

The Speaker

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

Request for Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

(Motion agreed to)

Request for Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

The Speaker

I have a request for a further emergency debate from the hon. member for Timmins--James Bay.

Request for Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, under our Standing Orders I would like to request an emergency debate on the ongoing CBC lockout. It is not for us here in the House to raise the debate between management and staff in terms of the ongoing labour discussions, but I believe this lockout has raised a number of important questions that are being asked of MPs and in the media. I feel it is very important that we deal with this in the House now.

First of all there is the question of the appropriateness of CBC management withholding services that taxpayers have paid for. Questions have been coming up in the media about the future of the parliamentary appropriations and what is happening with those parliamentary appropriations. I think that discussion has to begin in the House now.

There is a question in terms of where we are going with our national broadcaster. This lockout has reopened a debate, a debate that many of us had thought was perhaps closed, a debate not just about the future of the broadcaster but even about the appropriateness of using federal funds to maintain a public broadcaster. I think it is important that we speak on it today.

As well, I think we have to talk now as we are six weeks into this lockout. We as MPs have to talk about it because we in a sense have an obligation as it is a public institution. We have an obligation to question the strategy publicly now because we are at a point where what is happening is a gambling with audience viewership, coming into the fall season, and a gambling with listenership.

As someone who represents a large rural riding, I do not believe people in the rural parts of my riding who have gone this long without CBC want this to continue. They are asking for direction from us as MPs.

I would like to have this debate because I think it goes back to the fundamental questions raised by the Lincoln report and the need for a coherent broadcasting policy in Canada and for us to take action on a coherent broadcast policy in Canada.

Request for Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

3:35 p.m.

The Speaker

Once again, the Chair has heard the submissions of the hon. member. I note the events taking place today in respect of this matter. I am afraid I feel that the request does not meet the exigencies of the standing order at this time.

Request for Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, tomorrow night, regardless of what happens with the discussions today, could we go to unanimous consent that this is an issue worth discussing by members of Parliament in an open debate?

Request for Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

Liberal

Karen Redman Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I realize that this is a matter of great importance. I also realize that there are other events happening outside this chamber but having to do with a great deal of interest for the people in this chamber. I am wondering if, rather than dealing with the hon. member's point, we could allow the parties to speak behind the curtains and maybe come up with some arrangement, a plan that would be acceptable to you as well as the House, Mr. Speaker.

Request for Emergency Debate
Routine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

The Speaker

In the absence of any other agreement, the matter is disposed of at this time.

The Chair has notice of a question of privilege from the hon. member for Calgary East. I will now hear from him.

Privilege
Routine Proceedings

3:40 p.m.

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, on September 16, 2005 I wrote to the Ethics Commissioner, Dr. Bernard Shapiro, that I had lost confidence in him and that the investigation he commenced against me be referred to the RCMP. In the same letter I advised him also that I would refer this matter to Parliament.

This past Friday, September 23 at 3:30 p.m., I received a hand-delivered communication from the Ethics Commissioner's office. I immediately returned the communication unopened and informed the Ethics Commissioner's office that I would rise in the House on a question of privilege to charge Mr. Shapiro with contempt.

Therefore I rise today on this question of privilege to charge Dr. Bernard Shapiro, the Ethics Commissioner, with contempt.

In the second edition of Joseph Maingot's Parliamentary Privilege in Canada at page 180 it states:

--each House interprets and administers the law of Parliament in order to find breaches of privilege or contempt in appropriate cases, and interprets any statute law setting out procedures to be followed.

The authority under which the Ethics Commissioner is to conduct investigations is contained in the Parliament of Canada Act and the Conflict of Interest Code appended to the Standing Orders, pages 107 to 118. The Ethics Commissioner clearly breached one of them and was negligent in the way he applied the other.

In my telephone conversation on September 13 with the Ethics Commissioner, following his letter of August 23, 2005, where he for the first time indicated what sections of the ethics code I had violated and requested that we have a telephone conversation, I said I would provide all documenting evidence to indicate that all his allegations made against me were false. We agreed to meet the following week.

However, the next day, on September 14, I received an e-mail from my office saying that Jack Aubry of the Ottawa Citizen would like to get my comments on the Ethics Commissioner's investigation against me. I called Jack Aubry and he said he wanted my comments on the investigation. I asked how he found out and he said he was interviewing Mr. Shapiro who then told him that he was investigating me. He also said that Mr. Shapiro told him that he had material that suggested something inappropriate was happening.

