House of Commons Hansard #32 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was sentence.

Topics

The House resumed from May 31 consideration of the motion that Bill C-9, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (conditional sentence of imprisonment), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:05 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

The hon. member for Welland has two minutes left in his debate.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

John Maloney Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, I just want to continue with the balance of my address on Bill C-9.

The previous Liberal government introduced Bill C-70, which was an act to amend the Criminal Code with respect to conditional sentences, to further clarify appropriate limits on the use of conditional sentences because we take the safety and security of Canadian communities seriously.

Those reforms would have created a presumption preventing courts from using conditional sentences in cases of serious personal injury offences as defined in the Criminal Code, such as all forms of sexual assault, terrorist activities, organized crime related offences and any other offence where the individual case is so serious that the need to condemn the act and not use a conditional sentence takes precedence over any other sentencing objective.

By comparison, the Conservative bill, Bill C-9, which is currently being debated, simply restricts the use of conditional sentencing at any time someone is convicted of an offence prosecuted by indictment that carries a maximum prison sentence of 10 years or more. As a result, the Conservative bill affects a number of Criminal Code offences that our bill would not have impacted.

The implications of the bill are numerous. Since the Conservatives have chosen to set the bar at 10 years and only when prosecuted by indictment, there remains a possibility that crown prosecutors will simply use summary convictions in place of an indictment in an attempt to continue the use of conditional sentences.

There is also a concern that the bill could result in an uneven application of justice across Canada. Aboriginal communities would be notably affected by the bill. There is also a difference in prosecution in each of the provinces. For example, in certain provinces charges are laid by arresting officers, whereas in other jurisdictions crown prosecutors decide on which charges are to be laid. These are unintended consequences that must be addressed at the justice committee during consideration of the legislation.

We look forward to the legislation going to committee where it can be objectively analyzed in conjunction with expert opinions on its merits or negatives and, where necessary, appropriate amendments being made. The legislation, with a little more reflection, has the potential to help contribute to safer streets and communities. This is a worthy objective of all members of this House.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to respond to a statement that the member made about his party when it was in government and its intention to introduce an amendment to the conditional sentencing legislation that it had previously introduced four years before.

I find it very strange that the member has forgotten that when the conditional sentencing provisions were first introduced by the Liberals, members of our party, when we were in opposition, stood in the House day after day during debate warning and pleading with the government to eliminate the possibility of conditional sentencing for those who committed violent criminal offences. The minister of justice at that time and the member's colleagues stood in the House and said that conditional sentencing legislation would not apply to violent criminal acts and that we should trust them. They had a majority at that time and the legislation went through.

Can anyone guess what happened? We saw people who were committing violent criminal acts being handed conditional sentences time after time. It was only as we were approaching the 2004 election that the Liberals decided that they had better start listening to the citizens of this country who wanted safe streets and communities and said that they would bring in amendments. They could have done all of that in their first introduction of the bill.

Why did the member's government at the time purposely allow that violent criminal acts could be subject to conditional sentencing, which his party put into the initial legislation?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:10 a.m.

Liberal

John Maloney Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, it was in 1995 when the former Liberal government brought in conditional sentencing. The general consensus at that time was that it was an appropriate measure in measured circumstances.

When we are talking about violent offences, we are not at the trial of the accused. We are not listening to the arguments of the prosecution or the defence counsel or the reasons for the decision of the judicial advocate at the time. Media reports hype up a lot these situations. On the face of a bold headline, it may seem horrendous to all of us but when we get right down to the nitty-gritty, perhaps it was an appropriate disposition in the circumstances. Each case has to be looked at on its facts. Each case is different and separate. We cannot just look at the headlines of a case.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:10 a.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today on this bill. As my presentation will show in detail, two conceptions of justice are clashing with each other. This will be made clear in concrete terms.

On the one hand, there is the tendency that has developed over a number of years to promote rehabilitation and allow individuals who have made mistakes to be judged accordingly. Ultimately, they are given a chance to change their ways and re-enter society.

On the other hand, there is the view that harsher sentences would deter crime. However, studies show that that approach does not work. It is copied from a model imported from the United States. One need only look at the results in the United States, where they make an excessive use of imprisonment. At the end of the day, incarceration is very expensive, does not solve the rehabilitation issue and fails to curb crime. In Quebec and Canada, crime is down.

With Bill C-9, the government is hoping to eliminate conditional sentencing, particularly for sentences of ten years or more. In such cases, the judge will no longer have the discretionary power to decide whether a conditional sentence is appropriate or not. Judges are there to make a judgment of conviction, but they also have to determine the most appropriate sentence. So far, they have had that leeway and they have used it correctly.

The government is proposing that this leeway be taken away from the judges. I believe that judges should have that possibility. For example, many offences in the Criminal Code carry a sentence of imprisonment of ten years or more, requiring the prosecutor to take criminal action. I will list a few for which I find the position taken in the bill absurd.

First, there is theft over $5,000. Today, a young person may commit such a crime but may not be sent automatically to prison, to crime school, for 10 years. If he is sent to prison, then he may commit more serious thefts when he is released, because he will have been in contact with inmates for 10 years. Under the circumstances, the judge could decide that there are other solutions. Alternate solutions have been used particularly for minors and have helped correct behaviour. Often, we learn more from people who, in therapy, show us the negative impact of what we have done. In the end, it is possible to correct our behaviour.

There is also mail theft. Imagine that a few young people aged 19 or 20 commit this offence. Today, they should be aware of their responsibility. Sending them to prison automatically, with no possibility of a conditional sentence and without allowing the judge to take the circumstances into account, may not be the best solution. In this situation, the judge should clearly be given this flexibility.

Judges are skilled at what they do and have training they can augment with specific courses. They have this responsibility in our society. In my opinion, we have to give them the necessary latitude to do their jobs, especially since criminologists have long agreed that stricter sentences do not reduce the number of offences. There are hardened criminals, but there are also occasional criminals, people who exercise poor judgment and make the wrong decision in a given situation. Longer sentences do not lead to less wrongdoing.

We need to take a more realistic attitude, set aside the ideological approach and look at the results. The results show that, in real life, giving judges the option of imposing conditional sentences gives them the opportunity to facilitate rehabilitation. It is important to move in this direction.

Cost is another important factor. Many more people will be incarcerated, which will generate additional costs. In the end, in addition to the social consequences and the missed opportunities for rehabilitation, this will mean needless extra costs in terms of results. In my opinion, this is another reason why the government should go back to the drawing board.

Nonetheless, the bill as presented is not acceptable.

I want to come back to other examples that currently call for sentences of 10 years or more and that, if this bill is passed, will no longer be automatically eligible for conditional sentencing. I am talking about the use of forged passports, among other things. Fraudulent use of passports is a serious offence. However, let us say a 20-year-old living near the border has a twin brother who decides on a whim to borrow his passport. Under current legislation, the judge is able to weigh the seriousness of the action and determine the best punishment. If we pass this bill, that person will automatically have to serve 10 years in prison. I find this is excessive and that it needs to be corrected.

In reality, since 2000, conditional sentences have become longer. Judges have considered the reality and the application conditions have become stricter. People have learned to live with the possibility of conditional sentencing and the conditions to be met are very clearly expressed. This ensures that there is no risk to the people involved in the crime for which the person was convicted. It also ensures that the offender is not put in a situation that promotes this. This type of situation is prevented by increasing the number of house arrests.

Let us not focus on exceptions that unfortunately make the headlines. At the end of the day, we have to look at the big picture. In our society, rehabilitation as a whole has been positive and it must continue that way. We must not send the message that we are now changing direction and that rehabilitation no longer interests us by handing down sentences and sending people to prison. If we did we would have to accept the fact that they come out still criminalized or maybe even more so than they were before.

In certain cases the judge might find that the maximum sentence absolutely applies. Being allowed to use conditional sentencing does not preclude the possibility for a judge to decide that the appropriate sentence is truly the maximum sentence under law. This possibility still exists. Nonetheless, this bill will not give the judge any flexibility on the other end of the spectrum when a situation warrants a conditional sentence. This has been eliminated and I find that inappropriate.

When judges hand down a sentence of imprisonment, they take into account the degree of responsibility of the offender and the seriousness of the offence. That is one of the most distinctive aspects of a judge's work: not only do they have to decide if the accused is guilty or not, but they must also determine which sentence is the most appropriate in that case. Those who are only aware of the offence and the sentence often do not realize that there are other important factors that must be taken into account in the sentencing process.

We are in a situation where, although the intentions are good, the government is saying that it has to be as strict as possible and indicate clearly that maximum sentences will be handed down and that there will be no conditional sentences. It believes that this will deter people from committing crimes.

However, according to various studies and surveys on this subject, this is not how it is in real life. In fact, providing for harsher sentences has no influence on the commission of a crime. People often are not aware of the penalties. In the final analysis, the focus needs to be on rehabilitation. It is not about being too lenient; sentences have to be sufficiently harsh. Moreover, judges have to follow each case closely, as they already do, and analyze the situation.

The solution proposed by the government today is inadequate and will lead to results that we will have to correct 10 years down the road because crime will have increased, not decreased.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to my hon. colleague's speech, because one of the things that I have come to realize is that legislation is a very blunt instrument. When we want to respond to a specific incident that has happened in the community and we propose legislation that runs across Canada, it has profound implications.

For example, as a former school board trustee, I dealt with the issue of zero tolerance. It seemed that every politician in Ontario at that time was jumping up with plans for zero tolerance to take all the discretion away from the school principals, to the point where I was at meetings where grade twos and threes were referred to as repeat offenders.

I would like to hear the hon. member's response on the necessity of having some level of discretion in this. If we put a blanket prescription on the judiciary, has the hon. member thought of the kinds of costs we are going to see in court battles that will be dragged out and in terms of incarceration that will be downloaded to the provinces, because there will be costs picked up by them? What about the costs to communities of the increased maintaining of jails? Has the hon. member looked into the implications that are going to result from the legislation we are talking about?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, in response to my colleague's remarks, I should clarify that we are not giving the courts carte blanche. Judges do not have complete freedom in this area. Both our colleagues and the population should be aware that there is already a solid set of rules in place.

Currently, four conditions must be met before a judge can consider conditional sentencing. The rules are already in place.

The offence for which the person has been convicted must not be punishable by a minimum term of imprisonment; the offender should be sentenced to less than two years; conditional sentencing must not endanger the safety of the community; and the judge must be satisfied that the conditional sentence would be consistent with the general principles of proportionality.

There is already a set of rules in place that includes some room to manoeuvre. I believe that the government's proposed new criteria would destroy the balance already in place in the legislation.

Individuals are usually sentenced to less than two years. If this sentence is eliminated, provincial prisons will feel the financial impact. The federal government will end up creating additional costs. The irony is that money spent on rehabilitation will now be spent building prisons.

Given these consequences, I agree with my colleague that this bill, as it is currently written, is unacceptable. It must be reworked; if it is not, the House must reject it.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his comments.

I have a few questions about financial crimes. Unfortunately, people have stolen money from trust and pension funds. Under Canada's current system, the judge can choose to apply conditional sentencing. This allows the conditionally sentenced thief to work to pay back the money stolen. With Bill C-9, the government would completely eliminate this option.

Would the member agree to a conditional sentencing system for those convicted of financial crimes?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, the member's question allows me to tell the House about something I remember.

I was in Africa a few years ago. Prisoners had to assume the total cost of their incarceration. They had to find the money for their meals and for other benefits. That is the other extreme but, nevertheless, this system had a positive effect on rehabilitation. In such cases, the judge must be able to assess the situation. It could be a case of systemic fraud and it is essential to be able to detect repetitive organized crime. I think a judge can do that. However, if after finding the accused guilty of one of these crimes the judge believes that particular person can be rehabilitated in the community, the person will have a better chance of succeeding if he or she is forced to work to pay the money back than if he or she is sent to prison with free room and board for a certain number of years. This method does not lead to the same results. Instead of having to work to assume the cost of their incarceration, convicted offenders are told that they will benefit from free room and board for having committed a crime.

This example shows very clearly that the bill in its current form will not meet the objective pursued by Canada's criminal justice system.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to speak to Bill C-9, an act to amend the Criminal Code (conditional sentence of imprisonment).

This is a very important topic. I want to come out right at the beginning of my remarks and say that I am a supporter of conditional sentencing. I think it has been an important addition to the remedies and the possibilities that are available in our criminal justice system.

Conditional sentencing was introduced in Canada in 1996. It was an innovation then and I think it has been an important part of our criminal justice system since then. It allows for sentences to be served in the community under certain conditions, rather than in prison, so it diverts people from the prison experience. The other options for punishment in our criminal justice system include fines, probation and ultimately imprisonment, but conditional sentencing was a new possibility that was an important addition to this system.

It was developed as part of an overall approach to sentencing, so it did not come out of the blue and it was not stimulated by an urge to be more lenient or to go easy on people. It was an attempt to broaden the range of sentencing possibilities available to judges in the system.

It was also an attempt to find appropriate options for expressing society's concern that laws be upheld, that appropriate punishment be meted out when laws are broken and that rehabilitation be a true possibility. These other options were necessary. We saw the failures of suspended sentences, of mere probation, of incarceration and the serious failure of incarceration to change behaviour and produce real rehabilitation. This came out of that concern to increase the possibilities and options.

Right now, about 13% of custodial sentences in Canada are conditional sentences. In my understanding, that makes it about 5,000 sentences per year. Always, as we heard the previous speaker say, the seriousness of the crime is taken into consideration, as is the responsibility of the offender for that offence. I want to read again for members the criteria that are part of the legislative basis for conditional sentencing.

There are four main criteria. One is that the offence for which the person has been convicted must not be punishable by a minimum term of imprisonment. So where there is a mandatory minimum sentence, conditional sentencing does not apply, and those are already the crimes that our society recognizes as the most serious crimes that can be perpetrated.

The second of the criteria is that the sentencing judge must have determined that the offence should be subject to a term of imprisonment of less than two years. So even though the possibility of the maximum sentence can be very serious, it applies only to those situations where the judge has made a determination that the sentence would be less than two years.

Third, the sentencing judge must be satisfied that serving the sentence in the community would not endanger the safety of the community. Safety is a key component of sentencing and the use of conditional sentencing.

Fourth, the sentencing judge must be satisfied that the conditional sentence would be consistent with the fundamental purposes and principles of sentencing as set out in the Criminal Code, and those include quite a number of important ideas. The sentencing is to address the denunciation of unlawful conduct. It is to address the deterrence of the offender and others from committing offences; there is an example made. It is to address the separation of the offender from the community where necessary so the safety and protection of the community is paramount. Also, the rehabilitation of the offender is to be taken into consideration. The provision of reparation to victims or the community is another factor, as is the promotion of a sense or responsibility in the offender.

With this kind of criteria, it seems to me that by maintaining the relationship between the offender and the community those criteria are often best served. We cannot hide the offender away and pretend that none of these things happened. We cannot hide the offender away and pretend that there are not relationships that were broken and need to be restored. Conditional sentencing, under those kinds of criteria, is a crucial part of our criminal justice system.

Originally, I think, the intention was to divert more minor offences away from the prison system. Sometimes that is hard to understand when we have been victims of a crime, when we are involved in it so intimately and we see people not getting a jail sentence because of a crime they have committed.

There is concern around violent crimes and crimes involving serious injury, but I believe the current bill goes way beyond addressing that kind of concern in eliminating the possibility of a conditional sentence for any crime that is punishable by 10 years or more. By putting in that kind of criteria, I think we go away from addressing the concerns that have been raised in society.

We also know, and very clearly, that incarceration does not necessarily solve crime or lead to successful rehabilitation. The previous speaker used the term “schools for crime” in his remarks. Our prison system is often seen that way, as a great place for criminals to learn techniques, or a great way to expand one's criminal network while incarcerated.

We also know that incarceration leads to a higher incidence of reoffending. That is a statistic that has been proven time and time again. We also have a great example that incarceration does not work. We just have to look south of the border. The United States has a very high rate of incarceration that really has not affected the crime rate in the United States. So we know that incarceration does not work and that other options are vital to the system.

I also believe that judges should have some discretion. The judge is in the most appropriate and best place to judge the specific circumstances of the offender. Often we see sensational cases in the media and we see a sentence that just does not seem to make sense at first blush. Upon examination of some of the details as we look at the substantive and important considerations that went into the delivery of a conditional sentence, this is often seen in a very different and much more positive light.

Removing the option of conditional sentencing will have serious consequences on other sentences. I think it will lead to more suspended sentences, whereby judges who are looking for options will refuse to sentence someone to incarceration and will suspend the sentence instead. A suspended sentence does not have the kinds of conditions that are involved in a conditional sentence. There are no conditions in a suspended sentence.

I also think it could lead to shorter sentences generally. In that case, the shorter sentences of less than two years will put increased pressure on the provincial prison infrastructure. I think that new prisons will be necessary at the provincial level since the legislation that we are talking about applies only to sentences of under two years. There is a huge expense involved with this.

We know that it takes $125 a day to keep someone in a provincial jail. That is just over $50,000 a year. It is even more expensive in the federal system. That estimate varies from province to province, but that is an average. Let us say that 5,000 people per year are getting conditional sentences now, and let us say for the sake of argument that 1,000 of them go in some other direction. If 4,000 new jail terms are imposed, that could easily cost another $200 million to $250 million a year, not even counting the capital costs. That is just the cost of maintaining people in prison. As for building new prisons on top of those dollars, we have not had any allocation or any estimate of what it would cost the system to do that.

I think there is a serious question of the increased costs for the correctional system. We have not even dealt with the increased number of mandatory minimum sentences that the government is proposing under Bill C-10, which will have the same effect in the federal prison system. We are talking about huge increases in costs. I would much prefer that this kind of money go to attacking the root causes of crime, that it go to attacking poverty, attacking drug addictions, dealing with the alienation that people feel from Canadian society, and supporting families. I think that is where this money needs to be sent.

I see conditional sentencing as part of the whole movement around restorative justice. I think that keeping someone in the community, where the person and the community can take responsibility for re-establishing the relationship and for reparations and rehabilitation, is really important.

In my own community, the Burnaby Restorative Action Group on justice is working hard to establish a restorative justice program in my city, but it is meeting roadblocks every step of the way. The funding is not there to support that kind of important work. This is a community that wants to take responsibility for the crimes committed in that community. It wants to help people understand the impact of their crimes and be rehabilitated for those crimes. We need to support these kinds of initiatives like restorative justice and conditional sentencing. We need to maintain that kind of discretion in the system.

Those are my thoughts on conditional sentencing.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the hon. member's comments and insights into this issue. I know it is very difficult trying to square off public perception with certain statistics, while ensuring we perform due diligence for the public and, above all else, ensuring that the protection of the public is first and foremost.

The hon. member comes from my province of British Columbia. The head start program in British Columbia has started to flourish. Does he agree with the data from that program which shows there is a 60% reduction in youth crime, saving taxpayers $7 for every dollar invested? Does he agree that the federal government should work on this with its provincial counterparts to ensure that we have a national head start program from coast to coast, consistent with the desires and interests of each provincial government?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, that is exactly the kind of program we need. I am glad the member for Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca has highlighted that work in British Columbia.

We need to work on the prevention side of the equation. We are falling down on that. We do not give the attention that young people need to divert them away from a potential life of crime. We do not deal with the question of drug addiction in our communities. We do not deal with the dislocation of families in our communities.

In my community of Burnaby the greatest crime problems are car thefts and break and enter. We know of the high correlation between those crimes and issues of drug addiction. Yet trying to get someone into a drug treatment program remains an incredibly difficult proposition in British Columbia.

If we could take that $250 million, which we estimate will cost the provincial correctional systems, and put that into drug addiction treatment programs, we would make a far more significant dent in crime in our communities than this proposed legislation ever has a hope of doing. We need to put our emphasis on that.

We need to look at our whole criminal approach to drugs as well. I am someone who believes that prohibition did not work with alcohol and it has not worked with drugs either. It has led to the same kind of criminal activity that we saw during the period of alcohol prohibition in the United States.

