House of Commons Hansard #23 of the 39th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was justice.

Topics

The House proceeded to the consideration of Bill C-2, An Act to amend the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, as reported without amendment from the committee.

Speaker's Ruling
Tackling Violent Crime Act
Government Orders

10:05 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

There are five motions in amendment standing on the notice paper for the report stage of Bill C-2.

Motions Nos. 1 and 3 to 5 will not be selected by the Chair as they could have been presented in committee. The remaining motion has been examined and the Chair is satisfied that it meets the guidelines expressed in the note to Standing Order 76.1(5) regarding the selection of motions in amendment at report stage.

Motion No. 2 will be debated and voted upon.

I shall now put Motion No. 2 to the House.

Motions in amendment
Tackling Violent Crime Act
Government Orders

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

moved:

Motion No. 2

That Bill C-2 be amended by deleting Clause 42.

Mr. Speaker, thank you for the ruling on this amendment indicating that it is within the proper scope of the rules and admissible.

The amendment deals with the specific section of a very large bill, an omnibus crime bill, and specifically with that part of the bill that deals with the dangerous offender designation in the Criminal Code.

Just quickly, the balance of Bill C-2 encompasses five separate pieces of legislation that were before this House in the previous parliamentary session. The dangerous offender section at that time was Bill C-27. It has now been incorporated into Bill C-2.

We had commenced work on that in a special legislative committee prior to prorogation. The prorogation by the government of course ended that bill, as it did the other four, three of which by the way were in the Senate, and the fourth one was out of committee at report stage in the House.

So now, because of what I think is a very foolish decision but a very political decision on the part of government, we are having to go back through all of those four bills and we have wasted a significant amount of time.

The government is historically very proud to stand in this House and accuse the opposition parties of delay. Of course, what has happened here has been entirely on its desk and it is something of which the Conservatives should be ashamed.

To come back to Bill C-27, as it was then and now that part of Bill C-2, the dangerous offender section of the Criminal Code has a history going back in this country to 1978 at which time it was incorporated.

I do not think there is any disagreement about this no matter which political party one belongs to, that there are individuals in our society that we are not able to cope with in terms of rehabilitating them. They commit serious, oftentimes heinous, violent crimes against other residents of Canada. When we use our traditional attempts to deal with them by way of prison terms, oftentimes psychiatric or psychological treatment programs, they are not successful.

Our psychiatrists, our psychologists and our best experts admit there is a very small number of individuals that we simply, as a society in terms of our psychological and psychiatric treatment modalities, are not able to treat and rehabilitate to the point where they are no longer a risk to society once released from our prisons. The dangerous offender section was introduced into the Criminal Code to deal specifically with those individuals.

Based on some very good research from the Library of Parliament, since 1978 we have had 384 individuals, up until the spring of 2005 so it is a bit more now, all male, designated as dangerous offenders. It is interesting to note that of those 384, 333 as of April 2005 were still in custody, still in prison. Only 18 had been released and were on parole. The balance of approximately 33 died in prison. I think this is the point that we need to recognize.

This designation, unlike a conviction for first degree murder and a life sentence, is in fact a life sentence in the 90 percentile of the cases. These individuals never get out. It is a recognition that we are not capable of dealing with them. They stay in custody, in prisons, for the balance of their lives and literally, as I have said, die in prison. That is what we are dealing with when we are dealing with a dangerous offender designation.

As I indicated earlier, there are no women who have been designated, up until April 2005. There are a couple of applications outstanding against women currently.

One of the other points that I would make that comes out of the research done by the library is that a full one-fifth, 20%, of all the individual criminals who have been designated are from the aboriginal population, from our first nations.

There is no question, and we see this more when we look at statistics in the United States, that subgroups within our society often times are individuals who are more targeted and receive greater punishment.

I am not going to suggest for a minute that the designations in those cases were inappropriate; they may or may not have been. However, that is the reality, given that our aboriginal population in this country is roughly 3% of the population but slightly over 20% are designated as dangerous offenders.

We know that this is a section of the Criminal Code that we would use, obviously, very sparingly. The issue of the constitutionality of this section has been to the Supreme Court on a number of occasions and reviewed also by a number of our appeal courts at the provincial level.

The message that comes out very clearly is that it is to be used sparingly, that it is to be used with extreme caution, that the individuals who are confronted with this are to be given the greatest amount of doubt as to the usage against them because of the consequences.

I want to repeat that the consequences in more than 90% of the cases are that these individuals, once designated as dangerous offenders, will stay in prison for the balance of their life. They will never get out.

Faced with that, if we look now at the bill that is before us, Bill C-2, the government has introduced into clause 42 a provision for a reverse onus. For those in the public who do not have a law degree and do not fully appreciate this, that is saying, under these circumstances, to the individual criminals, “If you meet this criteria, you have to prove to the judge who is hearing the case for the designation of dangerous offender why you should not be held in custody in prison until the rest of your life”. That is really what they will have to do.

That flies in the face of the charter. This section will not survive a charter challenge. Under those circumstance, and Mr. Speaker, I see you signalling that I have only a minute left. I thought these were 20-minute sessions. No. That is unfortunate because I had a lot more that I wanted to say.