The next day, on September 15, articles appeared in major newspapers across the country. The articles in question are being tabled before the House. In these articles, Dr. Shapiro is quoted as saying, “I have some material that suggests something inappropriate was happening”, and saying that I was under investigation. These damaging articles were carried in major newspapers across the nation.

The Ethics Commissioner's office carries a lot of legitimacy with the public. Hence, when they say that they are investigating a member of Parliament, then go on to make public comments, the member is seen as guilty by the public, especially by those who do not know me. This has been the feedback my family and I have received from numerous Canadians across the country.

The Ethics Commissioner's public musings have given legitimacy to false allegations that have damaged my reputation. Additionally, comments made by him to the public are quoted in the National Post dated September 16, 2005:

But what we've got is a bunch of people who are trying to do exactly the right thing who sometimes do the wrong thing.

Having been prejudged by his office, I wrote to Mr. Shapiro on September 16, 2005, as mentioned earlier, and demanded that this investigation now be conducted by the RCMP and not by him.

All Canadians are deemed innocent until proven guilty. This is our fundamental right. I am questioning what happened to my rights.

On page 116 of the Standing Orders, section 27(7) of the Conflict of Interest Code states:

The Ethics Commissioner is to conduct an inquiry in private and with due dispatch, provided that at all appropriate stages throughout the inquiry the Ethics Commissioner shall give the Member reasonable opportunity to be present and to make representations to the Ethics Commissioner in writing or in person by counsel or by any other representative.

This section was breached when the Ethics Commissioner leaked information about the investigation to the media. Not only that, but he has prejudiced my rights by saying to the media that he believes some impropriety has taken place.

I believe also that the Ethics Commissioner breached section 27(4) of the Conflict of Interest Code. Let me say and produce documents to show how he breached this section.

On May 9, 2005 the current Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, the member for Eglinton—Lawrence, said he had received unsolicited affidavits that he handed to the RCMP and the Ethics Commissioner for them to do as they saw fit. These letters were also copied to the Leader of the Opposition.

These were the same affidavits that were sent to the Prime Minister and to the former minister of citizenship and immigration in June 2004. The same affidavits were sent to my political opponent in the 2004 election, as quoted in the May 15, 2005 edition of the Calgary Herald .

We will not discuss how a document addressed to the Prime Minister and to the former minister of citizenship and immigration, the member for York West, showed up mysteriously on the desk of the current Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, the member for Eglinton—Lawrence, a year later. Neither will we ask how the national media were informed of these documents that were sent to the RCMP and the Ethics Commissioner.

My sister-in-law, the woman at the centre of this unfortunate blackmail attempt, and her son were in Ottawa to give her side of the story. She made arrangements to meet with the Ethics Commissioner on May 13, 2005. She was accompanied by her son who was witness to what had transpired, mainly a matrimonial dispute between a husband and a wife. She then told the Ethics Commissioner the reasons for the affidavits were a blackmail attempt to get her to return to India.

On June 6, 2005 Eppo Maertens from the Ethics Commissioner's office wrote to my sister-in-law, and I quote what he said, “Thanks for your help” and he continued, “We are anxious to move ahead with the inquiry”. Furthermore, the letter said that the Ethics Commissioner's office was in the process of retaining a lawyer in India to help investigate allegations against me.

I, as a member of Parliament, had absolutely no idea this was taking place, contrary to sections 27(4) and 27(7) of the Conflict of Interest Code. Furthermore, they wanted to investigate my sister-in-law's private life.

Therefore, I wrote Mr. Shapiro a letter on July 14, 2005 outlining my concerns and for him to understand that this was a family matter. One important point I made was that contacting the husband would only play into his hands, causing him to feel as though he had a hold on my sister-in-law through me.

I intend to table all these documents in the House.

In a reply to me on July 18, 2005, Mr. Shapiro advised me, “The inquiry was initiated at the request of the current Minister of Citizenship and Immigration and Member for Eglinton—Lawrence”. The letter continues on by saying that we had not cooperated with him.

Then in my letter of July 26 I challenged Mr. Shapiro with documented proof that the current Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, the member for Eglinton—Lawrence, had not initiated the inquiry and also refuted his allegations that I and my family had not cooperated with him.

This is after my sister-in-law had given him taped transcripts from her husband saying he did not send these letters, as well as a copy of a letter from my lawyer in India to the husband to provide proof of these allegations.