There are lessons to be learned, and there are better places to spend the money than what this kind of proposal would cost.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Conservative

Ken Epp Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, I keep hearing comments from the Liberal, Bloc and NDP members which cause me a lot of problem. They are talking as though conditional sentencing is being removed by the bill. That is just simply not true. What the bill deals with is the mandatory imposition of minimum sentences for violent crimes.

I can think of situations. In Edmonton not very long ago four young thugs got on one of the rapid transit trains and killed one of the people on that train. That is a violent crime and for that there should be a minimum sentence. I cannot believe those folks over there are prepared to close their eyes to that. If they read the bill, they will see that the conditional sentences are still available for what we call the lesser misbehaviours. Why do they not simply tell the truth in their debates and deal with it properly?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I wish that were true, but the bill includes a whole series of property crimes. It is not just violent crimes that are caught by the scope of the bill, and that is a serious problem with the legislation before us.

The member talked about an incident. I resent the implication that should this incident come before the courts, the judge will somehow be lenient on the people who perpetrated that kind of violent crime. I do not believe for a second that a judge goes to work every day with the intention of being lenient on people who commit serious, violent crimes. I do not think that is a characteristic of our criminal justice system. It is disrespectful to characterize and stereotype judges in that way. It is just not the way the system works and there is no proof of that kind of allegation.

Judges want to do the best job they can. They want to ensure that the sentences they mete out are representative and appropriate to the crimes that have been committed. I do not believe there is one judge in our country who wants to go easy on violent crime, not for one second.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:40 a.m.

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of my constituents of Don Valley East, I am pleased to rise on the subject of criminal justice in Canada and Bill C-9, the conditional sentencing reform bill.

All Canadians value their safety and security. We want communities where we live, work and raise our children without fear and threat of violence. At the same time, we also desire something that Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau called “a just society”; that is a society built upon the principle of justice, fairness and the rule of law.

Throughout the world Canada is envied by other nations because individuals enjoy rights as guaranteed by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. When the rights and freedoms of an individual are compromised by a criminal act, Canadians expect our criminal justice system to respond accordingly. We are not a vengeful people, but we do want our system of criminal justice to mete out sentences that are proportional to the gravity of the offence. In other words, the more serious the offence, the more serious the consequences will ensure.

That has always been the case since we enacted the Criminal Code over a hundred years ago. As the House is well aware, laws are not static and they must change over time. Over the past century, we have amended the Criminal Code to keep it in pace with changes in technology, changes in society and to develop new ways to deal with criminal offences.

Probation and conditional sentences are relatively new tools in the criminal justice system to prevent people convicted of less serious and non-violent offences from winding up in jail. Certain conditions are set out in the Criminal Code that a convicted offender must live up to or face more serious consequences if those conditions are breached. These tools can be very effective in crime prevention. In fact, these tools provide valuable alternatives to incarceration and allow people who can be safely managed in the community to remain in the community.

Probation and conditional sentences permit non-violent minor offenders the opportunity to continue with their jobs and provide for their families. Contrary to the rhetoric that we often hear in the House, my colleagues and I in the Liberal Party do in fact want serious sentences for serious crimes. Yet, at the same time, we do not want a hastily crafted bill with serious flaws to be rushed through Parliament just to satisfy vague election promises.

I want to share with the House a few statistics that my fellow members may find of use in this debate. Aboriginal people already make up nearly one in five admissions to Canada's correctional services, while they represent only 3% of the population. In Saskatchewan, the province with the highest percentage of aboriginal people, the minister of justice in that province has commented that the use of penalties focused on native traditions rather than simple prison time has had some success.

This form of conditional sentences encourages native communities to find alternatives to jail by, for example, providing restitution to the victim of a crime, volunteering with a charity or attending counselling or addiction programs. By wiping out these alternatives in legislation contained in Bill C-9, many more aboriginal Canadians will find themselves behind bars.

Bill C-9 would adversely affect remote communities especially. In Nunavut, for example, territorial judges handed down 203 conditional sentences in 2005, compared with 189 jail terms.

As my colleague from London West has aptly commented on this legislation, the bill appears to use the equivalent of a legislative sledgehammer where the equivalent of a legislative scalpel is required.

It is widely acknowledged that Bill C-9 covers a wide range of offences, several of which involve non-violence. The bill covers very serious crimes such as hijacking, manslaughter, attempted murder and sexual assault with a weapon. These are all serious offences. I am sure we all agree that they must be dealt with in a serious manner.

However, at the same time the bill was drafted in such great haste that it also includes unauthorized use of computer, cattle theft, mail theft and bestiality. I am not certain that the Minister of Justice had theft of livestock in mind when he considered, for example, what would be an appropriate sentence for sexual assault with a weapon. If he did, then the bill is serious flawed and so too is the logic behind the legislation.

According to David Paciocco, a criminal law professor at the University of Ottawa, not only would Bill C-9 put people behind bars who did not belong there, but lawyers and judges would be forced to find ways to avoid the ban on conditional sentencing. In addition, judges would also be forced to demand higher levels of evidence to secure a conviction while prosecutors may lay lesser charges to ensure conditional sentences are still an option.

Moreover, if the judges are further restricted and unable to assign appropriate sentences for non-violent crimes, we will witness certain increases in the number of people pleading not guilty, thereby our courts will experience more overcrowding and an increased court cost to the taxpayers.

A further problem with Bill C-9 is that it would force judges to arrive at a bleak choice, either choose prison or nothing at all. While this may appeal to sloganeers who would lock everyone up and throw away the key, in reality the stark choice between jail or nothing would more likely benefit the criminal rather than prevent crime in the future.

Judges need alternatives other than simply jail time. Unfortunately, Bill C-9 is a hastily drafted piece of legislation that is deeply flawed and should be seriously reconsidered by the government.

Bill C-9 in effect would affect approximately one-third of more than 15,000 conditional sentences set by courts each year. This number represents about 5% of all the sentences handed down each year. It is therefore estimated that Bill C-9 would result in an additional 3,000 to 5,000 being admitted to provincial jails. In many circumstances these are jail facilities that are already overcrowded, presenting a threat not only to the safety of the offenders, but also safety of the prison guards who we rely on to run these facilities.

In conclusion, Bill C-9 contains a series of unintended consequences that we can already identify. We need to take a careful and more considerate examination of the legislation before it ever becomes law.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the hon. member's speech. I am concerned about the issue of how the conditional sentencing changes will affect the aboriginal population who are incarcerated at rates much higher than anyone else in the general population. In Saskatchewan 64% of conditional sentences are being handed out to aboriginal offenders.

Does the member have any thoughts on the implications of this for further incarceration of aboriginal people who need preventative programs to work with and conditional sentencing circles?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, statistics show that aboriginal people already make up an inappropriate amount of the population in prisons compared to that of the general public. Traditional justice and sentencing circles have been used in Saskatchewan. They have been more effective than putting them in jails.

The removal of conditional sentencing would disallow the aboriginal communities to use their alternative methodology to keep people out of jail and allow them to become contributing members of society.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for her insight. Obviously there are many problems with the bill.

In previous questioning on the bill, some Conservative members seem to have understood that the bill only applies to violent crimes. Clearly it has a much wider application than that. In light of that and all of the comments we have heard from professors and people in the field of criminology and in this House through a very good debate, does the member think this bill can be saved at committee? Does she think the government took the time necessary to go through all of the applications? Obviously it is clear that the government's own members, some of them big spokesmen on crime and justice, do not even understand it. Can the bill be saved?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, the bill looks at extreme cases such as sexual assault with a weapon and it also looks at mail theft and computer theft. It mixes and meshes many things. It is not a very thoughtful bill. It has been very hastily constructed. If the bill goes to committee, it is important that these things be removed. If hon. members on the government side do not understand the flaws in the bill, or do not even understand what it covers, then it is important that they first of all understand the bill in its totality, look at other legal opinions and not be so set on locking up everyone in jail.

They should understand the bill. They should understand the implications of the bill. It will give a person who has stolen some mail the same sentence as someone who committed a heinous crime. The bill could be saved if it is sent to committee and people put some thought into making appropriate changes.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to follow up on the member's last answer.

There is a concern that the bill would not survive a charter challenge. There are many unanswered questions and we are being asked to vote on a bill that will have profound implications for the dispensing of justice right across this country.

Does the hon. member think that the government, in its haste to fulfill an election promise, has not done the appropriate due diligence to provide adequate legislation that will withstand charter challenges and actually be useful to courts and to people in the various provincial jurisdictions across this country?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, like the accountability bill, this bill will have a charter challenge and I thank the member for bringing it to the attention of the House. It will create more confusion in the system, more negotiations, et cetera, if it ever were to go through. If the bill is unconstitutional, I hope that the wisdom of the House will prevail.

Hockeyville
Statements By Members

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

Brian Pallister Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, next week Canadians will begin the process of selecting Hockeyville, the community that epitomizes the Canadian hockey spirit. This competition, co-sponsored by Kraft Canada and the CBC, has narrowed down, from over 400 entries to a final 25, with voting beginning next week on June 6.

I want to urge my colleagues to support Pilot Mound, Manitoba. This community of 700 people has such a dedication to our national game that they banded together and purchased a surplus rink 1,200 kilometres away. Through volunteer efforts they dismantled, transported and reconstructed that facility, which is nearing completion and which houses not only a hockey rink but also a curling rink, a day care and a theatre.

Over the last seven years the people of Pilot Mound and the surrounding area have dedicated themselves to this wonderful $2.6 million project. Through dozens of fundraising efforts they have already raised about half that amount.

Check out the website at www.pilotmound.com/hockeyville. Next week let us make Pilot Mound Canada's Hockeyville.

Canadian Forces
Statements By Members

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Keith Martin Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, June 4 is Canadian Forces Day, a time to honour the courageous work our Canadian Forces members do day in and day out here at home and abroad, and the sacrifices their families make.

During the last Parliament, when in government we worked with the chief of the defence staff, General Hillier, whom we appointed, to arrive at a new vision for our forces of a versatile, combat capable force. We funded it to the tune of 13.5 billion extra dollars over five years.

The current government has put in $5.3 billion for five years. It has cancelled the Hercs. It forced this Parliament to vote on the extension of the troop mission to Afghanistan without giving us the chance to do due diligence for our troops by getting the information we needed to make an intelligent decision for them.

We will continue to commit to do our duty for the troops to ensure their security and care. We thank them from the bottom of our hearts for what they and their families do day in and day out for our entire country.

Rights and Democracy Network
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Bloc

France Bonsant Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, a special event called “Sur la piste des réfugiés” was held at the Université de Sherbrooke from May 1 to 3, 2006. In partnership with the Rights and Democracy Network, approximately 15 BA students in applied political science organized an outdoor simulation of a refugee camp.

The purpose of the simulation was to raise peoples' awareness about the plight and living conditions of refugees. There were four parts to the event: the creation of the camp and opening it to the public, an information forum, seminars, and a play.

The event was a resounding success and other universities who belong to the Rights and Democracy Network would like to see it reproduced on their campuses.

I would like to congratulate the organizers and the 50 or so participants who braved the cold and the rain to share in this instructive experience.

Workplace Health and Safety
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, the health of most citizens in this country is protected by health and safety rights in the workplace. Sadly, this is not the case for those who work right here on Parliament Hill.

Instead, their basic rights are denied and they are essentially treated as second class citizens. Since there are no health and safety laws, workers cannot actively participate in the prevention of workplace accidents. No law means that workers cannot exercise their right to refuse dangerous work.

Over 20 years ago the government finally legislated a labour law known as the Parliamentary Employment and Staff Relations Act to protect its own employees. However, no government since has been willing to enact the law.

It is time to protect workers here who work to serve Parliament. They deserve the same protections that are afforded workers in all other sectors.

Human Rights
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Calgary East, AB

Mr. Speaker, we learn with great disappointment that the military-led government of Burma has again extended the term of detention for Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi. This brave lady has now spent 10 of the past 16 years under house arrest.

Canada strongly condemns the renewed detention order against her. This act shows the Burmese government's callous disregard for fundamental freedoms, democracy and human rights. We call upon the Burmese regime to immediately release Aung San Suu Kyi and work toward an enduring and lasting peace.

The Burmese people have suffered for too long. Universal condemnation has not produced any results. It is therefore time for the UN Security Council to become involved.

Grant Forest Products
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Anthony Rota Nipissing—Timiskaming, ON

Mr. Speaker, since 1981 Peter Grant has done a remarkable job at building Grant Forest Products to an industry leader and innovator.

When the Grant Forest Products' Englehart operation produced its first panel of waferboard on December 10, 1981, no one could have imagined or predicted that the company would grow to the size and the scope it is today. Since that time, Grant Forest Products has truly emerged as a made in Canada success story and leader in the forestry sector.

Furthermore, by supporting local arts and amateur sports throughout Nipissing--Timiskaming and northern Ontario as a whole, literally thousands of people have benefited from Peter Grant's generosity. His passion for forestry and dedication to the north are clearly evident in all that Peter does.

As the member of Parliament for Nipissing--Timiskaming, I am proud to have Peter Grant as one of my constituents.

On behalf of hon. members I wish to congratulate Mr. Peter Grant on 25 years in business and wish him continued success well into the future. Well done, Peter. Keep up the good work.

Quebec City
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Daniel Petit Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the citizens of my riding, Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, I would especially like to thank our Prime Minister for his openness toward and respect for Quebec City. We finally have a government that takes the interests of Canadians to heart.

By giving Quebec City, the oldest city in Canada, an international airport, the Prime Minister has allowed the city to welcome the thousands of tourists and delegates who will come to celebrate the anniversary of French Canada in 2008.

Mr. Prime Minister, on behalf of my fellow citizens, I cordially invite you to come celebrate our anniversary with us in 2008.

Sainte-Julie Golf Tournament
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Bloc

Luc Malo Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, on May 29 I participated in the 25th Ville de Sainte-Julie golf tournament, with an illustrious resident of the city, former mayor Yvon Major, as honorary chair.

Mr. Major held public office for over 20 years as a councillor and then mayor. He is known to all as a man of unlimited generosity. Among his other good works was his participation with the South Shore's Alzheimer Society in establishing a home for persons suffering from Alzheimer disease.

I would like to thank Mr. Major—a man with a great heart, a man of conscience and action and a great sense of humour—for his exemplary involvement.

A long-time golfer, Yvon Major has made the Sainte-Julie golf tournament a charity event that benefits organizations in his community. I congratulate Mayor Suzanne Roy, the organizers, volunteers and many sponsors of this tournament, and I wish this wonderful activity continued success.

Proud to be Canadian
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Guy Lauzon Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry, ON

Mr. Speaker, last week I kicked off a non-partisan Proud to be Canadian campaign to encourage everyone in my riding of Stormont--Dundas--South Glengarry to show how proud they are to live in the greatest part of the greatest country in the world.

The Proud to be Canadian campaign is co-chaired by Sultan Jessa and Jake Lamoureux, both of whom are Order of Canada recipients from my riding.

Our goal is to have at least 25,000 Canadian flags displayed in homes and businesses throughout Stormont--Dundas--South Glengarry on Canada Day. An army of over 500 patriotic volunteers has already started to distribute Canadian flag posters and information about our national flag.

I urge all Canadians to proudly fly our national flag on July 1 and all year round. I challenge all the other members of this House and their constituents to compete with Stormont--Dundas--South Glengarry for the title of the most patriotic riding in this wonderful country called Canada.

EnerGuide
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Roy Cullen Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, the recent cancellation of the popular and effective EnerGuide for houses programs has taken many by surprise and has left experts and ordinary Canadians alike scratching their heads.

Clifford Maynes, executive director of Green Communities Canada, has said that the cancellation of the EnerGuide program “has the potential to set back the cause of residential energy efficiency in this country by a decade or more”.

Geoff Lorentz, a councillor on Kitchener's environmental advisory committee, agrees that the EnerGuide program achieves energy savings of up to 30% and asks, “Why would you cut a program like that? This is a valued program. It is great for the community and great for the country”.

We know that the EnerGuide programs were working. The experts know it. Everyday Canadians know it. I guess the only people who don't get it are in the Conservative Party.

Firearms Registry
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Leon Benoit Vegreville—Wainwright, AB

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal member for Beaches--East York had the gall to stand in the House yesterday to try to defend her government's atrocious record on the long gun registry.

Then, still without shame, she accused my colleague, the excellent member for Yorkton--Melville, of presenting inaccurate information to the House. That Liberal member chose to completely ignore the Auditor General's report which confirmed that the Liberals were the ones who misinformed this House about the cost of this ineffective program.

The Auditor General's report stated that the Department of Justice failed to record costs incurred, the centre's decision to not record $21.8 million was contrary to the government's policy, Parliament was misinformed about the costs the centre had incurred, and there was a serious lack of documentary evidence. The Liberals tried to hide it.

Members of the former Liberal government should just hang their heads in shame and apologize to Canadians for their corrupt government.

Trade
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, the federal government has initiated free trade negotiations with South Korea. These negotiations are very concerning to many of my constituents in London--Fanshawe. They feel that their jobs, as well as other Canadian auto sector jobs, will be placed at further risk with a new deal.

Canada imported 130,000 vehicles from Korea, but exported only 400 vehicles back to Korea. For every dollar of automotive product we export to Korea, we import $150. This is not balanced trade.

NAFTA style trade agreements have not been beneficial to Canadian businesses. Recently, we saw Canada get the short end of the stick in the softwood lumber deal. We do not want the Conservative government to put our auto industry at risk as it did softwood.

Canada needs a new automotive trade policy, one that protects auto workers and the Canadian auto industry by ensuring equal access to offshore markets that import into Canada.

Airports
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Mark Holland Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, for more than three decades the residents of Ajax--Pickering have been living with a dark cloud over their heads, a proposed international airport in Pickering. This cloud grew darker in November 2004 when the Greater Toronto Airport Authority, or GTAA, released a plan to break ground on an airport by 2014.

The deeply flawed GTAA proposal was heavily criticized by the community, transportation experts and myself. It led the former Liberal transport minister to announce a due diligence peer review. The announcement was welcome news to our community which is anxious to avoid another Mirabel and wishes to ensure that the existing infrastructure is fully utilized.

The current transport minister has agreed to continue this review, but there is concern over the terms of reference. If we do not ask the right questions, we will not get the right answers. I have urged that the community be consulted both on the terms of reference and during the review itself. It now appears this will not happen. That is simply unacceptable.

I urge the minister to stand by the commitments of the former minister, conduct a full and fair review, and engage our community fully in the process.

École polyvalente Nicolas-Gatineau
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Bloc

Richard Nadeau Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to congratulate the organizers of the École polyvalente Nicolas-Gatineau 30-hour cycling challenge.

This was the 16th edition of the challenge. Thirteen young women and eight young men in Secondary V pedalled from 5:30 a.m. on May 25 to 11:30 a.m. on May 26.

As the honorary chairman, I too cycled in the morning of May 25 and for two hours on the night of May 26. Believe me, these young people have courage!

This physical feat is made possible by eight months of rigorous training. I would be remiss if I did not mention the excellent work by teacher François Allard and his colleagues who give freely of their time when it comes to getting involved in their students' activities.

I am very proud of these young people. This Gatineau event is not to be missed and I wish it many more years of success.

Millennium Scholarships
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Navdeep Bains Mississauga—Brampton South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate six students from my riding of Mississauga--Brampton South. These six students have each won excellence awards for the 2006-07 academic year from the Canadian Millennium Scholarship Foundation. They have demonstrated outstanding achievements in academics, community service, leadership and innovation.

As many students turn from secondary to post-secondary education, they are searching for alternative means to help finance their increasing tuition costs and their rising debt payments. Since the Conservative government failed to address the needs of post-secondary students in the last budget, scholarships like these provided by the millennium foundation are becoming increasingly valuable and important to the education of our future generations.

I hope the House will join with me in congratulating the following six students from the riding of Mississauga--Brampton South for their achievements: Ayodele Odutayo, Kevin Wang, Ke-Jia Chong, Micaela Crisliano, Wendy Ho and Elaine Jingyang Tang.

Liberal Party of Canada
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, allow me to present my top 10 list of Liberal hypocrisies:

Number one, naming an environment critic and two Liberal leadership candidates who oppose Kyoto.

Number two, having an agricultural critic demanding more aid for farmers when he repeatedly voted against more aid.

Number three, saying the party supports improved accountability and transparency while opposing the federal accountability act.

Number four, naming an associate critic of immigration who compared Canada's immigration system to Nazi Germany.

Number five, the member for Malpeque claiming he wants more done for farmers after having done nothing for 13 years.

Number six, criticizing MPs who change parties while that party has six defectors in its caucus.

Number seven, many Liberal MPs who sent troops to Afghanistan, then voted against the mission.

Number eight, demanding that the gun registry be kept when many of their own MPs want it scrapped.

Number nine, criticizing rising gas prices after again doing nothing for 13 years.

And number 10, attacking the idea of Senate reform despite promising to reform the Senate when they were in power.

Talk about hypocrisy.

Seniors Week
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Bloc

Nicole Demers Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, last week was Seniors Week in Quebec. This initiative began in 1969 following the Government of Quebec's designation of a Seniors Day. Over the years, that day became a week.

During Seniors Week, we recognize how much seniors contribute to our society. This year, the theme was “Celebrating seniors' involvement in society”. We highlighted their contribution to all parts of our society through volunteer work.

Seniors have not retired from life. They can be found anywhere there is a need. Social agencies, hospitals, schools and soup kitchens are but a few examples of the extent of their involvement.

Seniors are indispensable to our economy. Every year, they contribute more than $60 million worth of volunteer hours.

The Bloc Québécois salutes seniors and their involvement in and dedication to our community.

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, all Canadians are deeply troubled by the ongoing conflict about land related issues in the Caledonia district of Ontario.

Yesterday, the Ontario Superior Court judge seized with this matter, Justice Marshall, took the extraordinary step of convening a hearing on his own and specifically asked for the presence and participation of the Government of Canada within two weeks.

I understand that the Minister of Indian Affairs said he will cooperate with the court. Could I ask the minister, does that explicitly mean that he will comply with Justice Marshall's invitation, and who will be representing the Government of Canada in court on June 16?

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Calgary Centre-North
Alberta

Conservative

Jim Prentice Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, Mr. Justice Marshall yesterday requested the attendance of a number of parties at his chambers. The federal government was not one of the parties that was asked to attend.

I indicated yesterday that the government will be fully cooperative with Mr. Justice Marshall and as the hon. member well knows, the Government of Canada has been a participant at the tables discussing a resolution of the claims process.

The Government of Canada is being well represented by a former foreign affairs minister and I have full confidence in her ability to deal with the situation.

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, the Ontario judge, Justice Marshall, is obviously deeply concerned about Caledonia. He obviously believes the involvement of the Government of Canada is indispensable and that the government's involvement so far has been inadequate. It is also clear that Justice Marshall thinks the situation is urgent.

Within the two week timeframe now identified by the Ontario Superior Court, what specific ideas or initiatives will the Government of Canada bring forward and, failing that detail today, what is the process by which the federal input will be developed and exactly when?

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Calgary Centre-North
Alberta

Conservative

Jim Prentice Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member has dealt with similar situations, so he understands the sensitivity and gravity of a situation such as this.

In terms of the process, let me be clear. The Government of Canada has been represented at the table by Barbara McDougall, a former foreign affairs minister, and Ron Dearing, a former chief of staff to a Minister of Indian Affairs.

Mr. Dearing, in particular, has spent the last 48 hours negotiating and Ms. McDougall would be at the table today for another negotiating session. The process is, frankly, working. We are committed to it and we will continue to pursue it.

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, in dealing with public policy issues, issues which touch people's lives in very intimate ways, the building of ongoing effective relationships is crucial. Relationships between aboriginal and non-aboriginal peoples are often particularly delicate and also particularly essential.

By appearing to walk away from such an initiatives as the Kelowna accord, the federal government's relationships with aboriginal Canadians have been damaged.

When the court hearings resume on June 16 with respect to Caledonia, what will the Government of Canada specifically propose to begin rebuilding the relationships in this dispute, which have obviously been so badly damaged?

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Calgary Centre-North
Alberta

Conservative

Jim Prentice Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, I would like to point out that I do not accept the premise of the question relative to either Kelowna or the relationships between the government and aboriginal Canadians. Aboriginal Canadians are working well with the government. They are pleased by the budget.

We have solid working relationships with the Assembly of First Nations and all of the other aboriginal organizations with whom the Government of Canada deals. They have said that they wish to continue to work in a respectful way with the government. We are pleased with that.

In terms of Caledonia, we are at the table. We are negotiating in concert with the Government of Ontario, which has important responsibilities in this area. We will continue to make progress.

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Ottawa South, ON

Mr. Speaker, 10 years ago, our government created the procurement strategy for aboriginal business, which has been a great success. The strategy was renewed in 2001 and in 2003. It is up for review this year. However, according to documents I obtained from his department, the minister is preparing to quietly abolish this measure, without warning, without consultation and without reason. He is sabotaging the very essence of the Kelowna accord.

Will the minister explain why promoting the success of our aboriginal communities is no longer one of the government's priorities?

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Calgary Centre-North
Alberta

Conservative

Jim Prentice Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, the procurement strategy for aboriginal business continues to be government policy.

I can assure the member that the inferences he is making about future policy direction are not accurate and as part of our commitment to continue to work with aboriginal Canadians and consult with them, we will continue to deal with that.

The department which I represent, in particular, is a strong proponent of aboriginal businesses, the development of aboriginal initiatives, and the creation of employment for aboriginal Canadians. We are continuing to make progress in that area and I can assure the hon. member that what he suggests is not correct.

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

David McGuinty Ottawa South, ON

It is too bad the facts, Mr. Speaker, do not actually match the minister's rhetoric.

Treasury Board guidelines continue to require that the government minister do business with aboriginal enterprises and the minister's own website strongly encourages aboriginal businesses across Canada to apply for PSAB contracts.

First we learn that an aboriginal company in Winnipeg is cut off after nine years of successful service. Now, without notice, without consultation and without any reason given, an aboriginal company in my own riding is put at risk, jeopardizing over 100 jobs, $40 million in business, and internal documents confirm our worst suspicions.

Not only has the government thrown out the Kelowna accord but now it is actively undermining successful aboriginal--

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

The Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Calgary Centre-North
Alberta

Conservative

Jim Prentice Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is not correct in his comments. We continue to work with aboriginal Canadians. As I have said, the initiatives that we are pursuing relative to aboriginal employment, searching out where there are major job creation opportunities and where we can create initiatives with aboriginal Canadians on the creation of aboriginally owned businesses, are very clear.

In particular, I would point out for the benefit of the member the socio-economic fund, the $500 million that was announced in the budget, for aboriginal Canadians to create opportunities north of 60.

Kyoto Protocol
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, once again this government is being taken to task by 800 scientists who find its lack of commitment to fight greenhouse gases totally irresponsible. They do not understand why the government is not respecting Canada's commitments with regard to the Kyoto protocol.

Does the government intend to drop its dogmatic attitude toward Kyoto and accept the arguments of the 800 scientists who are asking it to respect the Kyoto protocol?

Kyoto Protocol
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Calgary Southeast
Alberta

Conservative

Jason Kenney Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, unfortunately the hon. member is not right. This government is in favour of reducing greenhouse gases. It will not be easy since we inherited a 26% increase in greenhouse gas emissions from the previous government. We will work together with the provinces and industry in order to reduce this type of emission.

Kyoto Protocol
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, one of the scientists at the meeting asked, and I quote, “How can an environmental plan that does not respect Kyoto be better than Kyoto? I find this somewhat hard to understand”.

The government claims to want to go above and beyond Kyoto, but it is brushing off Canada's commitments.

Does the government realize that in order to go beyond Kyoto, it absolutely must respect the commitments that have been made, not toss them aside?

Kyoto Protocol
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Calgary Southeast
Alberta

Conservative

Jason Kenney Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, what Canadians want in terms of environmental policy are results, not empty words. The previous government did not deliver the goods on reducing greenhouse gases, nor with respect to pollution. This fall, the government will introduce a bill to reduce pollution. We are currently developing a plan—made in Canada—to reduce greenhouse gases.

Kyoto Protocol
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Serge Cardin Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, we learned that the oil industry was responsible for 30% of all Canadian greenhouse gas emissions. Moreover, tar sands extraction is expected to triple over the next decade.

Are we to understand that the reason for the government's unwillingness to meet Canada's Kyoto commitments is the fact that it has chosen to favour big polluters like the oil companies in western Canada over protecting the environment?

Kyoto Protocol
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Calgary Southeast
Alberta

Conservative

Jason Kenney Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, again, we can see an attack by the Bloc Québécois pitting region against region. But the fact is that all Canadians want an effective environmental policy that delivers tangible results. At the same time, we need an energy policy which provides for the energy needs of both industry and the Canadian public. That is why we will continue to have a policy which balances environmental and economic interests.

Kyoto Protocol
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Serge Cardin Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, the public, scientists and parliamentarians agree on the need to meet Canada's Kyoto commitments in order to deal with greenhouse gas emissions. The government is the only one refusing to see the red flag that is being raised.

What will it take for the government to listen to reason and finally decide to fulfill its commitments?

Kyoto Protocol
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Calgary Southeast
Alberta

Conservative

Jason Kenney Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, it is an obvious fact that the previous government made a commitment to reduce emissions. It missed the targets by 35%. All hon. members know this makes it impossible for this government to reach this target after the colossal failure of the previous government. We are, however, in the process of developing a made in Canada policy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and we will reduce emissions.

Foreign Workers
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday it was revealed that up to 60 foreign workers were doing tunnelling work on the new rapid transit line in Vancouver. Most of these workers earn as little as $5 per hour and work nine to ten hours a day, six days a week. The employer brings in these workers from Costa Rica, Colombia and Peru and pays them four to five times less than their Canadian counterparts.

This clearly violates foreign worker criteria that wages and working conditions must be comparable to those of Canadian workers.

Does the minister believe that this exploitation should be tolerated in Canada and, if not, what will he do to stop it?

Foreign Workers
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Medicine Hat
Alberta

Conservative

Monte Solberg Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, the issue of temporary foreign workers is a very important one today. About $120 billion in projects in Alberta are being held up for a lack of workers and something like $90 billion worth of projects in B.C. are being held up for a lack of workers. Sometimes there are rubs with these things.

We are continuing to work with Human Resources and Social Development Canada to identify the issues, such as the ones the member has raised, to ensure all workers are treated fairly. It is our commitment to the member that we will find ways to do that.

Foreign Workers
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, excuses aside, this exploitation is happening in Vancouver as we speak and at a time when there are Canadians available to do the work.

Mark Olsen, business manager of Labourers Local 1611, says that he has “a stack of resumés of qualified workers, who are experienced, willing and able to do this tunnelling work”.

Why is the government approving applications for temporary foreign workers when qualified Canadians are ready and willing to do the job? When did cheap, exploitable foreign labour become the government's bottom line?

Foreign Workers
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Medicine Hat
Alberta

Conservative

Monte Solberg Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, the member should know that there is a process in place. When companies go looking for workers they are required to search the country for these workers. They advertise across the country month after month. The process is very thorough. I would suggest that in this case the member has his facts wrong.

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Tina Keeper Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, when the Minister of Indian Affairs was in opposition he pretended to care about the quality of life for aboriginal people in Canada. However, this year, when he had the opportunity to act on this issue and when there was more than enough money in the federal books, he failed to provide the leadership he was calling for just one year ago.

Will the minister stop insulting aboriginal people by denying the Kelowna accord exists and stand up and implement the Kelowna accord with all of its funding today?

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Calgary Centre-North
Alberta

Conservative

Jim Prentice Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, we should try to get beyond the sort of partisanship that we are seeing in the House. I want to be clear that I was at Kelowna but I do not believe the hon. member was.

There were two specific problems at Kelowna that the hon. member will not be able to address. The first is that there was no budgeted money flowing from the Kelowna process. The second is that there was no Kelowna accord that was signed. An agreement was never signed.

I invited the members opposite to table that agreement and they tabled a press release. This government does not govern with press releases.

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Tina Keeper Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, the residents of the Garden Hill First Nation in my community are dealing with a tuberculosis epidemic which has never been seen before in Canada. We are talking about a disease that has been eradicated in most of Canada. Kashechewan has also been abandoned.

The accord was about immediate action to improve the lives of aboriginal people in Canada. The spirit of the accord was one of cooperation, consultation and partnership.

How can the Minister of Indian Affairs continue to justify not funding the accord when it is clear the money was booked and all that is needed is leadership?

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Calgary Centre-North
Alberta

Conservative

Jim Prentice Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, it seems clear that the House will reverberate again this morning with more Liberal empty promises to aboriginal Canadians.

The truth of the matter is that there was no Kelowna money in any of the Liberal budgets. No Kelowna money was ever submitted to the House of Commons. In fact, there was no Kelowna money at Kelowna.

Now the House faces the spectre of a private member's bill offering a continuation of the same thing, no money. The truth is that the former Liberal government never delivered to aboriginal Canadians.

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Ken Boshcoff Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, last fall a plan for the relocation of Kashechewan was put forward and the money was booked. The Ontario government has given permission to pursue this move. The Ontario minister has urged the government to speed up the initially agreed upon timeline for the relocation.

He also stated, “money's not an issue here” because the money is there. It is the lack of political will from the government that is the issue.

When will the minister stop inventing fiction? When will he stand up and start acting in the best interests of Canada's aboriginal peoples?

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Calgary Centre-North
Alberta

Conservative

Jim Prentice Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, let us take the hon. member up on his suggestion. Why does he not table in the House where the Kashechewan money was booked? Why does he not provide that to the House of Commons?

The truth is that an agreement was signed by the former minister which the government did not budget for. Since that time, four of the six sites that were under discussion have been flooded. We will continue to work with the community in consultation to find a solution to this.

Once again we have a former Liberal government operating without budgetary parameters and with empty promises to aboriginal Canadians. We will not do that.

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Ken Boshcoff Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I just got off the phone with the chief of Kashechewan and he wonders why the minister walked away from him last night when he was presented--

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Ken Boshcoff Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

The province has no issue with handing Crown lands over to the Kashechewan First Nation. The new territory must be designated by the federal minister as reserve land under federal law. The Ontario minister knows that an agreement was reached with the previous government and that it is the Conservative minister who is holding it up.

When will this fiction and these denials end and action begin?

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Calgary Centre-North
Alberta

Conservative

Jim Prentice Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, the only fiction in the House of Commons today is that the former Liberal government dealt with this in any responsible way.

I take from the former government member's comments a suggestion that we should be building houses on the sites selected by the former Liberal government. The truth is that those sites flooded this spring.

We need to work together with the Kashechewan community and we will be doing that. We will find a suitable alternative location and we will build a proper community, something the Liberal government never did.

Employment Insurance
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, pilot project no. 6 will end on Sunday, June 4, 2006. The Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development announced this week that it will be replaced by a new pilot project to be implemented, insofar as Quebec is concerned, in the same employment insurance economic regions.

Can the minister assure us that the new pilot project will be in effect on June 5 and that all workers in these regions who lose their jobs prior to that date will be entitled to five additional weeks?

Employment Insurance
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Blackstrap
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to confirm that the government intends to introduce the extended EI benefits pilot project which will run until December 8, 2007. It will continue to provide up to the five additional weeks of EI benefits in regions included in the original pilot project.

Employment Insurance
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, the economic region of Montreal has the fourth highest unemployment rate in Quebec. Yet, the Conservatives decided that they would not include it in their new pilot project.

How can the government justify abandoning the unemployed of Montreal when the unemployment rate in this region is greater than in 5% of the regions included in the new pilot project?

Employment Insurance
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Blackstrap
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development

Mr. Speaker, this pilot project was more focused than the former one. The regions that have seen significant improvement in their labour market situations since the launch of the previous one are the regions that have been included in this new pilot project.

Mirabel Airport Property
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, during the last election campaign, the Conservative Party promised to give back to the farmers of Mirabel 11,000 acres of expropriated land. This is in line with the motion they had supported one year earlier. However, we have reason to fear that the Conservative government is about to renege on that promise by returning only a portion of that land.

Can the minister make a firm commitment, to the Mirabel farmers and former owners of expropriated land, to give back all of the 11,000 acres promised?

Mirabel Airport Property
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Pontiac
Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, before the Standing Committee on Transport, Infrastructure and Communities, I had the opportunity to answer my hon. colleague's question. I indicated at the committee that we are in the midst of discussions, not only with Montreal airport authorities, but also with the people affected.

I also said that we would make our announcements and conclude these discussions by the end of the summer.

Mirabel Airport Property
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to point out to the minister that the promise made by the Conservatives was that no more and no less than 11,000 acres would be returned to the farmers.

Can the minister promise here today that he will go ahead and return the 11,000 acres, in good faith and without any tricks, to the Mirabel farmers and former owners of expropriated land, as promised by the Conservative Party?

Mirabel Airport Property
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Pontiac
Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I understand my colleague's eagerness to get things done. Obviously, in the course of his term and that of the Bloc Québécois, he asked many questions on this topic. We are working very hard on this file in an attempt to bring it to a successful conclusion. The Canadian government has taken on this role and it is the mandate of the Conservative members from Quebec. We resolve files, which is something the Bloc Québécois has never managed to do.

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Borys Wrzesnewskyj Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, after trying to dismiss the Kelowna accord as a fiction during the public accounts committee meeting yesterday, the member for Prince Albert insinuated that the first nations' quality of life was not an issue of resources or in his words “money”. First nations' problems were that they were living in some sort of “Marxist paradise”.

Will the Prime Minister, whose office is called “The Kremlin” by his own members, send the member to the gulag to join his fellow spewer of degrading comments toward our first nations, the member for Saskatoon—Wanuskewin?

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Calgary Southeast
Alberta

Conservative

Jason Kenney Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, the government is not going to accept another smear on a member with comments taken out of context. If that member reads in context the remarks of the member in question, he may realize that he was speaking sarcastically out of frustration in a comment about 13 years of Liberal failure of our aboriginal people.

I would invite him to show a little contrition for the total failure of his government to deliver for Canada's aboriginal men and women.

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Borys Wrzesnewskyj Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, we are not buying those glass beads. With the slash and burn of Kelowna, the Conservatives showed their true faces.

The member for Saskatoon—Wanuskewin blamed natives, who died of exposure when dumped outside of city boundaries. Now the member for Prince Albert shows what Conservatives take for sarcastic humour with his “Marxist paradise” and “you can't scalp me, I haven't much hair” comments. It is time the Saskatchewan neo-cons learned that our first nations are deserving of respect, not derision.

When will the Prime Minister instruct his Saskatchewan Conservatives to stop acting like Harperians?

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Calgary Southeast
Alberta

Conservative

Jason Kenney Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member said yesterday, “The aboriginals don't have things that everybody else takes for granted, like freedom of choice to do things in life, ownership of property and so on”. He was speaking out of frustration about the former government's total failure.

However, speaking of scalping and glass beads, perhaps that member could apologize for former Prime Minister Chrétien who said in 1990, “I was the only Minister of Indian Affairs to have survived six years while managing to keep my scalp”.

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, I think that the hon. member comes nowhere near to measuring up to former Prime Minister Chrétien when it comes to aboriginal affairs.

The Conservatives, including the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development, are making a pathetic attempt to rewrite history by denying that funding for the Kelowna accord was already granted. The member for Edmonton—St. Albert went so far as to deny that the accord even existed. Now, to make matters even worse, the member for Prince Albert has made an unacceptable comment to the effect that aboriginal people are living in a “Marxist paradise”. None of the Conservative members has condemned these remarks.

Are we to understand that the Prime Minister agrees with these disgusting remarks, and is this the Conservative government's new policy?

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Calgary Southeast
Alberta

Conservative

Jason Kenney Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, what we do not agree with is the Liberal government's total failure with respect to Canada's aboriginal peoples, a failure that has left thousands of people living in deprivation and poverty. That is why the hon. member used strong language, because of his frustration with the Liberal Party's failure with respect to aboriginal peoples.