In a reply to me on August 4, Mr. Shapiro changed his tune and stated it was he who had decided to proceed with the inquiry. I repeat that I was informed on August 4, 83 days from the time my sister-in-law met with the Ethics Commissioner. This is a clear breach of section 27(4). Now I have learned that I am being investigated.

A person who is being investigated is always told what he is being investigated for and not just that he is being investigated. Therefore, I sought legal advice from the House of Commons' lawyers and was advised to find out why I was being investigated.

On August 9 I wrote to the Ethics Commissioner and asked him what he was investigating me for. On August 23, 2005 I was advised by the Ethics Commissioner what he was investigating me for. This was a total of 103 days from the first interview with my sister-in-law on this matter.

Section 27(4) of the Conflict of Interest Code calls for a member to be given reasonable written notice before an inquiry is conducted. The Ethics Commissioner started this investigation in May. I was not informed which section of the code I had violated until August 23, 2005. In addition, section 27(4) says that members shall be informed and given reasonable opportunity in which to make representation.

So blatantly has this section been violated that Mr. Aman Anand, the husband who has a restraining order against him in Calgary and a police report saying that he was sent to a psychiatric ward, had the opportunity to meet with the Ethics Commissioner's representatives before I, a member of Parliament, had that right.

Mr. Anand, who is the husband, some time in the second week of September met with a lawyer hired by the Ethics Commissioner in India. I, a member of Parliament in Canada, was given the opportunity to respond only after I had requested it. That was on September 19.

We have an officer of Parliament who has breached the rules of Parliament. Mr. Shapiro acted in contempt. I am sure Parliament never anticipated that an Ethics Commissioner could violate the Parliament of Canada Act and the rules of the House with respect to conducting an investigation of a member of Parliament.

The Parliament of Canada Act and the rules are not clear on the process to follow under which these unexpected circumstances arise. Since Mr. Shapiro is an officer of Parliament and given that he breached the rules of Parliament established for his conduct, a question of privilege is the appropriate means to resolve this issue.

In addition, I cannot see how the Ethics Commissioner can make a fair judgment of the application of the code as it relates to members of Parliament when he himself fails to apply the code as it relates to his office. His carelessness and disregard for the rules is inexcusable.

I would bring this matter to the committee, but as we have experienced, such a process would take a great deal of time and certain procedural manoeuvring could scuttle a resolution to the issue.

Furthermore, the ethics committee could not determine whether this was a matter of privilege. As you are aware, Mr. Speaker, only the House can determine that. Besides, Mr. Shapiro is not in contempt of the committee. He is in contempt of the House for violating the rules of the House in a way that prejudges and casts a cloud of suspicion over one of its members.

I am asking you, Mr. Speaker, to rule this to be a prima facie question of privilege so that the House can determine whether or not Mr. Shapiro is in contempt for his actions.

Mr. Shapiro, as an officer of the House, and the code of conduct are relatively new. Therefore, there are no precedents. However, citation 59 of the sixth edition of Beauchesne's refers to two employees of the House of Commons who were fired for writing articles that reflected badly on the character of the House.

The Ethics Commissioner was appointed by the House and is therefore responsible to the House. He is responsible for articles that reflect badly on a member. What is worse is that he caused this to happen by disobeying the order of the House, which is section 27(7) of the Conflict of Interest Code.

Contempt is described on page 225 of Joseph Maingot's second edition of Parliamentary Privilege in Canada as an offence against the authority or dignity of the House. While privilege may be codified, contempt may not, because new forms of obstruction are constantly being devised and Parliament must be able to evoke its penal jurisdiction to protect itself against these new forms. There is no closed list of classes of offences punishable as contempt of Parliament.

As I said earlier, I do not think Parliament anticipated this situation. It assumed that the Ethics Commissioner would play by the rules Parliament set for him. Mr. Shapiro is guilty of disobeying the authority of the House. In so doing he has done damage to my reputation and prejudged my right to a fair investigation.

All these events lead me to believe that I am facing cultural discrimination from the Ethics Commissioner's office. Is it open season on members of Parliament from different cultural communities? When I told him this whole matter could be resolved with my sister-in-law returning to India but with deadly consequences, he said that was not his concern.

In conclusion, I wish to make a personal appeal to all. Today a very difficult personal family matter was made public. My family, including my sister-in-law, has struggled with this, but if we were not to raise these points, we would do a disservice to thousands who face these kinds of institutional discrimination and where justice is denied.

My family has suffered tremendously. I do not wish to go into private details.

My appeal to all is to please remember that there are human beings behind these events who get hurt because of unthoughtful actions by those who abuse the power they are given.

All Canadians have a right to recourse from the courts when these kinds of privileges are abused. Mr. Bernard Shapiro, in a letter to Democracy Watch, a copy of which I tabled, stated that he is immune from court action. I wonder if that is why he discarded good common sense in this case.

Allegations are not something that bother me. All it took was one phone call from me to the Indian authorities to find that the affidavit that Mr. Shapiro is basing his investigation on is a forged one.

I am asking you, Mr. Speaker, to rule this to be a prima facie question of privilege so that the House can determine whether or not Mr. Shapiro is in contempt for his actions.

If you find this to be a prima facie question of privilege, I am prepared to move the appropriate motion.

Privilege
Routine Proceedings

3:55 p.m.

The Speaker

The Chair thanks the hon. member for Calgary East for his submissions. I will review the documents that he has indicated that he is presenting with his argument, as well as the argument, and return to the House with a ruling in due course.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-49, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (trafficking in persons), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

September 26th, 2005 / 3:55 p.m.

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Blackstrap, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is a great honour to speak today to the trafficking bill.

Injustice takes many forms and one of the most heinous is what can only be described as the modern day slavery of human trafficking.

Human trafficking is a cruel and insidious stain on collective humanity that refers to the recruitment, transportation and harbouring of a person for the purposes of exploitation involving the threat or use of force, coercion and deception.

The majority of victims are women and children who are typically forced into prostitution and other elements of the sex industry, but they can also be exploited through farm, domestic or other labour.

The victims of human trafficking are usually, although many are abducted outright, individuals desperate to flee dire economic and living conditions in their native land. Traffickers, or more accurately flesh peddlers, prey on dreams of a better life and employment to support families back home to lure unsuspecting individuals into a life of slavery.

Victims and their families are conned into believing a trafficker's false promises of a good job and wealth that awaits them in a new far off land. Often traffickers will produce a fake employment contract, fake visa or whatever to sell the victim this false opportunity. Once they arrive, however, they soon discover that the jobs do not exist and that this better life is a miserable existence in the sex trade or labour servitude.

The activities of these networks of traffickers threaten not only the lives of those affected, but also the social, political and economic fabric of nations where they operate.

Although the clandestine nature of the activity makes accurate data difficult to obtain, the UN estimates 700,000 people are trafficked annually worldwide, and these numbers are growing, of which 80% are woman and children, a majority of which are girls and women under the age of 25.

Moreover, this serious human rights violation is, according to the United Nations, the fastest growing form of transnational organized crime, generating annual global revenues exceeding $11 billion US.

Matthew Taylor with Family Child and Youth Services in Ottawa has stated, “It is the third highest source of revenue for organized crime next to drugs and firearms”.

While the cruelty and inhumanity of human trafficking cannot be quantified, I ask everyone here today to try to imagine the reality of human trafficking. I ask them for a moment to imagine that this is happening to a sister, a daughter or even to themselves.

As Leslie R. Wolfe, the president for the Center for Women Policy Studies in Washington, has asked us:

Imagine that you have left home for a new country and new economic opportunity. Imagine that you are eagerly looking forward to a job as a nanny or elder care provider or waitress--to earn money to send home to your family.

You have been brought to this new country for this wonderful job by a man or men you fear or even trust--only to find yourself imprisoned in a brothel or sweatshop.

Imagine your terror: You cannot speak the language. You are not even sure exactly where you are in this huge country. You fear the local police, who may be complicit in the trafficking--as they likely were in your home country.

You have no contacts with local people, no resources, and no knowledge of existing services such as battered women’s shelters, rape crisis centers, refugee and immigrant women’s centers.

And, of course, you are afraid to ask because you have been threatened and brutalized and your passport has been taken from you--and so you legitimately fear arrest, imprisonment, and deportation.

The nightmare continues as these victims are often forced into involuntary sexual exploitation and servitude.

As the U.S. state department trafficking in persons report states:

Victims of human trafficking pay a horrible price. Psychological and physical harm, including disease and stunted growth, often have permanent effects. Another brutal reality of the modern-day slave trade is that its victims are frequently bought and sold many times over--often sold initially by family members.