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, there is absolutely no reason for intolerant remarks and for considering people as second-class citizens. Aboriginal Canadians are first-class citizens and deserve our respect.

Will the Prime Minister do the honourable thing? We know that he is stubborn and arrogant. He has an opportunity to prove to use that he learns from his mistakes. Will he insist that, at the next meeting of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts, the vice-chair do the only honourable thing and resign?

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Calgary Southeast
Alberta

Conservative

Jason Kenney Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, we do not need lessons in civility from Alfonso Gagliano's mini-me.

Nevertheless, let me be clear. This government supports the improvement of aboriginal Canadians' living conditions. That is why, thanks to an incredibly talented minister, we are reversing the Liberals' total failure to improve the living conditions of aboriginal Canadians.

Darfur
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

Peter Goldring Edmonton East, AB

Mr. Speaker, citizens of Darfur have faced years of war, strife and hardship. The international community has an obligation to contribute aid to the innocent victims of the ongoing war in that region. Canada has a long history of providing humanitarian aid to people in crisis.

Could the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Cooperation tell us what contributions the government will make to the people of Darfur?

Darfur
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Macleod
Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for Edmonton East for his longstanding compassion and support for the people of Darfur.

The government was quick to respond after the Darfur peace agreement was signed. In fact, on May 23, the Prime Minister, along with the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of International Cooperation, announced a further $20 million for the peace process as well $20 million for humanitarian aid for the folks in that region.

Housing
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, the recently issued UN report is a stinging indictment of the way past Conservative and Liberal governments have created huge holes in Canada's social safety net. The report is especially critical of Canada's treatment of single mothers. It states that women without housing are forced to give up their kids and that women cannot leave relationships due to inadequate assistance.

When will the government stand up for Canadian women and take action to end poverty and when will it increase access to safe, affordable housing?

Housing
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Blackstrap
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development

Mr. Speaker, our country is proud of its standard of living. We think the Government of Canada does have in place a range of measures to improve the social and economic well-being of Canadians, and women in particular.

I am pleased that our recent budget included a range of measures to support families with children as well as initiatives that address housing and homelessness, skills development, employment and education.

Housing
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, every penny in the Conservative budget for housing was a re-announcement of money that we secured in the NDP budget. Just like under the Liberals, there is a lot of talk on housing but no action. The housing crisis in our country is an internationally recognized shame and the government is doing nothing about it.

Could the government tell us why, at a time when it has record surpluses, it can find billions to subsidize profitable oil companies, but not one new penny for affordable housing?

Housing
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Blackstrap
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development

Mr. Speaker, then I am sure the member will vote with us for budget 2006. We announced $1.4 billion for affordable housing, including $800 million to increase the supply of safe and affordable housing and up to $300 million to address the acute housing situation of the north.

I encourage the member to help us get the budget through so we can address her issues with housing.

Justice
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

Sue Barnes London West, ON

Mr. Speaker, the constitutionality of any piece of legislation before the House is an important issue for all Canadians. Is it the practice of the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada and the Conservative government to certify the constitutionality of each piece of legislation when it is introduced?

Has the minister certified the constitutionality of Bill C-2, the accountability legislation?

Justice
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Fundy Royal
New Brunswick

Conservative

Rob Moore Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, the Department of Justice Act requires that the Attorney General satisfy himself as to the constitutionality of legislation, and he has done so in this case.

Justice
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

Sue Barnes London West, ON

Mr. Speaker, the government does not take accountability as seriously as its press releases indicate. It is the responsibility of the Attorney General to assure the House that all government legislation passes a constitutionality test. Everyone knows this except, apparently, the Minister of Justice.

The Law Clerk of the House of Commons says that certain sections of Bill C-2 are unconstitutional. Has the minister certified the constitutionality of each piece of legislation that he has put before the House?

Justice
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Calgary Southeast
Alberta

Conservative

Jason Kenney Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister

Mr. Speaker, the answer is yes.

However, speaking of Bill C-2, it deals with the reform of party financing legislation. Therefore, will the member propose an amendment to ban contributions to parties from children? Her party found an innovation in party financing, raising $11,000 from twin 11-year-olds. That is the new Liberal Party financing strategy.

Public Works and Government Services
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

Marcel Proulx Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, a few weeks ago, the Minister of Public Works and Government Services contradicted his parliamentary secretary, who stated in this House that no agreement had been reached with respect to the former JDS Uniphase campus, which is owned by Minto Developments. The deputy minister, David Marshall, and his assistant deputy minister, Tim McGrath, appeared before the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates yesterday and admitted that the unsolicited offer, which was not publicly tendered, had been accepted at a cost of $600 million, and that the Treasury Board would approve the deal by June 15.

Who is telling the truth?

Public Works and Government Services
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam
B.C.

Conservative

James Moore Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services and Minister for the Pacific Gateway and the Vancouver-Whistler Olympics

Mr. Speaker, first, I know the hon. member is the new public works critic for the opposition. I wish him well in his new post. I know he will do a good job on this file.

The reality is that this is not in fact complete. The Department of Public Works has signed, with Minto Developments, an agreement in principle, but the deal has not yet been finalized.

Public Works and Government Services
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Marcel Proulx Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, transparency is essential to good public administration. The government must go through an open tendering process every time it wishes to buy, rent or build government buildings. The people of Canada and the House of Commons have the right to be informed of all of these expenses, and only a public competitive process will ensure that this principle is respected.

How did the Conservative government manage to skip over the competitive process inherent in a public tender? Why did it forget about transparency?

Public Works and Government Services
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam
B.C.

Conservative

James Moore Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services and Minister for the Pacific Gateway and the Vancouver-Whistler Olympics

Mr. Speaker, we followed the regular procedures and the standards applied by the Liberal government when it was in power. All of the standards were applied. I must inform the member and the House that the process is not yet completed. Until it is, we cannot discuss it because the process must be respected.

National Revenue
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Bloc

Robert Bouchard Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, we asked the Minister of National Revenue whether the federal government would follow the example of Quebec, which just relinquished $24 million in taxes owed by Vincent Lacroix of Norbourg. Judging by her answer, the minister clearly did not understand the question.

I ask her again: will the government follow Quebec's lead and redistribute the $12 million Vincent Lacroix owes the government to the people he defrauded?

National Revenue
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Saskatoon—Rosetown—Biggar
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Carol Skelton Minister of National Revenue and Minister of Western Economic Diversification

Mr. Speaker, as the hon. member knows, confidentiality provisions in the Income Tax Act prevent me from discussing specific cases or any action that may be taken by our government.

Marine Industry
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Bloc

Paul Crête Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, after suffering the indifference of the federal government, the Lévis shipyard should be able to survive thanks to Teco Management, a Norwegian group that is purchasing the shipyard.

However, to avoid having this turn into only a short-term recovery, can the Minister of Industry assure us that he will reactivate the structured funding mechanism that was put in place in response to the Bloc Québécois initiative, in order to stimulate shipbuilding?

Marine Industry
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Beauce
Québec

Conservative

Maxime Bernier Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to tell my hon. colleague, whom I thank for his question, that the Lévis shipyard is up and running thanks to the private sector and free enterprise. As you know, we believe in creating wealth through free enterprise, and if we receive a request for additional government funding, we will consider it in due course.

Fisheries
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Mr. Speaker, last week at a summit on fisheries in Newfoundland and Labrador, hosted by our premier, the vast majority of stakeholders, including local plant workers and of course the leadership of the FFAW, all called for an early retirement program for our aging workforce.

The Conservatives say they want to study the option more, but the studies have been done. Great suggestions have been made.

Meanwhile, the province says yes and the Conservatives continue to say no to our fishermen.

Fisheries
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

St. John's South—Mount Pearl
Newfoundland & Labrador

Conservative

Loyola Hearn Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure if there is a question, but I think I know what the hon. gentleman is saying.

I will just let him know from the position where I sit that we had a program for taking older workers out of the fishery. Many of the fishermen could not retire because they would lose their investment due to no break in capital gains.

We brought in a program that his government did not. The funny thing about it is that older fishermen can now retire, sell off their enterprises and not have a clawback by government.

The question I would ask is this: why did the hon. gentleman not support it?

Veterans
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Mike Allen Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

Mr. Speaker, veterans and civilians who were subject to the spraying of agent orange and other chemicals at Gagetown, New Brunswick, know that, unlike the previous government, this government is committed to resolving this issue.

I know that many veterans and civilians in my riding of Tobique--Mactaquac are very concerned about the outcome of this case. While reports out this week examine what may have happened, we know there is still work to be done. Can the Minister of Veterans Affairs update the House on the issue of agent orange in Gagetown?

Veterans
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo
B.C.

Conservative

Betty Hinton Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, unlike the successive Liberal governments that have swept this issue under the rug, our government is taking action. The Prime Minister has made it clear that he wants a resolution. It is going to be a knowledge based solution. That is why we are doing the kinds of reports that were released on Thursday, June 1 in the House.

Veterans Affairs Canada is working closely with DND to develop compensation options. Our government remains firmly dedicated to addressing the concerns raised by Canadian Forces members, veterans, civilians and area residents about herbicide use at the New Brunswick training base.

Federal Accountability Act
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, we are in the process of debating the federal accountability act, part of which deals with measures to protect whistleblowers.

Joanna Gualtieri is one of those public servants who, through her disclosure of gross mismanagement of funds, has saved taxpayers millions of dollars, yet she continues to be harassed through the courts, causing her serious financial hardship and emotional distress.

I would like to ask the President of the Treasury Board again to give his assurance that the government's court action against Joanna will be dropped immediately.

Federal Accountability Act
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Nepean—Carleton
Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his hard work on behalf of whistleblowers and public servants.

In fact, the corruption that Ms. Gualtieri exposed was corruption of the previous Liberal government and the litigation in which she is now involved is also litigation of a previous government. That litigation is currently under review.

Luckily we now have an accountability act before committee that is the toughest anti-corruption law in Canadian history. It will protect whistleblowers and it will make it a criminal offence, punishable by jail time, for those people who punish whistleblowers in the way that the Liberals consistently bullied our public servants.

Federal Accountability Act
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, it was on May 5 that I asked the Treasury Board president if he was prepared to give his assurances that the government will drop all court cases against past whistleblowers and compensate those who are proven to be correct.

I would like to ask for a timeframe that Ms. Gualtieri can expect so she can get her life back. This is not so much to ask from someone who simply acted ethically and did the right thing in disclosing the waste of millions of dollars at taxpayers' expense.

Federal Accountability Act
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Nepean—Carleton
Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, the member is correct that Ms. Gualtieri did expose millions of dollars' worth of Liberal corruption. The litigation in which she is now engaged is litigation of that previous government. That litigation is now under review.

What is critically important, though, is that whistleblowers be protected as soon as possible. That is why I am so disappointed to see a coalition of the Liberals and the Bloc working to block the passage of the accountability act before summer. The real question is this: why will all members of the House of Commons not begin to work together now so that we can pass whistleblower protection into law immediately?

Fisheries
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Simms Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, NL

Hopefully with a little more success this time, Mr. Speaker.

When the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans was a member of the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, he tabled a report demanding a limited fishery off the northeast coast of Newfoundland.

The rural fishing communities are facing a tough summer, as I am sure he knows, and it is the time for my hon. colleague not to be, once again, a jellyfish on this issue. Now is the time for a 5,000 tonne commercial catch and “yes” to a recreational food fishery for the northeast coast of Newfoundland. When will this happen?

Fisheries
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

St. John's South—Mount Pearl
Newfoundland & Labrador

Conservative

Loyola Hearn Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, let me tell the George Baker wannabe who floundered around on his first question that last year we brought the standing committee to Newfoundland to get input from the people so that a sound decision could be made.

That very member walked out of the committee meeting to try to scuttle bringing the committee to the province and to let the Liberal Party send in its goons. The only thing was that one of the goons was a good goon and he supported us. We went to Newfoundland and got the information we needed and we will make the decision at the appropriate time.

Agriculture
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Bev Shipley Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, ON

Mr. Speaker, agriculture and agrifood is one of the largest industries in Canada. New technologies are emerging that will make this sector even more efficient and environmentally friendly. The industry's successes are a very visible source of national pride.

Can the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food tell us of any recent science and technology investments in agriculture and agrifood?

Agriculture
Oral Questions

Noon

Chilliwack—Fraser Canyon
B.C.

Conservative

Chuck Strahl Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, I was pleased to announce our new science strategy earlier this week in Montreal. Not only does this new science and technology strategy ensure that we will have a strong national network of agricultural research stations and world class laboratories, but this new initiative will build partnerships among governments, academia and industry to increase value added options for the agriculture sector.

Whether it is development of new, healthy food products, securing the safety of our food supply, securing access to foreign markets or developing biofuels, our new science strategy is part and parcel of our commitment to increase opportunities and increase income for Canadian farmers.

Canada Elections Act
Oral Questions

Noon

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, this week one of the potential leaders of the Liberal Party of Canada had to give back money he had taken from schoolchildren. What is astounding about this, though, is that the Liberal Party of Canada condones the practice of shaking down kids for their lunch money.

As the father of three youngsters, I am very concerned that one of the leadership candidates lurking out there might try to put the touch on one of my kids for cash. Will the government make a revision to the Canada Elections Act which would guarantee that no potential Liberal leadership candidate will be allowed within 500 metres of a school, a kindergarten or an amusement arcade?

Canada Elections Act
Oral Questions

Noon

Nepean—Carleton
Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, now that I have finished applauding the member's question, I would like to try answering it.

We are against the Liberal practice of shaking down kids at lemonade stands. We are pushing for swift passage of the accountability act, which reins in the kind of irresponsible anti-kid approach to raising funds that we have seen from the Liberal Party of Canada.

In fact, I applaud the member and his party for working with the Conservatives to pass swiftly the accountability act. I for one can say that as a member of that committee I will support any amendment to stop this obscene practice of picking on our school kids.

Health
Oral Questions

Noon

Bloc

Nicole Demers Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, the FDA Week announced on January 27 that the FDA Office of Criminal Investigations reportedly questioned some individuals about the data on ruptures of Mentor breast implants.

One of the two employees mentioned that the real rate of rupture of new implants was not reported to the FDA and that Mentor hid leakages by attributing them to various problems such as seal breakage, and so forth.

In view of these allegations, can the minister assure us that there will be an investigation of the special access program to prevent this type of implant from ruining the lives of thousands of women?

Health
Oral Questions

Noon

Charleswood—St. James—Assiniboia
Manitoba

Conservative

Steven Fletcher Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Health

Mr. Speaker, Health Canada and this government are committed to ensuring that Canadians have access to accurate, complete and up to date information regarding the potential risks and benefits of medical devices available in Canada.

Health Canada is in the process of creating a feasibility study in regard to a Canadian breast implant registry with an independent external organization. This registry could be a potential benchmark for a surveillance tool. We are committed to evidence based research and to ensuring that Canadians have the best risk-free medical devices available. We are committed to ensuring the safety of all Canadians.

Presence in Gallery
Oral Questions

Noon

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

I would like to draw to the attention of hon. members the presence in the gallery of His Excellency Liu Peng, Minister, General Administration of Sport of the People's Republic of China.

Presence in Gallery
Oral Questions

Noon

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Business of the House
Oral Questions

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, I know there is a general interest in the House regarding Bill C-15, an act dealing with agricultural cash advances. There have been some consultations about how the legislation might be expedited and perhaps some progress in those consultations, although I know when we get into these kinds of discussions, there are various caveats, conditions and trade-offs that are attached to the deliberations.

Due to the pressing circumstances that many farmers are facing and because the legislation may alleviate some of those pressures, at least in the short run, I wonder if hon. members could agree by unanimous consent, without attaching trade-offs, conditions and other issues that relate to other House business, to proceed with Bill C-15, to deal with it at all stages, and to send it on its way to the Senate for it to be dealt with there.

I do not think there is any dispute about the substance of the legislation, but if we get into the business of attaching conditions about this bill, that bill or the other bill, I think we will be in a hopeless morass.

I wonder if there is a will in the House, in the interests of farmers, to simply dispose of Bill C-15 right now, get it done, get it off to the Senate, and hopefully farmers can benefit from that legislation at the earliest possible date rather than making it conditional on a whole bunch of other things.

Business of the House
Oral Questions

12:05 p.m.

Niagara Falls
Ontario

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, certainly we support Bill C-15. We are the government, of course, that introduced it and we know of its importance to farmers.

I will make the same offer to the hon. gentleman that I have been making. I think we can get to Bill C-15 this afternoon. The orders of the day have Bill C-9, the conditional sentencing act. We are very interested in completing that. It will not be government members, but some hon. members of the NDP who I believe have some additional speakers and perhaps the Bloc. We are prepared to hear them, but certainly at the conclusion of those speeches, we will be open to having this matter put before Parliament and passing it at all stages.

We will wait for the members of the NDP and the Bloc because I certainly want to accommodate them and get their comments on Bill C-9. I know that bill is important to them, as it is to the government, but as soon as that is completed and time allowing, we would be prepared to put Bill C-15 through at all stages. I thank the hon. member for the suggestion.

Business of the House
Oral Questions

12:05 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Bill Blaikie

I take it from the government House leader's remarks that there is no unanimous consent to move such a motion at this time, so we shall proceed to the daily routine of business.

Finance
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Pallister Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the second report of the Standing Committee on Finance in relation to Bill C-13, an act to implement certain provisions of the budget tabled in Parliament on May 2, 2006. The committee reports the bill without amendment.

Child care
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour today to present a petition signed by a number of residents of Saskatchewan who indicate their very strong agreement with the agreements that were signed last year between the Government of Canada and the province of Saskatchewan with respect to early learning and child care.

They note that these agreements would provide for a very substantial boost in the number of child care spaces available to the families that need that service in Saskatchewan. They call upon the Government of Canada to honour the agreements that were entered into, together with the full funding over the five year term.

Canada Post
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Patricia Davidson Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to present a petition on behalf of my constituents of Sarnia—Lambton. The petition calls on the Government of Canada to instruct Canada Post to maintain, expand and improve its network of public post offices.

Date Rape Drugs
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

James Moore Port Moody—Westwood—Port Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, as I have done a number of times in the House, I am pleased to present again another petition signed by a number of my constituents and in fact people from across Canada. The petition deals with the issue of date rape drugs. This is an issue that I have been raising in the House for five and a half years.

The petitioners call upon the government to have tougher laws with regard to date rape drugs, making the precursor to the development of date rape drugs more difficult to get and calling for stiffer penalties for the cowards who use date rape drugs to attack women.

Child Care
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Ken Boshcoff Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have two petitions to present.

The first petition is on child care and early learning, signed by several hundred people with regard to their concern to reinstate the program.

Taxation
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Ken Boshcoff Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, my second petition is with regard to the concern of Canadians on raising personal income taxes on the very lowest categories. I hope that the government will take that under advisement in a very serious manner.

Citizenship and Immigration
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Blackstrap, SK

Mr. Speaker, the Holy Spirit parish justice committee in Saskatoon has asked me to present these petitions on behalf of its congregation. I do so out of respect for their strong Christian beliefs and values.

The petitioners request that the House lift barriers that prevent refugees from reaching and being welcomed into Canada. The Holy Spirit parish justice committee calls upon the House to reform Canada's refugee and immigration program to increase the number of refugees that Canada accepts annually, to ensure full access and due process for these refugees, and to speed the immigration process for reuniting refugees and their families.

I am proud to present these petitions on behalf of the Holy Spirit parish justice committee from my riding in Saskatoon.

Questions on the Order paper
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

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

Questions on the Order paper
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

The Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order paper
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-9, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (conditional sentence of imprisonment), be now read the second time and referred to a committee.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:10 p.m.

Bloc

Nicole Demers Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is with some degree of concern that I rise in this House today to speak on Bill C-9. I am concerned because the government's recent policy statements are aligning us increasingly on American policies and because prisons, which account for 25% of Quebec's spending on policing and criminal justice, do little to reduce crime overall.