That is the terror facing countless victims of human trafficking. Some people might dismiss this as something that cannot happen here, that it is restricted to third world and impoverished developing countries. These people are wrong. Canada is not immune to this slavery of our age. The fact is we are increasingly becoming a major destination country for traffickers.

Carole Morency, senior counsel with the Department of Justice, remarked that “this is a global phenomenon that touches every country, including Canada”.

The RCMP reports that about 800 people are smuggled into this country each year. Even more troubling, Canada's Solicitor General stated that 8,000 to 16,000 illegal immigrants are forced to work in the sex trade industry.

Moreover, we have become a major transit point for trafficking to other countries with an estimated 1,500 to 2,000 people being trafficked from Canada into the U.S. a year.

According to the trafficking in persons report, British Columbia, for instance, has become an attractive hub for East Asian traffickers who smuggle South Korean women to the United States through Canada. Detective Constable Jim Fisher with the Vancouver police intelligence section supports that assessment and he has remarked that “Canada has not really come to grips with what it takes to properly police this phenomenon”.

Until the introduction of this legislation, Canada's response to this growing epidemic has been wanting at best. However, Bill C-49 strives to correct that by specifically prohibiting trafficking in persons in Canada.

At the present time the Criminal Code includes no provisions to specifically prohibit trafficking in persons, although numerous offences include kidnapping, uttering threats, and extortion which all play a role in targeting these crimes.

While the government brought Canada's first anti-trafficking legislation into force in 2002, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, prohibiting bringing anyone into Canada by means of abduction, fraud, deception with the use or threat of force or coercion, it has proven somewhat lacking with the first charges under the three year old act laid only this past spring.

Bill C-49 seeks to augment that legislation by moving the focus beyond immigration and making trafficking in persons a criminal offence. This is a positive step and one I support. However, we must note that without attaching severe and lengthy penalties for these crimes, the possibility exists that the exploitation and abuse will continue.

In Bill C-49 there are no mandatory prison sentences and imposing such would send a clear message that Canadians will have no tolerance for these flesh peddlers.

Throughout my remarks today I have referred to the trafficking in persons report produced by the United States state department. The report which monitors global human trafficking is designed to, and in my opinion has in its five years of existence, raise awareness and stimulate government action, both domestically and internationally, to combat human trafficking. I note however that Canada produces no such document and that this bill does not refer to a Canadian annual report on trafficking. Consequently, I would implore that we strongly amend the bill to include such an amendment.

An annual report, modeled after the state department report but perhaps with a more domestic focus, would allow Canadians and their elected officials an opportunity to measure our success in combating this modern form of slavery. Furthermore, this legislation is only the first step in the battle against human trafficking.

The government must ensure, once this legislation is passed, that it will guarantee the necessary resources to ensure that this legislation may be effectively enforced. This includes increased resources for our underfunded immigration and border security, and increased support for agencies that will house and assist women who have been smuggled here, especially those involved in the sex trade.

In closing, I will be supporting the bill. The government, however, has to ensure that the legislation is passed and that it will guarantee there are necessary resources to ensure that the legislation is effectively enforced.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

4:05 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member closed her speech with a very important point about resources. We can pass laws with regard to amendments to the Criminal Code, certainly in a case where there is no specific language in the code now to cover trafficking of persons. I wish it was maybe called exploitation of persons. However, we have to ensure that the provinces have the means and the resources to apply and enforce the laws as they evolve in our development.

Does the member have any thoughts about how we can ensure those resources with regard to enforcing the Criminal Code? Trafficking of persons is not just between outside countries and Canada. It is also within Canada. How this is integrated and how we ensure that those who perpetrate these crimes get the appropriate sentences to reflect the true values of Canadians with regard to these foreign crimes is a collaboration of all levels of government and policing authorities.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

4:10 p.m.

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Blackstrap, SK

Mr. Speaker, the resources can be quite readily addressed by perhaps the waste that we have found with the gun registration, for example. I believe what the member says is true, that we are very short of resources. I have met with RCMP officers in Saskatoon. They are suffering cut backs. We do need more resources out there. We need more front line people.

I agree that there should be more resources. How do we get them? We have to take a look at the gun registration which is taking a lot of our resources. Our tax dollars are going into that tremendous boondoggle of gun registration. I think the provinces would be very happy to get the money that goes into gun registration.