According to a study by Pierre Lalande entitled “Punir ou réhabiliter les contrevenants?”, which discusses the merits of punishing versus rehabilitating offenders, mass incarceration does take a toll on the lives of those who are imprisoned and those around them. Some authors suggest that there are very well-documented categories of collateral effects of imprisonment.

First, there are various effects on the future lives of individuals who are incarcerated, in the sense that they will have a harder time finding work when they are released.

Then, there are effects on their physical and mental health, including psychological problems inherent in spending time inside, and risks associated with the numerous communicable diseases, such as HIV and hepatitis, encountered in penal institutions.

With respect to family life, there are consequences on the relationship between spouses and consequences on the children.

The consequences on family, employment and income make the risk of reoffending high.

Finally, the community at large is made to suffer because of mass incarceration. Money is spent on that at the expense of higher education and other public programs and services, which could otherwise be much more extensive, thus countering poverty and giving people less of a reason to resort to petty theft to feed themselves and their children and put a roof over their heads. Add to that the problems experienced by prison staff.

In addition, there is a lot of research on the effectiveness of imprisonment to suggest that, upon release, offenders are just as likely to reoffend as they were when they arrived.

The conclusion is obvious: prisons do not ensure the rehabilitation of offenders. Some limited experiments have shown that carefully planned programs might reduce recidivism, provided that they address the situations and attitudes that have landed offenders in jail or prison in the first place.

In 2002-03, the average annual cost of detaining an individual in a provincial or territorial institution was $51,454, as compared to a mere $1,792 to monitor an offender within the community.

Conditional sentencing has a significant effect on the rate of fresh detentions, which have decreased by 13% since conditional sentencing came into effect. Thanks to this measure, some 55,000 fewer offenders were in custody. They were able to take part in rehabilitation programs.

According to a study on victims of crime and their attitude toward conditional sentencing this type of sentence had several advantages. Among other things, most rehabilitation programs can be more effectively implemented when the offender is in the community rather than in custody.

In my previous work, before I was a member of Parliament, I often dealt with people conditionally sentenced to do community work. This was always a success. Furthermore, most of these people did not go back to prison later.

Prison is no more effective a deterrent than more severe intermediate punishments, such as enhanced probation or home confinement. Keeping offenders in custody is significantly more expensive than supervising them in the community.

The public has become more supportive of community-based sentencing, except for serious crimes of violence. I can understand why. The Bloc Québécois has always been an advocate for victims of serious crimes of violence.

Widespread interest in restorative justice has sparked interest in community-based sanctions. Restorative justice initiatives seek to promote the interests of the victim at all stages of the criminal justice process, but particularly at the sentencing stage.

The virtues of community-based sanctions include the saving of valuable correctional resources and the ability of the offender to continue or seek employment and maintain ties with his or her family. After having been incarcerated in their youth and receiving a prison sentence, it is very difficult for persons to find work when they leave prison when they have no work experience and have problems as a result of a troubled childhood. If, however, they have had access to rehabilitation programs, it is much easier because they have already gained some work experience in the community.

David Paciocco, who is a criminal law professor at the University of Ottawa, said:

It is inconceivable to think that all the offences that lead to a 10-year sentence or more are invariably serious offences in every concrete case.

He added that preventing the use of conditional sentences for all such offences would not only send many people to prison who do not belong there, but it would also likely lead judges and lawyers to find ways to get around the restriction. Judges could increase the requirements in terms of evidence of guilt, while prosecutors could lay less serious charges in order to leave the option of a conditional sentence.

Furthermore, the executive director of the John Howard Society of Saskatchewan, Mike Dunphy, said that 33% of the criminals sentenced to house arrest in 2005 would have ended up in prison under the provisions of Bill C-9. Thus, prisons would need 33% more beds, employees and programs to serve the inmates.

At this time, conditional sentences are often longer than prison sentences. When prisoners are released early on parole, they move freely in the community under conditions that are less rigorous than if they were under house arrest.

Offenders also have a better chance if they are reintegrated into the community by living at home under strict conditions rather than languishing in prisons, exposed to the influence of other criminals. Long periods in prison without other rehabilitation programs tend to increase the risk of recidivism after release.

Moreover, the cost of prolonged incarceration would invariably lead to cuts in social services, educational services and employment opportunities.

The United States punishes its criminals more severely than Canada, yet its crime rate is five times higher than here.

Since the victims of violence are always at the core of our concerns and given that the Bloc Québécois has always defended the importance of taking them into consideration, especially when it comes to setting parole conditions, if Bill C-9 had been reasonable and had limited its effect to excluding the more violent crimes that are not already excluded, such as kidnapping a person under age 14, sexual assault with a weapon or aggravated sexual assault, rather than drawing up an arbitrary, endless list of offences, the Bloc Québécois would have undoubtedly supported such a bill. However, in its current form, we will vote against this bill.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Conservative

Daniel Petit Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, first I want to thank my colleague for expressing her opinion on conditional sentences. I have a specific question for her. In Quebec, there is a huge problem with drunk drivers who cause accidents that kill people. It is a scourge.

Currently, under the conditions that are imposed upon them, some offenders can benefit from a conditional sentence. The amendment we are proposing will eliminate this option or at least will make its use very difficult.

Here is my question. How can my colleague explain the fact that she is against this bill? Not only drunk drivers who hit and kill someone can benefit from a conditional sentence—meaning that they will be serving their sentence at home—but, in Quebec, they have the privilege of receiving 90% of their salary. Indeed, during that period, if they are injured and cannot work, they will be receiving money. Not only do they serve their sentence at home, but they are paid.

I am asking my colleague to explain to me why she is against this bill.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Bloc

Nicole Demers Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, I understand my colleague's concerns. I also understand the helplessness one can feel when dealing with such situations. However, judges have always shown their competence in sentencing.

We must also recognize that some accidents happen without alcohol being involved; they are caused by speeding and other factors. Over the last few years, contrary to what my colleague is claiming, there has been a significant decline in the number of accidents caused by excessive drinking, thanks to the great wisdom shown by the Government of Quebec and to Éduc'alcool, that put in place very interesting programs to educate young people about the problems related to excessive drinking.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member for yet another thoughtful intervention in this place. She always manages to do that.

I was very interested to hear her talk about the economics of this bill and the costs associated with it. When I spoke earlier today, I talked as well about the increased cost of incarcerating people, the increased cost to the provinces of incarcerating people, and how I would rather see that money go into crime prevention programs.

Quebec has been a real leader in crime prevention programs. Many years ago Quebec undertook to put money into that kind of process rather than into incarcerating, especially youth who commit crimes. I wonder if the member could comment on that program in Quebec and generally on what the $250 million, which some estimates are that this will cost the provinces, might be better spent on to prevent crime in the first place.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Bloc

Nicole Demers Laval, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for his question.

Indeed what we have seen in Quebec is a success story thanks to the various reintegration and rehabilitation programs that have been put in place for young people. In fact, we believe that when young people get in trouble with the law, it is often because they come from a very difficult background created by poverty.

Therefore, if there is one problem that should be dealt with here, it is poverty. It is the cause of most crimes committed by young people as well as by adults. If people had enough money for food and housing, if they had access to adequate housing, they would be a lot prouder and would not be so much inclined to commit various types of crimes.

In Quebec, we made a point of putting in place adequate programs to help young people who have taken a wrong turn to get back on the right track, so to speak. I do believe that government funds would be put to a much better use if they were used to fund similar programs in the other provinces.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-9, a bill which has been referred to as the amendment to conditional sentencing. As my fellow members of Parliament are aware, the bill amends section 742.1 of the Criminal Code to provide that a person convicted of an offence prosecuted by way of indictment, for which the maximum term of imprisonment is 10 years or more, is not eligible for a conditional sentence.

As I am sure my fellow members are also aware, conditional sentencing introduced in September 1996 allows for sentences of imprisonment to be served in the community rather than in a correctional facility. This gives judges some freedom to take into account individual circumstances and allow for sentencing that fits with the crime committed.

Judges can take into account such things as the gravity of the offence and the degree of responsibility of the offender. For offences that are less serious, judges can choose conditional sentencing. Our jails are seriously overcrowded and underfunded. In 1996 conditional sentencing was seen as a way to ease the burden.

By taking away conditional sentencing, we are second-guessing our judges and limiting their ability to address individual circumstances. Another positive function of conditional sentencing is the ability for judges to provide opportunities for those convicted to acknowledge their crime and even make reparation.

The intention of this type of sentencing was to divert more minor offences out of the prison system. However, I certainly recognize that there is a real concern that conditional sentencing is being used for serious crime such as sexual assault, violent crime and driving offences involving death or serious bodily harm. These are the crimes that merit this amendment. However, I am also very concerned that this amendment to the Criminal Code can do more harm than good. We do not want to throw the baby out with the bathwater.

The Conservative government will provide money for federal jails, but this law as is will mean most of the increased jail terms will be spent in provincial facilities. The government should not be downloading the effects of its crime agenda to the provinces without support to hire more local police, expand youth initiatives, and increase and improve provincial jail capacity.

In the United Nations Vienna Declaration on Crime and Justice it states that:

--adequate prevention and rehabilitation programmes are fundamental to an effective crime control strategy, and that such programmes should take into account social and economic factors which may make people more vulnerable to, and likely to engage in criminal behaviour.

The declaration also stresses that “a fair, responsible, ethical and efficient criminal justice system is an important factor in the promotion of economic and social development and of human security”. Eliminating conditional sentencing will not address these concerns made by the UN declaration, but it will increase the population in Canada's jails and will do nothing to address the sources of crime.

One of the key issues that the UN declaration points to is poverty. It calls for countries “to create a conducive environment for the fight against organized crime, promoting growth and sustainable development and eradicating poverty and unemployment”.

What we really need to do to prevent crime is to go to the source. More often than not, that source is poverty. Crime is often a signal that something is terribly wrong with our social safety net, that people are falling through the cracks. Filling up our jails is like putting a band-aid on a broken arm. It looks like we are doing something, but we are not addressing the real problem.

We have seen the Conservative tough on crime attitude before. In Ontario, Mike Harris instituted privately run boot camps in order to get tough on youth crime. These were found to do very little to prevent crime or rehabilitate youth. The facilities charged high rates to taxpayers and did nothing. In combination with these initiatives, the Harris government cut social assistance rates, clawed back the child tax benefit, cancelled funding for second stage housing, cancelled affordable housing projects, reduced funding for women's shelters, and closed down youth initiatives and after school programs.

One particular women's shelter in my riding was forced to cancel a program that offered help to children who were traumatized by domestic violence.

All of the Harris cuts were directed at low income families. It is my greatest fear that we are heading down the same road with the federal Conservatives.

The tough on crime attitude is apparent in Bill C-9 and Bill C-10. Every day I have someone new come to my office asking if funding for one of the many social programs for women and youth will be cut after March 2007.

I am sure some of my fellow members of Parliament are thinking that the link between crime and poverty is not as critical as I suggest. Quite simply, it is. To make my case I want to address the situation of incarcerated women.

Women in the Canadian penitentiary system have the highest rate of HIV and mental illness of any group of women in Canada. Surely a prison is not the institution to respond to someone who is ill.

Forty per cent of incarcerated women are illiterate and 80% have been physically or sexually abused. They were victims long before they resorted to crime. Two-thirds of these women have children. Many had unstable housing at the time of incarceration and 80% were unemployed at the time they were sentenced to jail.

It is obvious that women who are incarcerated are victims of violence and poverty themselves. If we take the brave step to eradicate poverty perhaps we can eliminate much of the need for incarceration.

The Conservative plan to eliminate conditional sentencing will have a significant impact on female inmates in particular. As I previously noted, two-thirds of the women currently incarcerated have children. If conditional sentences are continued for non-violent crimes, these women will have an opportunity to put their lives back on track and may be able to have a relationship with their children. A 10 year jail term would kill any chance of that.

I am very concerned that the Conservatives have gone too far with the bill. Where are the provisions for the prevention of crime?

I referred earlier to the actions of Mike Harris in Ontario. The punitive approach he took to the needs of vulnerable communities has consequences. We live with those consequences now. If a human being is beaten down by the loss of hope and opportunity, eventually that human being will strike back. Have we learned nothing from the Harris legacy?

We have seen an increase in poverty and despair. Last week the United Nations social, economic and cultural council issued a scathing report condemning Canada for being inactive in key areas of social development. We have failed Canadians when it comes to safe, affordable child care, affordable housing and care for abused women. How on earth would the bill change that neglect?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Conservative

Patricia Davidson Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the member's discussion on the bill and the comments she made with respect to the Harris government. Being a member from Ontario I am well aware of the Harris government policies and of what happened in the province.

I also well remember the NDP government under the leadership of Bob Rae and the great consternation and problems that government caused the province.

However, getting back to the legislation that we are supposed to be dealing with today, does the member not believe that we should be fighting for safer streets, safer neighbourhoods and safer lives for our women and children?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, absolutely, we should be fighting for safer streets and safer situations for women and children. However, with such punitive measures as the ones we saw from the Harris government, we will never be able to achieve those.

I find it very interesting, in talking about poverty, that it does relate to women. We all know that women earn two-thirds of what men earn and that many of them are in situations where they cannot look after their families and children. Just yesterday the committee on the status of women had a vote on pay equity, something that is vital to the future of women so they can provide for their families, pull their children out of poverty and not have to face violence and despair, but the Conservative members of the committee voted against tabling a bill on pay equity.

They speak out of one side of the mouth about safety for women and children and then vote against women in a committee that is supposed to stand up for the rights of women. It is despicable.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Alan Tonks York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am sure the House was greatly interested in and moved by the comments made by the previous speaker, in particular as it relates to those statistics that apply to women.

As the member was speaking I was reminded of the closing down of community based facilities in an attempt to replace prison-like settings with a more moral, humane and activist kind of setting as it relates to women who find themselves in the category subscribed by the member and in the conditions she described.

In terms of the conditional sentencing provisions, would the member like to see more flexibility provided through the courts for women who could receive the kind of support that is required through the probation and parole systems but would find them in more of a community setting where there are far more supports that would be relevant to the kinds of needs that they might have?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, that points back to my remarks in terms of the situations that keep women in prisons, such as illiteracy, sexual and physical abuse and unemployment. Those are the things that make women's lives very difficult and that clearly underscore their victimization.

We need to improve our literacy programs. We need to ensure that women who have been sexually abused receive the care, the support and the counselling they need. We also need to ensure they have the training to seek employment and look after their children.

I would come back to not just employment to provide for their children but equal employment that includes equal pay for equal work.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Tina Keeper Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to speak to this important bill, Bill C-9, an act to amend the Criminal Code (conditional sentence of imprisonment).

Since being introduced in September 1996, conditional sentencing has allowed for sentences of imprisonment to be served in the community rather than through incarceration. It has served as an effective means of keeping less serious offenders out of jail and yet it is more than probation which focuses on rehabilitation and reintegration by adding a punitive measure.

It was in 1996 when conditional sentencing was introduced and the primary goal of conditional sentencing was to provide an alternative to incarceration, an alternative sentencing mechanism to the courts, and it also provided an opportunity to further incorporate restorative justice concepts into the sentencing process.

My Liberal colleagues and I set the safety and security of the Canadian public at a high priority and wish to pass appropriate legislation that reflects the realities and complexities of Canada's justice system and its citizens.

In support of this priority, in October 2005 the justice minister of the day, the hon. member for Mount Royal, introduced Bill C-70 which had received first reading but which died on the order paper. It focused largely on preventing those who were convicted of crimes that caused serious personal injury from receiving conditional sentences.

Bill C-70 added the following condition:

The court shall not order that an offender serve his or her sentence in the community if the offender has been convicted of any of the following offences, unless the court is satisfied that it is in the interests of justice to do so because of exceptional circumstances: (a) a serious personal injury offence as defined in section 752; (b) a terrorism offence; (c) a criminal organization offence; and (d) an offence in respect of which, on the basis of the nature and circumstances of the offence, the expression of society's denunciation should take precedence over any other sentencing objectives.

The bill also would have required the court to include in the record a statement of the exceptional circumstances that it considered if it chose to grant a conditional sentence.

Bill C-70 would therefore have been successful in addressing the practical weaknesses of conditional sentences without compromising the effectiveness of the corrections and justice systems as a whole.

On the other hand, the current government's proposed Bill C-9 wishes to amend the Criminal Code of Canada by mandating that a conditional sentence will no longer be an option for anyone convicted of an offence prosecuted by indictment that carries a maximum prison sentence of 10 years or more. Removing the application of conditional sentences in this regard could result in an uneven application of justice and it adds nearly 100 offences under the Criminal Code in which sentencing would no longer apply. It would result in various damaging implications throughout our country.

I also would like to mention that we must consider the disproportionate number of aboriginal people who are incarcerated. One of the most evident consequences of the bill would be a further influx of aboriginal Canadians into the prison system. This influx arrives at a time when the government ought to be taking appropriate measures to reduce the over-representation in the penal system of aboriginal peoples.

While aboriginal groups make up less than 5% of the population in Canada, as of March 31, 2004 they represent approximately 20% of all federally incarcerated prisoners in Canada. First nations over-representation in the criminal justice system has steadily increased over the past 10 years. While the federally incarcerated population in Canada steadily declined by 12.5% from 1996 to 2004, the number of first nations people in federal institutions has increased by 21.7% during this same period. To break these figures down further, the number of incarcerated aboriginal women has also steadily increased 74.2% over the last seven years.

There is no other group in the country that will be moved out of the community and into the prisons more quickly than aboriginal Canadians. Throwing people in jail is apparently easier to the government than addressing root causes or addressing the concept of restorative justice. The Conservative government should prepare itself for a serious reality check because its solution to such challenges will only perpetuate matters further.

There is a strong correlation between socio-economic disadvantages and involvement with the criminal justice system. This requires serious attention to ameliorate the vicious cycle. Restorative justice has played a role in harnessing the rate of overrepresentation of first nations peoples in the criminal justice system and has been an integral tool in healing strategies.

In contrast with the Conservatives' Bill C-9, restorative justice acts as a comprehensive system of justice with effective results. Ultimately, at the end of the day Canada's most vulnerable group will experience yet another blow by the government, which unfortunately, seems to be very common these days.

Everyone in the House I am sure will agree that we all want safer communities for our friends and families. This consensus can be met through effective and fair legislation.

I urge the government and, indeed, all members of the House to support a justice system in Canada that takes into consideration the true complexities of conditional sentencing and develop legislation that reflects this ideal rather than the short-sighted, irresponsible approach that the Conservative government is determined to impose.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to share with the hon. member my concern about the effect that this law is going to have on aboriginal people. We see how the courts have played out over the last 100 years. We have seen the loss of hope on aboriginal youth who were incarcerated, treated as criminals, taken to the edge of some cities and left to freeze to death. At times we have had such a breakdown in our obligation to provide our aboriginal youth with a sense of hope and vision for the future.

I have seen in the communities in my region the work that has taken place with the elders, NNADAP and other workers to give aboriginal youth a sense that even if they fall through the cracks, there will be a community sense to rebuild, and to rebuild not just them but the community that they have harmed. That happens through the sentencing circles and some of the programs that we have seen in terms of first nations spirituality and giving people a sense of their culture.

I am very concerned that this bill goes right across the board and takes away the ability of communities, the provinces, and our courts to do what is appropriate in the case of our aboriginal youth. I would like to ask the member for her thoughts on this.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Tina Keeper Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to mention that one of the most frustrating and troubling announcements by the Conservative government in terms of its approach to justice is the amount of money that it is prepared to spend on new jails and prisons. The figure of $250 million is startling when, as the hon. member mentioned, the system of incarceration has not been successful in addressing the root causes. In fact, creating more jails and prisons is certainly not part of the answer.

I appreciate the member's question in terms of aboriginal communities, first nations, Métis and Inuit groups that have done incredible amounts of work in terms of restorative justice. They have certainly been subject to a colonial system of 150 years which has had devastating impacts.

The last Liberal government had taken great strides to work in cooperation with aboriginal groups toward addressing these very issues. The root causes have to be addressed and, in fact, as the member indicated, the sentencing circles and the community healing strategies are where I believe the funds should be focused. I believe we will never curb the rate of crime and the aboriginal community will suffer the impacts the most.

There are a lot of community based strategies that need to be examined, monitored, evaluated and promoted because they have had an enormous amount of success in addressing root issues and community dynamics.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank my hon. colleague for her analysis of Bill C-9. She mentioned that conditional sentencing has conditions set before a judge who can lay down the sentence. It is a preventative tool and prevention is very important. The previous Liberal government had implemented a youth employment strategy for preventative purposes dealing with gang violence, which has been eliminated by the Conservative government. Could the member elaborate how the conditional sentencing tool has been used in the aboriginal communities and how effective has it been?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Tina Keeper Churchill, MB

Mr. Speaker, one of the important elements of the conditional sentencing is that it is not focused principally on rehabilitation or reintegration of the offender. Where those rehabilitation measures are in place, they are not an option for the offender. They are part of the conditional sentence. I think that is a really important factor in terms of conditional sentences.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:50 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise and speak about Bill C-9, which seeks to amend the Criminal Code. To describe the purpose of the bill, I will read the summary:

This enactment amends section 742.1 of the Criminal Code to provide that a person convicted of an offence prosecuted by way of indictment for which the maximum term of imprisonment is ten years or more is not eligible for a conditional sentence.

To help the people who are watching understand, I should mention that the concept of a conditional sentence is quite simple. When an individual receives a conditional sentence, it means that he serves his sentence in the community. He remains free as long as he abides by the mandatory, discretionary conditions the court has imposed.

This is the system we have at present. Our society has developed a certain degree of judicial autonomy. Based on case law, past events and the decisions handed down throughout the history of the courts, a certain procedure has been established whereby judges can analyze each case on its own merits and choose the most appropriate sentence. That is the society we have. In my opinion, the vast majority of Canadians were satisfied with this until today.

With the introduction of Bill C-9 by the Conservative government, we are seeing another opinion. Obviously, in any society, there are always people who are dissatisfied. The Conservatives are exhibiting a republican streak that would have them take away more and more power from the judiciary. They want to reduce judges' authority, simply because they themselves want to dictate the punishment in the Criminal Code. That way, if you commit a crime, the sentence is set, and all the courts do is determine whether or not you are guilty.

This is dangerous. This perception, this concept of the judicial system, this republican conservatism is what we are seeing in the United States. When a society functions in this way, as American society does, then we have to look at whether this helps reduce the number of crimes. In the case of the Americans, experts agree that crime is not on the decline in the United States, it is on the rise. This is understandable. It is simply because sentences are increasingly strict. Offenders figure that they might as well commit enough crimes to get enough money to hire lawyers to get them off.

There have been some highly-publicized court cases in the United States. I do not want to name names. It is because of this that we have this situation. It is because of this that an entire right wing is emerging conditions de surveillance in our society and this republican conservatism. We associate images with certain individuals. If the trial of an individual found guilty has been highly publicized, everyone watching from their living rooms has played a part in determining the sentence.

Establishing the framework for a society is much more complex than that. We must stop enacting legislation and guiding our society based on the cases of a few individuals hyped by the media. This is why the Americans have become so conservative, have shifted to the republican right and have increased sentences. We end up by thinking that every time someone does something, a sentence should be imposed automatically. That cannot be done.

In our society, we are still presumed innocent until proven guilty by the state. That is the hard reality. We must abide by this, that is the way it is and I believe that is a good thing. That is what our ancestors chose to do. It is thus that our parents, grandparents and great grandparents decided to shape our society. We are innocent until proven otherwise and we have given the judiciary the responsibility of determining the sentence.

For this reason the Criminal Code contains the possibility of imposing conditional sentences for certain offences—that is sentences served in the community—accompanied by very serious supervisory conditions.

Since 2000, we have seen a certain shift, thanks to an increase in right-wing, republican conservatism. Courts are imposing much more severe conditions on people under supervised or conditional release. This is probably a good thing; we are following this trend and the courts are adapting.

Yet this is not enough for the right-wing republican conservatives. They believe that minimum mandatory sentences must be imposed immediately. In the United States, this has had negative results. Knowing that they will receive a lengthy sentence, certain people commit a crime and simply ensure that they have enough money to pay lawyers to get them acquitted. This is what the U.S. is up against. Sentences have not been reduced—quite the contrary—and there are more and more criminals. However, certain law offices are making plenty of money simply to get people acquitted who might otherwise have pleaded guilty if they were likely to receive a conditional sentence, supervised by the community. Perhaps they would have decided not to fight the system.

It is time to stop thinking that judges wake up in the morning, and if they get up on the right side of the bed, decide that everyone who appears before them that day will serve their sentences in the community. That is not how it works. Yet the right-wing republican conservatives seems to be saying that the judiciary's 100 years of history since Confederation and everything decided by the courts are no longer valid. Today, these judges are no longer good enough. In order to be good enough, they would have to be right-wing republican conservatives. This is not what our society wants. This is not what our ancestors wanted. In our society, the accused is innocent until proven guilty. Sentences are determined based on responsibility.

I would like to remind the House of the criteria that exist. Before imposing a conditional sentence, judges must consider four elements.

First, the offender must be convicted of an offence with no minimum sentence. When the Criminal Code specifies a minimum sentence, the judge imposes it. It seems that, more and more, right-wing republican conservatives want to impose minimum sentences for every section of the Criminal Code.

Second, the individual must be given a sentence of less than two years. Even when the individual is charged with an offence which could carry a sentence of ten years or more, if they are given a sentence of less than two years, a conditional sentence to be served in the community may be considered.

Third, the conditional sentence must not pose a danger to the community. The judges analyze, call witnesses and people who may influence the person's behaviour, and experts analyze the behaviour. They then decide whether or not the individual will be released into society.

Fourth, the judge must be convinced that a conditional sentence is in keeping with the general principles of proportionality of the sentence. Jurisprudence has established a certain proportionality, but it is the judge who decides. In our society, we must take this into account. We must stop dictating. We must accept that our judiciary is comprised of competent individuals who have been appointed and who have the requisite training to impose sentences. This is how the courts have operated since Canada came into being.

Bill C-9 will add a new criterion: the offence committed must not be punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of 10 years or more. It does not refer to the sentence handed down to an individual, it refers to an offence for which the term of imprisonment may be ten years or more. They are not necessarily very serious offences. For example, theft over $5,000—such as the theft of a car—is punishable by a sentence of 10 years or more, and so is obtaining credit by fraud. This type of crime is committed often and it should be punished. However, if it is a person's first offence the judge will take that into consideration. Theft from mail also may carry a term of imprisonment of 10 years or more. Offences such as providing a false prospectus, using a false passport, fabricating evidence, are all punishable by a term of imprisonment of 10 years or more. Under Bill C-9, even if the crimes are committed only once by an individual, a conditional sentence served in the community would no longer be a possibility.

To conclude, the Bloc Québécois will vote against this bill.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Liberal

Alan Tonks York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, once again, I listened very carefully, as have other members of the House, to the comments made by the member.

I am greatly impressed with the comparisons with the American justice system and the trends, and what he described as a Conservative-Republican approach to the application of justice. He noted that the number of repeat offenders has gone up in the United as a result of the approach it takes as opposed to the trend of repeat offenders here. I hope I am not being too loose in the application, but I would attribute it to the fact that we have a conditional sentencing regime that has allowed for a great deal of discretion on the part of the courts.

The bill suggests that over 100 offences will now come under the Criminal Code, taking away the capacity for conditional sentencing.

Does the member think this will follow the trend that has occurred in the United States, which is a very serious concern? In fact, the penitentiaries have become the incubators for further offences that are of a very serious nature and repeat offenders find themselves back in the criminal justice system. Does he think this could become a possible trend here as a result of the legislation?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague is absolutely right. Such is not the choice our society made. Our society has chosen to trust the judiciary, which has to consider each case individually.

The problem with wanting to punish and imprison at all cost is that we risk putting criminals who could be rehabilitated behind bars, where they will automatically be associating with more hardened criminals, who in turn will gladly teach them how to commit crimes without landing themselves in jail for it. That is the whole concept we are discussing.

My hon. colleague is absolutely right: we are talking about social trends. One trend in the United States is right-wing Republican conservatism. It is working its way across the border, and I believe that we should resist that trend. Let us show that our society is a more fair and equitable one and that we are better able to facilitate social rehabilitation than Americans are as a society.

I repeat, we must resist this onslaught by the Conservative and Republican right. I think this should be done by voting against Bill C-9.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, there has been some sentiment that judges exercise their discretion around conditional sentences improperly, that their inclination is to be too lenient, that somehow that leniency is built into the system and that it is an automatic inclination of some judges.

Could he comment both on the use of discretion by judges and if he thinks that there is a built in tendency in the system to somehow take serious and violent crimes leniently when it comes to sentencing?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I hope that all members understand that it is absolutely not the case. Judges must respect some criteria. I did enumerate them earlier and I will spare you a repeat of the list.

There is no automatic sentencing. As I said, it is not because a judge wakes up in a good mood one morning that he or she will be lenient and give out conditional sentences. That is not the way things work. Sentences are determined by such criteria as the type of crime and, of course, the individual who committed it.

I suspect that without the right-wing republican conservative movement that we have observed since the beginning of the 21st century, we would still be in a society that wants to give a second chance to people who really deserve it. In fact, that is what a judge does. He or she takes the criteria into consideration and decides if the person found guilty will be given a conditional sentence that will allow that person to be returned to society under supervision. We notice that that supervision has become more rigorous since the beginning of this century. Judges have followed current events and noticed the right wing tendency that exists in Canada. They then realized that supervision had to be enhanced and that has been done.

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Blackstrap
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Lynne Yelich Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development

Mr. Speaker. I wish to rise on a point of order to clarify a remark I made in question period earlier today in response to a question from the member for Hochelaga.

I said, “The regions that have seen significant improvement in their labour market situations since the launch of the previous one are the regions that have been included in this new pilot project”. I neglected to include the word “not” before the word “included” in my response.

For the record, I wish to state that, with respect to the new extended EI benefits pilot project, regions that have seen significant improvement in their labour market situations since the launch of the previous one are the regions that have not been included in this new pilot project.

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

I thank the hon. parliamentary secretary for this point of information.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Timmins--James Bay.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-9, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (conditional sentence of imprisonment), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Criminal Code

1:05 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise and speak to the bill because the issue of protecting our citizens is a fundamental priority of all members of Parliament, regardless of our political stripes. The question is whether or not the legislation that we bring forth will achieve that end. Questions must be asked.

The other question is in terms of trying to come forward with a one size fits all solution and whether that is good social policy in the end. I would say that there definitely has been a trend. We have seen it in our neighbours to the south, where politicians never seem to be defeated if they demonize criminals. I am not ever going to defend criminal activity, but there is this sense of continual demonization and this sense that they are going to get tougher and tougher on them until they have large segments of the U.S. population in jail for incredible lengths of time.

I would like to speak about my own background. When I was much younger, and in another life perhaps, my wife and I dealt with men coming out of prison. They lived in our home. We visited many of the provincial institutions in southern Ontario and had to interview men who were looking for the opportunity to start a new life.

One of those men, and I will mention his name here, Pierre Fontaine, is dead now. He lived with our family for 17 years. He needed someone who was willing to take a chance. His record extended back into the 1950s. It is very difficult in the climate of today to say whether he would even be allowed out, because he was considered a repeat offender.

Mr. Fontaine moved in with our family. He was a grandparent to my children. He was part of every family celebration we had for 17 years. In fact, he died at our home, and our family, our neighbours and our community came together and held a wonderful funeral. It was actually one of the most beautiful funerals I ever attended. In our community he was considered such a true gentleman. People from across the community came out for that funeral and to take part in it.

What I want to say about this is that my experience with criminals, and mostly we dealt with men, is that at the end of the day they were not bad men, but they made, my God, such incredibly stupid choices. If stupidity is a crime, and I guess it is, then these men were all incarcerated for doing very stupid things, mostly to themselves. They ended up with a prison record.

The problem we found, especially in dealing with young men who were facing prison, is that there was a tipping point with them. They had done something stupid in their youth and they were facing going to prison. The problem with them was that if we did not have alternatives, if we did not have choices to offer the judge to give them another opportunity, we were basically putting them into a factory, a foundry, in effect, for hard crime.

We saw those young men come out of juvenile detention and go to the Don Jail. When they came out of that jail they were a much different breed of person to deal with. The recidivism among those young men was appalling. The levels of violence increased dramatically the more people were put back into situations.

I think the whole notion of conditional sentencing was speaking to the need to find alternative ways to get some people out of the criminal system. The question is, has conditional sentencing worked across the board? Perhaps it has not, because one of the original agreements or understandings among lawyers and judges was that it would always be used for non-violent crime. Certainly if we are dealing with threats to persons, threats with guns and any kind of violence, the issue of conditional sentencing should be looked at again by legislators. It is a fair discussion to have take place. Legislation looking at whether or not the system is working is certainly within the purview of Parliament.

Once again, the problem I have with this bill, and I have said this many times, is that legislation is a very blunt instrument. The blunt instrument that we are bringing forward with this legislation will hammer many people. For example, cattle theft has been added to this list. Some of the issues we are dealing with, such as minor property crimes, are being added to take away the power of conditional sentencing. Rather than looking at whether or not violent criminals are getting away with conditional sentencing, we are looking at extending dramatically who will be caught up in this and we are taking away the ability of the courts to look at issues and find alternatives.

The problem with the bill, and again, I think it has to be looked at in terms of good social policy, is that we will see two results. One is that there will be more plea bargaining and more willingness by judges to bring in suspended sentences. Once we have suspended sentences, then we can put on no conditions whatsoever. The other problem will be that many of these offenders will be turned over to the provincial systems.

If we look at the number of conditional sentences today and multiply that by what it costs to maintain a provincial incarceration, we are looking at an additional cost of at least $250 million. We are looking at costs that are being borne by the provinces. I am wondering why it is that we are looking at something here in Parliament that will affect the provinces and will affect the courts, putting more people into provincial institutions who do not need to be there.

If the bill is looking at the issue of violent offences, violence against families and the misuse of conditional sentencing, then certainly it is within the obligations of Parliament to look at that issue. However, are we looking to broaden it dramatically to include, for example, mail theft or break and enter? Let us go back to my own experience in my younger days and look at stupid crimes.

Let us look at break and enter. I know many people who have been involved in break and enter and the last thing we needed to do at the end of the day was to send them away for 10 years. What we needed to do was put them away for a period of time but also give them the opportunity to make amends to the community. We need to make sure these people have counselling and that we get these people back to being productive members of society.

The other big issue is the issue of aboriginal youth who are incarcerated. Canada often looks at its own record and we pat ourselves on the back for our wonderful treatment, but let us look at the failure of the U.S. incarceration system and the issue of race. We see that by far in the United States it is blacks who are continually put before the courts with no conditions. No options are put forth. They are put away. In our own system, we see more and more aboriginal people being put behind bars, and again, for crimes that need to be addressed at a social level. We are not doing any of those aboriginal communities a favour by taking someone out of the community and throwing them away without having any options for the courts or the community to alleviate the problems. So many of these problems are based on social failings within the communities themselves.

We have looked to the aboriginal communities for their own way of doing restorative justice. I think it is a model. Obviously it cannot be used widely across the board, but we have already started to look at the aboriginal restorative justice model for youth offenders in the province of Ontario. We really need to see that it is a system that is grounded in some very strong principles. The principle it is fundamentally grounded in is that at the end of the day the only way we can solve some crimes is to rebuild and to heal a community. That is where the restorative justice system has proven itself.

In terms of where the NDP stands on these issues, it is that on the issues of serious crime and violence we certainly need to take a very strong line, but we do not need to simply throw the net wide open to grab a lot of people who are not nearly in the same league as violent criminals and throw them into a system that is fundamentally run by violence. It does not matter how well an institution is run, all jail systems are run on a principle of predatory violence. As for the effect this has on persons who are incarcerated, when they come out they are a very different class of person from what they were when they went in. I can testify to that from my own personal experience of dealing with men who come out of prison.

The other issue we need to look at is what I referred to earlier. It costs about $51,500 per inmate for provincial incarceration per year. It is $81,000 per federal inmate. My God, do we need to spend all that money on all these people all the time when we have not put the money into proper prevention and into protecting communities?

I point, for example, to the gun registry, where we spent a billion dollars tracking down people in northern Ontario, some of whom are 80 year old senior citizens, to fill out their possession only licences. That money could have been spent on police services, on border patrols and on working in communities to stop the gang violence. In my case, an 82 year old man came before me the other day whose possession only licence had expired.We do not have possession only licences any more and he has to take a safety course because he is somehow a threat to society.

What we do in Parliament has profound implications for all sectors of society. What I would suggest is that we have to be prudent. We have to be careful. We have to--

Criminal Code

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Moncton--Riverview--Dieppe.

Criminal Code

1:15 p.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member's comments tell me that he has first-hand knowledge of the effects of how the Criminal Code is an organic concept and has to grow with the times and the conditions of our community.

It also appears to me that he is right on the money when he says that legislation is a blunt instrument. In this case, this blunt instrument, written on the back of a napkin, with the government attempting to railroad it through the commons, has many gaps, as he so rightly pointed out.

I have a question for the member. Does he agree with me that at committee, or somewhere else, this bill can be fixed by looking at the types of offences and removing those for which conditional sentences, with proper supervision, will work?

As a secondary part of my point, does he think, in his first-hand experience and the experience of his years as an MP, that one of the problems with conditional sentences, which has led to the impression of many on the other side that they do not work, is that the supervisory aspect inherent in conditional sentencing has fallen down because of a lack of resources committed to those supervisors? Frankly, they are swamped.

Criminal Code

1:20 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is one of the main issues we end up having to deal with when someone is returned to society. It does not matter whether it was for stealing shoelaces or stealing cars, or even for violent crimes, at one point they have to be returned to society. What we need at that point are the resources to get them back into society in a safe and functioning way.

The halfway houses and the John Howard Society have played really important roles, but we have seen a shortage of resources. We have seen a shortage of places that will give people a safe environment. I know from my own experience that people could not get out of jail without an address, but they had no place to go. What these people needed when they got out was a time out. If they did not have a time out where they could be in a normal, functioning environment, they immediately would end up back on the street. Once they are on the street, they will inevitably return to crime. The lack of support in terms of dealing with people who are in transition back into the community has been a real issue.

As for the other point the hon. member raised about committee, definitely, a bill like this is very important. We need to go through it very carefully, not to stall but to make sure that we are doing the due diligence so that at the end of the day we are coming forward with legislation that works, that responds to people's needs, and that takes what we are trying to do at a parliamentary level and provides lawmakers and communities with the resources so they can actually deal with the issue of crime.

Criminal Code

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have a final and quite direct question for the member of the NDP. When the Liberals brought in the conditional sentencing bill some years ago, there was a provision in there, despite calls from the opposition for there not to be, that people who committed violent crimes would have an opportunity to receive conditional sentences. Despite the assurance that it would not happen, we have seen a multitude of instances where violent crime offenders, when convicted, received conditional sentences.

I want to ask the member this directly. Does he believe that people who commit violent crimes as we know them, such as sexual assault and armed robbery, violent crimes of that sort, should be eligible to receive conditional sentencing? If not, will he support this bill?

Criminal Code

1:20 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I fully agree with the hon. member. The problem is that we are not dealing with that bill today. We are not dealing with a bill dealing with the need to ensure that people who are committing violent crimes are not getting conditional sentencing. We are dealing with a much larger omnibus bill that is dragging in a whole lot of other people.

If the member's government was willing to carve that out, to look at this legislation and come back to Parliament with that legislation very clearly defined, I am sure he would find strong support across the House of Commons. The other option would be--

Criminal Code

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

Resuming debate, the hon. member for Don Valley West.

Criminal Code

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

John Godfrey Don Valley West, ON

Mr. Speaker, the point that I would like to bring to the debate is that while this is a remarkably short bill, the implications of it are quite remarkable.

What I find particularly interesting is we are talking about a bill that says it is not possible to have a conditional sentence if the penalty is 10 years or more, but then when we actually go to the list of possible crimes and misdemeanours which would be worth 10 years or more, it is quite astonishing.

For example, one can be sentenced to 14 years for intimidating Parliament. Whether that might demand a conditional sentence under some conditions, I cannot say. Forging a passport or using a forged passport has a penalty of 14 years. With respect to communicating false information, I would think there has to be some more detail about this one because the penalty could be life imprisonment. I would think there might be some conditions where a conditional sentence would be more appropriate. Contradictory evidence with an intent to mislead is worth 14 years. Perjury is worth 14 years. Fabricating evidence is worth 14 years.

Do we think under all of those conditions there might not be a situation in which a conditional sentence would be more appropriate?

Theft over $5,000 is worth 10 years. A public servant who refuses to deliver property could get 14 years. Cattle theft is included. One has the sense of the majesty and history of the Criminal Code with this roll call of fascinating things. Destroying documents of title is worth 10 years, but could someone not be given a conditional sentence for that? What about the unauthorized use of a computer? I would bet there has been a little bit of that around here. How long is that? Ten years.

Disguise with intent is another one. That happens in the political world all the time. It is worth 10 years.

Criminal Code

1:20 p.m.

An hon. member

Disguised as a Liberal.

Criminal Code

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

John Godfrey Don Valley West, ON

That is right. Disguised as decent kind of Liberal people. Disguised with intent. Looks like Hallowe'en is in some difficulty.

If we were simply to go with the bill as it is, a lot of us would ask, what about specific cases in this long list that includes things that have changed and evolved over time? Would it not be more appropriate for us to send the bill to committee, which this side is willing to do, to examine in detail the effects that this surprisingly deceptively short bill has, to make sure that we are not inadvertently doing something quite foolish? It seems to me that is the task of Parliament and that is indeed the task of parliamentary committees.

The whole concept of conditional sentencing itself is rather sophisticated. It has been developed as part of the tool kit of restorative justice. It is basically a good idea to have it. We want to make sure in simply passing the bill that we do not undo the good things that come from conditional sentencing. That would be a very important reason for us not to support the bill in its present form because of these questions, and for us to have a proper sorting out at second reading of all of the implications so that we will not be in a worse situation than we are. We are not denying that in some cases this might make sense, but let us go through all the cases where it might apply.

There is another question that arises out of our examination of Bill C-2. It is the whole question of whether this has been certified as constitutional. We have gone through a certain amount of ambiguity, where certain legal officers in the context of Bill C-2 have said they do not think that bill satisfies the constitutionality test. We heard from the Attorney General in the case of Bill C-2 that it does, but when there is that kind of ambiguity it seems to me that it raises flags about all the legislation that comes before us.

What we ought to do is make absolutely certain that this bill has had that kind of certification from the Attorney General so that we find ourselves in a position of clarity.

This is one of the reasons that we need to give greater examination to the detail, because the detail is not in the bill itself; it is in all that is implied, the whole philosophical background behind conditional sentencing. We know that if we do not get it right, we will undo all of the good work, the advances in thinking on this that have occurred.

I would ask the government to work with us in a cooperative--

Criminal Code

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

I have been signalling to the member about his time.

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

Kelowna Accord Implementation Act
Private Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Martin LaSalle—Émard, QC

moved that Bill C-292, An Act to implement the Kelowna Accord, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, on too many reserves and in too many cities there is an unacceptable gap between what ought to be the hopeful promise of youth and the experience of aboriginal adulthood, a gap made even more unacceptable by the fact that aboriginal Canadians represent the largest segment of our youth and the fastest growing segment of our population.

We face a moral imperative. In a country as wealthy as ours, a country that is the envy of the world, good health and good education should be givens. They are the pillars underpinning equality of opportunity, which in turn is the foundation on which our society is built.

I rise today because the descendants of the people who first occupied this land deserve to have an equal opportunity to work for and to enjoy the benefits of our collective prosperity. Today the majority do not because of gaps in education and skills, in health care and housing, and because of limited opportunities for employment. Put simply, these gaps between aboriginal Canadians and other Canadians are not acceptable in the 21st century. They never were acceptable.

Last fall the Government of Canada came to an extraordinary agreement with an extraordinary group of people. These included the leadership of the Assembly of First Nations, the Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, the Métis National Council, the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples, the Native Women's Association of Canada and the first ministers of Canada's provinces and territories.

Together we developed a plan to narrow and eventually eliminate the gaps that afflict aboriginal Canadians. It became known as the Kelowna accord.

The history of aboriginal communities is heart-rending. For a year and a half, we worked to establish objectives in order to make progress in five crucial areas: education, health, housing, drinking water and economic development. Our goal was to make a real difference, to do everything in our power to change what is a harsh reality for many of our fellow citizens through investments that would bring about real change in the daily lives of aboriginal peoples.

We began by studying the gap in education. Giving young people the chance to reach their potential is essential to all of the other initiatives we set out. This means building schools and training teachers. This means ensuring that students complete their studies. This means making all types of post-secondary education available to young people. This means encouraging them to get professional training so they can get better jobs. We must ensure they have the means to succeed at all of these pursuits.

This is why the government committed to establishing a network of first nations school systems run by aboriginals in cooperation with the provinces, which are responsible for education. Our plan also included making aboriginal, Inuit or Métis culture an integral part of the curriculum in certain urban public schools.

The number of major economic projects underway in the north is staggering. Employment opportunities are abundant, and the number of well-paid jobs is remarkable. Aboriginal people will really be able to benefit from this, but only if training starts now.

This is why we committed to working with our public and private sector partners to create the apprenticeship training programs Canadian aboriginals need to get good jobs. The goal of the Kelowna accord is to close the gap between aboriginals and non-aboriginals within 10 years. The accord will ensure that the aboriginal population has the same proportion of high school graduates as the non-aboriginal population, and it will halve the post-secondary studies gap. That is just the beginning.

In terms of health care, the gaps that persist between aboriginal health and the health of most Canadians are simply unconscionable. The incidence of infant mortality is almost 20% higher for first nations than for the rest of Canada. Suicide can be anywhere from three times to eleven times more common. Teen pregnancies are nine times the national average. It is evident that these heartbreaking statistics and facts speak not just to health care. They speak to the psychic and emotional turmoil in communities, which we must find ways urgently to address.

We started this effort two years ago when aboriginal leaders participated in the first ministers meeting on health care. There we recognized the need for a new health framework and we began work on an unprecedented document, the aboriginal health blueprint, a comprehensive plan for the delivery of reliable health care in every province and territory on and off reserve.

We aimed to double the number of aboriginal health professionals in 10 years from 150 physicians and 1,200 nurses today. We aimed to focus on core measures of health, which we can monitor and improve upon in each community. We set goals to reduce the gaps in key areas, such as infant mortality, youth suicide, childhood obesity and diabetes.

This is only a start. No one will be satisfied until these gaps are closed completely.

We addressed the issue of clean water and housing. Housing is about more than having a roof over one's head. It is about dignity. It is about pride of place. It is about having a stake in the community and an investment in the future. We recognize the need to reduce these gaps significantly with a comprehensive effort to expand the skills of first nations, Inuit and Métis to manage their land, infrastructure and financing. It is estimated, by implementing the Kelowna accord, that we could realistically close the housing gap on reserve by 40% within 5 years and by 80% within 10 years.

The Kelowna accord is a comprehensive 10 year plan to achieve a clear set of goals and targets. We provided $5.1 billion for the first five years. Let me be very clear. The funds were fully provided for in the fiscal framework. The government has the money. It is a fiscal framework, incidentally, which has, since that time, produced a surplus substantially larger than was originally projected. We made it clear that for the second five years of the program, enhanced resources based on the success obtained would be provided.

It is a measurable plan, with targets to be attained and evaluated every two to three years, giving Canadians the ability to hold everyone who is involved accountable. It was developed through a non-partisan, collaborative approach in concert with the aboriginal leadership. All political parties and government across the country, Liberal, Conservative and NDP, were at the table. The Government of Canada, on behalf of the people of Canada, gave its solemn word that we would work to achieve these goals.

Aboriginal Canadians, provinces and territories have made it clear that they want to see a commitment from the new government to honour the Kelowna accord. Despite this, five months later, after inheriting a very healthy balance sheet, one much better than it had anticipated, the new government refuses to say whether it will support the nation's commitment to these goals and objectives. Its budget did not confirm the funds necessary to attain those goals.

Wherein lies the problem? Is it that the government disagrees with the goals that are set out in the accord? Is it that it does not want to work with the provinces, territories and the aboriginal leadership, all of whom share these goals?

On the other hand, the government agrees with the objectives that are laid out in the accord. Why will it not take advantage of a plan that was developed over 18 months by experts in 14 governments across Canada and in our aboriginal communities?

Let us be honest, we have consulted long enough. We have studied enough. The time has come for the government to act. Why will the government not recognize that, because of its lack of commitment, it has already wasted precious months, precious months in which critical progress could have been made toward the attaining of our interim targets?

The goals and objectives of the Kelowna agreement will not go away. This was never a partisan issue. The premier of British Columbia, speaking recently in his legislature, said the following:

I characterized that agreement as Canada's 'moment of truth.' It was our time to do something that has eluded our nation for 138 years. It was our chance to end the disparities in health, education, housing and economic opportunity. All first ministers rose to that moment of truth alongside Canada's aboriginal leaders to undertake that challenge....

Similarly, this week during their meeting in Gimli, western premiers said the following:

Having previously made an extraordinary national commitment, failure to follow through on that commitment will only make us poorer as a nation.

That is the premiers talking about a commitment.

The premier of Manitoba, who chaired that meeting, added that it would be morally wrong to walk away from the accord.

It is because of this that I have taken the unfortunate necessary step of introducing the bill entitled an act to implement the Kelowna accord. I do so with only one goal in mind, and that is to provide the government and the House with the opportunity to reaffirm what was, by all accounts, a historic agreement for Canada, for Canadians.

The bill is about confirming national commitment lest it be lost. It is also about another potential loss, the loss of the goodwill and the optimism that characterized the Kelowna meeting, the positive spirit, which played a huge role in helping us reach an agreement. All of us at that meeting left imbued with a new sense of hope for the future. That hope was underpinned by an expectation that all the parties to the agreement would live up to their commitment.

Unfortunately, for aboriginal Canadians, new hope has been replaced by doubt. Goodwill has been displaced by worry as the government engages in red herring after red herring. Too many aboriginal Canadians today endured crushing poverty in one of the world's most prosperous countries. That is why I chose, as a new prime minister, to make it a central issue for my government.

The new government is responsible for making a clear commitment to aboriginal peoples. It must respect the promises made and honour the Kelowna accord.

We need a clear commitment, not just in words but in action. We need a clear commitment to meet the challenges facing our aboriginal people by living up to the Kelowna accord.

I ask the government and the ministers here present to rise above partisanship. I ask them and all members of the House, for the sake of our aboriginal people and the future of our great country, to support the bill.

Kelowna Accord Implementation Act
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Winnipeg South
Manitoba

Conservative

Rod Bruinooge Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, in the right hon. member's speech, he referenced the Kelowna accord quite often. As an aboriginal Canadian, would he explain to me where is the accord, where are the signatures on the accord, as he has described it, and why was it not brought before the House?

Kelowna Accord Implementation Act
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Martin LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have a copy of the accord here. I understand it was tabled in the House yesterday. I understand when the minister tabled it, he said that it was on the government's website. In fact, he said that he found it also in the Library of Parliament. The accord can be found in a number places. It can be found in the minister's own file. There is no doubt about the accord.

Anybody who was there, and indeed the minister was there himself, saw not only the Prime Minister of Canada, but every one of the provincial and territorial first ministers stand and endorse the accord as did all the aboriginal leadership. It was televised and visible to 32 million Canadians. There is no doubt about the degree of depth of support for this accord and its reality.

I do not understand how the hon. member can stand and ask “where is the accord?” as if it never happened. It is a fact of history.

When the premier of British Columbia, when the western premiers and when the premier of Manitoba stand and say “You cannot walk away from an accord”, what are they saying we cannot walk away from? They are saying we cannot walk away from a commitment of the Government of Canada to the aboriginal people of our country.

Kelowna Accord Implementation Act
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great interest to my hon. colleague's statement about commitments from the Government of Canada.

I worked for the people of the Algonquins of Barriere Lake. I remember the 1998 agreement signed by the federal government to rebuild that community and how the federal government walked away from that agreement right after.

I remember being with nearly 200 people from Barriere who came to meet the Indian affairs minister, and he refused. The people of that community sat out in the rain in October for two weeks. One day 160 elders and children came to Parliament Hill. They said that they had a simple request. They wanted to see the Indian affairs minister. I remember the RCMP coming out to tell Grand Chief Carol McBride that the Indian affairs minister had said, “Send the RCMP to deal with these people”. They were sick. They had been in the rain for two weeks. That agreement was never honoured by the Government of Canada.

I find it hard to hear him now talk about commitments. Nothing was done for the people of Barriere Lake and the people of Attawapiskat, who were promised a new school by the former Indian affairs minister six years ago. He walked away. I guess I am a little stunned at some of the language I have heard from him.

Kelowna Accord Implementation Act
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Martin LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very proud of what the Liberal Government of Canada did. I am very proud of the $350 million healing fund. I am very proud that it was a Liberal government that signed the residential schools agreement, recognizing the compensation from those schools.

As the premier of British Columbia has said, we go back 138 years of broken promises. I believe it is now incumbent upon us to take advantage of the Kelowna accord, which is a historic agreement that recognizes that all governments came to the table wishing that they had done more, going back to the earliest beginnings of Confederation.

What I also find hard to understand is that a member of the NDP would stand in the House, when the government is refusing to commit to the Kelowna accord, and not endorse the position taken by the NDP premier of Saskatchewan and the NDP premier of Manitoba when they say this accord should go forward. Where is the federal NDP?

Kelowna Accord Implementation Act
Private Members' Business

1:50 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to the right hon. member's comments. He indicated that money was in place in the fiscal framework. When was a money bill brought forward to Parliament for it to deal with the so-called Kelowna accord?

Kelowna Accord Implementation Act
Private Members' Business

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Paul Martin LaSalle—Émard, QC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member knows full well it was after the Kelowna accord that the government was brought down. However, the hon. member also ought to know that in the fiscal update produced by the minister of finance at the time, he indicated that the Kelowna accord was in the process of being discussed and that the money would be provided.

There is a source and uses of funds prepared by the government, which is an internal government document, in which the commitments are made. The commitment is there. If that commitment is not there, it is not because it was not made by the previous minister of finance and the previous prime minister, but because it was withdrawn by the new government.

Kelowna Accord Implementation Act
Private Members' Business

1:50 p.m.

Calgary Centre-North
Alberta

Conservative

Jim Prentice Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development and Federal Interlocutor for Métis and Non-Status Indians

Mr. Speaker, my right hon. friend, the former prime minister of the country, and I both share a commitment to improving the lives of aboriginal Canadians. I certainly do not question his bona fides in that sense and, I assume, as a gentleman, that he does not question mine.

Long before I was elected I worked on land claims. I have spent a significant part of my life working in the aid of aboriginal Canadians. I have seen aboriginal poverty firsthand, both on reserves and in urban centres, which is why I truly believe that one of Canada's greatest challenges is the issue of aboriginal poverty. In that sense, he and I are of common ground.

Where we differ is how we should go about making a difference in the lives of aboriginal Canadians. Aboriginal poverty is deep rooted. It is a complex issue. I say, with all due respect, that I do not think anyone can table a single page at the close of a first ministers' meeting as a compilation of numbers, issue a press release and believe aboriginal poverty has been solved.

The problems in this country are much deeper than that. They require a long term commitment, structural reform and renovation in consultation with first nations. Unless that is done, we will not succeed in the eradication of aboriginal poverty.

I support the principles and the targets that were discussed at Kelowna in the course of that first ministers' meeting. I also acknowledge the efforts that were undertaken to draw together the premiers and the aboriginal leaders. However, the issue is where to go from there.

I was in Kelowna that fall and the dialogue, to be sure, was useful and inspiring in some ways, but the results at the end were unclear. The conference did not conclude with a signed document by the participants entitled “The Kelowna Accord”. I talked to many of the premiers at the close of the conference and to all the aboriginal leaders who were present at the table. I asked them about the page that was tabled at the close of the meeting by the prime minister. There was no consensus with respect to those figures. There was no commonality as to how money would be spent, how it would be distributed among the provinces and the territories or how it would be divided among the aboriginal organizations that were present. It did not happen. I was there. I did the due diligence to ensure that those were the facts at the time.

My friend says today that the money was put forward in a press release. We should make it clear for Canadians that we are not talking about an accord signed by the premiers and the territorial leaders. In fact, there was specific disagreement between the province of Quebec as I understand it and the other participants with respect to the health aspects of the accord, which was one of the reasons that no document was produced.

The Kelowna accord also did not reflect any sort of process that involved all of Canada. The province of Quebec, as represented by the Assembly of First Nations' regional chief for Quebec and Labrador, Ghislain Picard, did not participate in the process and did not take part in Kelowna. It does not reflect a Canadian consensus.

My friend referred quite specifically to Mr. Doer and stated that Mr. Doer had referred to the morality of the current government. Mr. Doer is an NDP premier of another province and hardly one who would be proselytizing for the Conservative cause. I would like the House and Canadians to know precisely what he said because his comments about morality were a scathing criticism of the former government. He said the following:

--the former government did not contain the so-called Kelowna money. We don't want to be unfair to the [Prime Minister's] government because the former government did not put the Kelowna money in the fiscal framework as every journal--the journals here know. And they did not flow the money from 2004. So we're dealing with a promise in 2004. We're dealing with a promise in 2006. And I would argue if we don't proceed with the principles of Kelowna we're dealing with broken promises again....

He carried on to make his comment about the morality of the situation.

In terms of Mr. Doer's comments, that is what happened at the premiers conference. When we speak of the Kelowna process, we should put the facts in context.

Our discussion today is about more than the right way to go about the financial aspects of this matter. It is about asking the important questions of what the next steps are beyond Kelowna, beyond that first ministers meeting and beyond the process that did engage the provinces, the federal government and aboriginal leaders.

The most fundamental flaw in the bill before us today is that it does not change in any way the legislative framework that governs the relationship between Canada and first nations peoples. We must address the root causes of aboriginal poverty and we must understand the history if we are to correct those problems.

First nations in this country live under one of the country's most outdated laws, the Indian Act. The Indian Act is a compilation of pre-Confederation statutes. It is an act that requires significant change. It is a legal framework that must be updated by the federal government, working in consultation with first nations, if there is to be a future with aboriginal Canadians operating inside a legislative framework that is modern, aspiring and works in the 21st century.

In 13 years, the previous government did not replace the Indian Act with a modern legislative framework. That is the most important next step and that is what I have spoken to, as the minister, with aboriginal leaders in this country, about a process that would take us down that road, about creating a modern legislative framework that goes beyond the Indian Act and takes the first peoples into the 21st century on a position of parity with other Canadians.

Structural change is required. It is not simply a question of tabling a press release at the close of a conference and offering $5.1 billion over the course of five years. It is a deeper problem and it requires structural change.

We must set priorities that come with achievable goals and clear benchmarks. I see some clear priorities as we move forward, which I have spoken with aboriginal leaders about: better support for aboriginal women; addressing the issue of matrimonial property rights, an issue that the previous government did not address, even though committees of both the Senate and the House of Commons called upon the Government of Canada to address the circumstances of aboriginal women; education, child and welfare reforms in concert with the provinces and aboriginal organizations; clarified accountabilities; and, as was suggested at Kelowna, market based approaches to deal with housing issues.

I am talking about priorities because this government is taking a business like approach to these matters. We set priorities. We budget for them. We act upon them. We find the money before we make the promises. We do not intend to govern this country through the issuance of press releases. We set clear goals and then we deliver.

Another illustration of that was yesterday in this House when I expressed my disappointment upon learning that my predecessor made an ad hoc commitment in the context of the community of Kashechewan but failed to include the costs of those commitments in the government's long term finance plan.

Let me be clear. This government will find a lasting solution for the people of Kashechewan. We will work with the community to do so and we will do it right away. I have spoken with my hon. colleague from another party on this issue, but the solution is one that must be clearly supported, not only with a rational basis on which to proceed so that the community is not repeatedly flooded, but also in consultation with the community.

That, together with other initiatives that we have taken, shows the way forward that this government will follow in dealing with the post-Kelowna era. We will do so in full consultation and full collaboration with the premiers, the territorial leaders and aboriginal Canadians.

Kelowna Accord Implementation Act
Private Members' Business

2 p.m.

Bloc

Mario Laframboise Argenteuil—Papineau—Mirabel, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak to Bill C-292, the Kelowna Accord Implementation Act.

First, I want to inform the House that the Bloc Québécois is in favour of this bill. The Bloc Québécois believes that the government must respect the accord that was reached on November 25, 2005 with the aboriginal people at the first ministers' conference.

In support of the accord, Monday, May 8, 2006, our member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue and critic for aboriginal affairs, tabled on behalf of the Bloc Québécois a motion to the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development recommending the implementation of the Kelowna Accord reached by representatives of Ottawa, Quebec, the provinces and national aboriginal leaders.

The tabling of this motion and Bill C-292, which we are debating today, remind us that, once again, the federal government did not respect its commitments and did not take its responsibilities toward the aboriginal people.

Here is the text of the motion that was tabled and that the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development has adopted:

That, pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), the Committee recommends that government to implement the Kelowna agreement, entitled Strengthening Relationships and Closing the Gap, which was reached on November 25, 2005 between the First Ministers and the National Aboriginal Leaders.

That the Committee adopt these recommendations as a report to the House and that the Chair present this report to the House.

Let us make not be mistaken: the Kelowna accord is only a temporary measure that will not improve in the long run the living conditions of native people. The accord is only a token solution to the growing gap between the quality of life of aboriginal peoples and that of other Quebeckers and Canadians.

Put into numbers, the accord represents--or did represent should I say--$5.1 billion over five years for education, health, housing and economic opportunities for aboriginal peoples. If we consider that those funds are to be divided among federal, Quebec, provincial and territorial governments before reaching first nations, Inuit and Métis, we realize that that is very little to really reduce the gap.

The needs of Quebec's first nations are tremendous, particularly in housing. The immediate needs represent $700 million for the 7,000 missing housing units, to which we must add hundreds more units every year.

As we know, this housing deficit has extremely severe human and social consequences. Some health problems are intimately linked to the housing shortage. It is urgent to stop the increase in the number of cases of poisoning, infection, tuberculosis, and so on. The presence of cases of diabetes, fetal alcohol syndrome et suicide is also a source of concern.

Suicide is a serious problem. Even though rates vary considerably from one community to the next, they are globally too high. The suicide rates of first nations youth are 5 to 7 times higher than among non-aboriginal youth. The suicide rates of Inuit youth are among the highest in the world, 11 times higher than the Canadian average. Thus, it is urgent to invest time and resources.

As far as education is concerned, if the government finally decided to tackle the problem, 27 or 28 years would be needed to close the gap with other Quebeckers and Canadians, according to the 2004 Auditor General's report.That is an understatement. The repeated reports of the Auditor General, as well as the observations from the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples and, more recently, the latest report from the United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights on the living conditions of the aboriginal people of Canada, are alarming.

Many recommendations supported by aboriginals, Quebeckers and Canadians have been presented to Ottawa and have fallen on deaf ears.

On the eve of the premiers' conference, the Bloc Québécois publicly supported the common position held by the Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador and Femmes autochtones du Québec, who rejected the government's initiative. The Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador and Femmes autochtones du Québec deplored the fact that this approach to narrowing the gap between the living conditions of first nations people and those of Quebeckers and Canadians did not address the real causes behind the first nations' situation, which are the lack of fair access to land and resources and respect for their rights.

The Assembly of First Nations of Quebec and Labrador and Femmes autochtones du Québec also deplored the fact that the objective of the Kelowna agreement, through its blanket treatment of all aboriginals and lack of consultation with the communities to identify the real challenges, would maintain the cycle of dependence of the first nations.

The Bloc Québécois feels that concrete solutions are needed that are adapted to the reality of the various aboriginal nations to correct at the foundation the inequalities that affect their communities.

In addition, these measures must come out of discussions with the nations, because money alone will not solve the problem. On the contrary, it perpetuates the paternalistic approach of the federal government toward aboriginals.

Let us talk about the Conservative handling of the aboriginal issue. Now we know, here in this House, that the federal government has an obligation to meet the great needs of the aboriginal people, among other things those related to housing, infrastructure, education and health care. The Bloc Québécois continues to make sure that Ottawa does not shirk its obligations as a trustee. The federal government should assume its responsibilities as long as all aboriginal nations do not have the tools for self-government.

The first indications of the Conservative government's handling of the aboriginal issue are not very reassuring. For example, the initiative for a protocol for safe drinking water for first nations communities is commendable in and of itself. However, when the initiative sets aside communities with the greatest needs, those that still do not have a drinking water system and are still, today—believe or not—hauling their water in buckets, there is cause for concern.

This same protocol explains the following:

First nations are responsible for the construction, design, operation and maintenance of their water systems. INAC provides funding to First Nations for these activities, subject to the appropriate technical review and funding approval process.

With this new initiative, the Conservative government is telling communities not only that no new money is being committed to implement the protocol, but that the communities in the greatest need could have their funding withdrawn if they fail to obtain departmental approval. This is unacceptable.

The first budget is another indicator of the “new approach”, to use the words of the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.

Aboriginal communities have critical socio-economic problems. In some cases, the situation is intolerable, and the Bloc Québécois does not believe that $450 million over two years, as announced in the budget, will be enough to properly address the problems.

Also, in its budget, the new government is giving considerable prominence to the accountability of communities in managing the funding they are given. It is important to emphasize that aboriginal peoples wholeheartedly support the principle of accountability. The same principle should also apply to the Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development to make sure that it accounts not only to its minister, but also to the community it serves.

In its quest for a so-called new approach to improving the handling of the aboriginal issue, the Conservative government should start by going over the findings of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples. We will recall that this royal commission was initiated under a Conservative government, at a cost of $58 million—and this at the expense of taxpayers in Quebec and Canada—and that its findings have been all but forgotten since the report was published.

The Bloc Québécois supports Bill C-292, the Kelowna Accord Implementation Act.

The commitments made by the federal government in Kelowna mark a first step toward bridging the gap between aboriginal nations and Quebeckers and Canadians. The Bloc Québécois believes, however, that the root causes of existing disparities have yet to be addressed.

Aboriginal people must have all the tools to develop their own identity, namely the right to self-government and the recognition of their rights.

The Bloc Québécois wants the money promised at the Kelowna conference to be delivered.

For the future of relations between the government and the aboriginal people, we are in favour of a more comprehensive approach that responds to the aspirations of the aboriginal people and fosters the settlement of agreements from nation to nation.

I want to remind the House that we totally support the concept of the right to self-government for aboriginal peoples.

More generally, we are concerned with the self-government claims of aboriginal peoples. We recognize them as a distinct people having a right to their own cultures, languages, customs and traditions, as well as the right to develop their own identity.

In concluding, I want to remind the House that the Bloc Québécois has endorsed most of the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples and of the Erasmus-Dussault report. The commission outlined an approach of self-government based on the recognition of aboriginal governments as a level of government having jurisdiction over issues related to good governance and the well-being of their people. Moreover, the report was based on a recognition of the aboriginal peoples as self-governing nations having a unique place in Canada.

Thus, the aboriginal people will be able to rely on the support of the Bloc Québécois members.

Kelowna Accord Implementation Act
Private Members' Business

2:10 p.m.

NDP

Bill Siksay Burnaby—Douglas, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate this afternoon on behalf of the New Democratic Party.

I want to begin by acknowledging that my constituency of Burnaby—Douglas is in the traditional territory of the Coast Salish people. I want to state from the outset that the NDP supports Bill C-292. I want to thank the right hon. member for LaSalle—Émard for bringing the bill forward.

I also want to say that I hope he does not confuse our concern about the failure of Canada to acknowledge its signature on other agreements with our hope that the Kelowna accord is acknowledged and followed up on, and that it is acknowledged by the House and the current government.

We acknowledge the importance of the Kelowna accord and we want to see those provisions go forward. This is an agreement made between the five national aboriginal organizations, the Assembly of First Nations, the Métis National Council, the Inuit Tapirit Kanatami, the Native Women's Association of Canada, the Congress of Aboriginal Peoples and the first ministers of the provinces, territories and Canada.

The accord represented progress in key areas: health, life long learning, housing, economic opportunity, negotiations and accountability for results.

We want to acknowledge and recognize that there were long negotiations and discussions that preceded it, particularly since the Aboriginal Peoples Roundtable in April 2004.

We also want to acknowledge that it is not a perfect agreement. It was clear that more consultation was needed, for instance, with national and regional aboriginal organizations; organizations such as the Council of Yukon First Nations whose self-government agreements make them unique for first nations south of 60.

The Kelowna accord's main intention was to address the gap in the standard of living between first nations, Métis and Inuit people, and the rest of Canadians. The intent was to close that gap. I think that is an important objective that Canadians support overwhelmingly.

We had been making progress in that regard up to 1996. Unfortunately, that year the Liberal government chose to cap increases for Indian and Northern Affairs Canada core programs at 2%. That capped spending on key programs in education, roads, social services and drinking water. The Auditor General has pointed out that there was a key problem with the 2% cap. In the period since 1996, spending has increased by only 1.6%, while the population has increased by 11%.

That in itself represents a significant shortfall. As the Assembly of First Nations points out, most Canadians receive services from differing levels of government: municipal, provincial or territorial and federal.

First nations people, however, living on reserve, only receive funding for federal government services. This makes for a huge difference. Most Canadians receive government services at a rate two and a half times that of on reserve first nations residents.

Specifically, for every dollar spent on reserve for health care, $1.60 is spent on average Canadians for health care. For every dollar spent on housing on reserve, governments in Canada spend $5.60 for other Canadians. For every dollar spent on the education of first nations children, other Canadian children have $2.10 spent on their futures. Clearly, that situation is not tolerable.

What is worse, because of the fact that many reserves are in remote or northern areas, the cost of delivering successful programs is even greater. Just the cost of providing materials is substantially greater, and then there are the special social costs that first nations communities face, the costs of a very young population, the costs of dealing with the legacy of residential schools and attempts at assimilation, and the costs of poverty, displacement and disenfranchisement.

I wish to draw attention to another particularly regional aspect of this. In British Columbia the Kelowna accord also meant the signing of a specific regional agreement. I want to emphasize that this is a signed agreement, signed by the right hon. member for LaSalle—Émard as the Prime Minister on behalf of Canada, signed by the premier of British Columbia, and signed by the representatives of the first nations of British Columbia. It is called the B.C. transformative change accord.

The folks who signed it on behalf of the first nations in British Columbia were: Regional Chief Shawn Atleo, representing the B.C. Assembly of First Nations; Grand Chief Edward John, Grand Chief Doug Kelly and Grand Chief Dave Porter on behalf of the First Nations Summit; and Chief Stewart Phillip, Chief Robert Shintah and Chief Mike Retasket on behalf of the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs.

This is no press release. This is a signed accord, the transformative change accord between the Government of British Columbia, the Government of Canada and the leadership council representing the first nations of British Columbia. The transformative change accord dealt specifically with how the Kelowna accord was to be implemented in B.C. and established goals for closing the socio-economic gaps over a specific period of 10 years.

I and our NDP aboriginal affairs critic, the member for Nanaimo—Cowichan and the member for Vancouver Island North, recently met with B.C. first nations leadership council. They include the executive of the first nations summit, the Union of B.C. Indian Chiefs, and the B.C. Assembly of First Nations. They represent 203 first nations in British Columbia and about one-third of the first nations in Canada.

It was clear from that meeting how crucial the B.C. transformative change accord was to the future of our province and to the first nations and not any less to the future of Canada.

As further evidence of the importance of this signed accord, the B.C. legislature recently unanimously called upon the federal government to live up to the financial commitments made in the Kelowna accord. It is crucial to the development and the future of British Columbia and to first nations. It is crucial to the development of treaties, to the social development of B.C. and to first nations and to our economic stability and development.

The accord mentions achievable goals. The minister said earlier that he wanted to see achievable goals and clear benchmarks. The transformative change accord does state achievable goals and does point out clear indicators of clear benchmarks.

We cannot step away from the important steps forward represented by the Kelowna accord. We cannot ignore the fact that it represents a way forward. We cannot say, just because we were not the ones responsible for negotiating it, that we will not honour it. Where is Canada's credibility in that situation?

We cannot say that it was just a pre-election gimmick. As much as we would have liked the former government to have acted sooner, to have implemented different policies during its long period in power, to have not capped spending on programs in first nations communities, we cannot ignore the achievement that it represents and the hope and the guidelines for the future that it puts forward.

The Conservative government might have had a leg to stand on if it had another plan, if it had a better plan and if it had a plan that had the support of first nations. However, it does not and there is not one on the horizon. We cannot say that two wrongs make a right. Maybe the former government did not take the initiatives that were necessary, but the current government is not taking the initiatives that are necessary either. Two wrongs do not make a right.

The agreement must be recognized and implemented. In particular the signed agreement between Canada, B.C. and the first nations of British Columbia must be honoured and pursued.

Kelowna Accord Implementation Act
Private Members' Business

2:15 p.m.

Liberal

Ken Dryden York Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, while I am honoured to stand and support this private member's bill, I do so with deep regret, regret that the government has not deemed that the health and well-being of aboriginal Canadians is a priority, regret that it was necessary that the hon. member for LaSalle—Émard needed to introduce a private member's bill about the accord as opposed to the government honouring it on its own.

The world over, people point to Canada as an example of what they want their country to be, a country of inclusiveness, a country of tolerance, a country of people working together for the greater good. We are proud of our image, but in order for this image to be real, we have an issue that needs to be resolved.

The issue is the health and well-being of aboriginal peoples from sea to sea to sea. Last year, the government of Canada introduced a plan to eliminate the gap that exists between the aboriginal peoples and other Canadians.

That agreement was the Kelowna accord, the landmark Kelowna accord, agreed to by the Government of Canada, the premiers of all the provinces and territories and the aboriginal leadership. It was the culmination of 18 months of cooperation and collaboration, of trust and hope, of people putting aside the skepticism and cynicism of decades to try again, to believe again. It was a ground up, fully consultative approach.

The national aboriginal organizations were all at the table helping develop the policy and the targets that would see the gap between Canada's aboriginal and non-aboriginal people eliminated. The Assembly of First Nations was at the table. The Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami was at the table. The Métis National Council was at the table. The Congress of Aboriginal Peoples was at the table. The Native Women's Association of Canada was at the table. It was a historic moment. It was the beginning of a new day for Canada's aboriginal people.

Everything to which Canadians are entitled— housing, health care, economic opportunities and education—had been studied and reviewed. Facts were presented and goals were set. That was supposed to be a new beginning.

The fact that aboriginal Canadians are three times more likely to have type 2 diabetes, no longer would that be met with a shrug. A plan was put in place to reduce that number.

The fact that 20% fewer aboriginal people complete a post-secondary degree than non-aboriginals, no longer would that be met with apathy. A plan was put in place to increase the number of aboriginal post-secondary education graduates.

The fact that the unemployment rate among aboriginals is 12% higher than among non-aboriginals, no longer would that be treated as an afterthought. A plan was put in place to increase aboriginal employment levels.

It was the beginning of a new day. Then that new day was interrupted by a change of government. At first not all seemed lost. The new government appeared open to honouring the commitments of the former Government of Canada. The former Indian affairs critic, now the minister, said that he supported the Kelowna agreement. It did not last.

On budget day there was no money for the Kelowna accord. The landmark accord was abandoned. All the good works that had been accomplished in the previous 18 months were washed away, all the belief, all the hope. That was small, ungenerous, a breach of trust. Canada's aboriginal people again have been left to fend for themselves. That is not the attitude of the Canada I know. That is not the attitude of the Canada I believe in.

In my Canada it matters what is in my pocket, but it matters what is in my neighbour's pocket as well. In my Canada it is not just about me and now. It is about us and the future. In my Canada we know there are big challenging tasks we must do together, not in bits and pieces but as a whole, that capture the imagination, that generate the energy all of us need to see this through to the end.

That is what Kelowna represented. That is why it mattered so much. Its individual pieces were important but the former government, unlike the current government, understood that with a challenge so great, we have to make one plus one add up to more than two. That is why the process mattered so much. That is why the hopes and beliefs generated were so important. Kelowna was the crucial beginning of a new day for Canada's aboriginal people.

We owe it to every aboriginal person. We owe it to all Canadians and to our understanding of ourselves as a country, to what we are and what we want to be, to ensure that the gap in prosperity between aboriginal and non-aboriginal people is once and for all eliminated. It is for this reason that I stand here and support the Kelowna accord and this private member's bill.

Kelowna Accord Implementation Act
Private Members' Business

2:25 p.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, even prior to my appointment to serve on the Standing Committee on Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, I had a strong desire and commitment to see the needs of our aboriginal Canadian brothers and sisters more adequately addressed. However, since my appointment to that committee, having met many more aboriginal Canadians and having read many reports dealing with the wide variety of issues facing them, I can only say that my resolve to be more involved in moving forward on these issues has increased. I am committed to seeing the gaps close, as are my colleagues on this side of the House.

I commend the right hon. member for LaSalle—Émard for providing members with another opportunity to discuss and consider an issue of importance to all Canadians, aboriginal and non-aboriginal alike.

Although I welcome this occasion to speak to this pressing matter and listen to the contributions of other members, I cannot support this legislation. My opposition to Bill C-292 is rooted in two main objections.

First, the bill is poorly conceived. It is not a precise, detailed policy blueprint, but simply is a series of broad political commitments. Furthermore, it purports to extend statutory recognition to a one time political event and create a legal obligation to fulfill a series of wide-ranging commitments, a dubious proposition at best and certainly one which is unforeseeable.

In addition, Bill C-292 provides members with absolutely no idea what obligations it would impose on government, nor whether these obligations would also apply to the provinces and territories.

This is an important issue for many of my colleagues in this chamber. Until members are provided with clear details of the nature of these programs and the related accountability measures, and until a long time sustainable financial plan to fund these programs has been approved by Parliament, I cannot see how the House can support Bill C-292.

My second objection to Bill C-292 is that the government has taken concrete steps to develop real solutions to the problems facing aboriginal people in Canada. Indeed, in a few short months as government, we have moved swiftly to implement carefully structured targeted investments that will reduce levels of aboriginal poverty and bring about tangible, measurable results.

Since taking office, the Minister of Indian Affairs and Northern Development has met with aboriginal leaders. These ongoing discussions will set the stage for programs that will address key aboriginal issues. Backing our words with necessary resources, this government put forward a federal budget that allocates $3.7 billion to fund programs and initiatives to improve the quality of life of aboriginal people living both on and off reserve.

There have been other significant achievements. On March 9 an agreement in principle was signed with the Yale First Nation in the province of British Columbia to complete a treaty.

Mr. Speaker, I will complete my speech at another time.

Kelowna Accord Implementation Act
Private Members' Business

2:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired and the order is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

The hon. member will have six minutes and 20 seconds whenever this matter comes up again.

Before I see the clock at 2:30 p.m., I would like to remind members of the House of the little pesky paragraph in the House of Common Procedure and Practice, Marleau and Montpetit, on page 521:

During debate, Members do not refer to one another by their names but rather by title, position or constituency name in order to guard against all tendency to personalize debate.

Today is the 32nd sitting of the 39th Parliament. I have made this admonition at least half a dozen times already and my colleagues have as well. I thought that today I would just make the exact quote so that I would not have to do it again.

It being 2:30 p.m., this House stands adjourned until Monday next at 11 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 2:30 p.m.)