My amendment, pure and simple, would delete the reverse onus from this bill because it would not survive a charter challenge. We are going to have tremendous litigation on this and at the end of the day one of our superior courts, or even the Supreme Court of Canada, will strike this section down. The amendment would take care of that right now and we could save all that trouble.

Motions in amendment
Tackling Violent Crime Act
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

Bloc

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

Mr. Speaker, I listened carefully to my colleague across the way. One thing he said really shocked me. What struck me is when he said that 3% of the population is aboriginal and 20% of them are designated as dangerous offenders.

Would it be right to conclude that the crime rate among aboriginal nations is higher than among other groups? If so, what are the causes of this high crime rate and what can we do about it?

Motions in amendment
Tackling Violent Crime Act
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am always proud to say that our criminal justice system is as good as any in the world and maybe the best in the world. However, from a number of studies, including a book that was published by one of the professors at the University of Windsor law school, the reality is that discrimination enters into our system. It is systemic. It is not overt. It is subtle but it creeps into the system.

I will not suggest, by any means, that all cases are like this, but what happens is that the police, prosecutors and, yes, the judiciary on some occasions come with a hidden bias and the process starts. Unfortunately, because of the general economic status in which our first nations find themselves, they end up being disproportionately found.

All of the experts, psychologists and psychiatrists with whom I have spoken have absolutely rejected the suggestion that the ratio of serious violent offenders is any greater within the aboriginal population than it is within the general population. We saw that in the Callow case in Toronto. The prosecutors for the province of Ontario in that case should have brought a dangerous offender application against him and they did not.

We can go through any number of cases and ask why they did not. That is really where the solution is to the use of this, not in trying to force individuals with the reverse onus to show why they should not be held. There is that subtle discrimination and so we end up with that kind of a statistic.

Motions in amendment
Tackling Violent Crime Act
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Ken Epp Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to comment on what the member has just said. It is absolutely incredible to me that he is opposed to this so-called reverse onus.

The problem with his argument is that it seems as if, the way it is worded, the accused needs to prove why he should not be deemed a dangerous offender. However, the fact is that the accused has already proven it. The individual was arrested, charged and convicted once and then arrested, charged and convicted twice, and then charged and convicted the third time. The criminal has already proven it.

I do not know why the member feels that it is somehow an unreasonable thing to say that since the individual has proven himself or herself to be dangerous, we will classify him or her as a dangerous offender because the individual has proven that he or she is. What the reverse onus would do is give the accused yet one more chance at that stage. Surely the member would not be against that.

Motions in amendment
Tackling Violent Crime Act
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is just too simplistic. I do know the member is from Sherwood Park, as my son is living in his riding. I have a great deal of respect for him but his analysis is too simplistic. Our courts have made it clear that this section is to be used rarely because of its consequences.

I want to give one example of the deficit in this bill. A provision in the bill says that a person must have been convicted of three offences for which the person must have received more than two years in prison. One of the offences that is included in the list in Bill C-2 is assault causing bodily harm. That can be a fairly minor assault. I do not want to take away from it because any assault, obviously, is extremely offensive to the individual victim, and I recognize that, but we get situations where people get into bar room fights or disputes with their neighbours and there is an injury. It may be a fairly minor one such as a black eye or bruising to the face and that kind of thing.

Usually, because the person has an alcohol or drug problem, they will have a series of these assault charges and, ultimately, the judge will send the person to prison for more than two years, then a second time and then a third time, but these people are not dangerous offenders. They are really petty criminals. There is a real exposure within these amendments being proposed in Bill C-2 that will result in a large number of people ending up going through these designations and having to prove why they should not go in. That is not the way the system works and it is not the way the system should work.

Motions in amendment
Tackling Violent Crime Act
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

Niagara Falls
Ontario

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak at the report stage of Bill C-2, the tackling violent crime act. I was honoured that my colleague, the member for Haldimand—Norfolk, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration, was good enough to second the motion because of her commitment to tackling violent crime.

I must say that it has been very helpful to me, to the government and, ultimately, to the people of Canada that there has been such tremendous support on this side of the House. I have thanked members privately and I now thank them publicly. My colleagues, the members for St. Catharines, Niagara West—Glanbrook, the chief government whip and my other colleagues have been consistent in pushing this agenda forward. I thank them but, more important, I think the people of Canada thank them for their commitment to fighting violent crime in this country.

The bill is one that has been thoroughly studied, which is one part on which I agree with the hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh. However, anyone looking at the records of these particular bills will agree with me that the government was on its own last spring trying to get these things through.

We had five bills that had been kicking around since the beginning of this Parliament. They were thoroughly studied and some of them were in the House of Commons for over a year but none of them were passed.

I can say to the members of the NDP that it would have been real helpful last spring if they had been sending a message down to the Senate. I made the point about the Liberals that if they had picked up the phone or walked down the hall to get some of these things through or helped us to expedite these in the House of Commons, it would have been very helpful, but they were all clear that it was our problem, that if we wanted to tackle violent crime and get our bills through, it was our problem.

Yes, it was a bit of a problem that these five bills, all of which would have helped to make our communities safer, our streets safer and would have stood up for innocent victims of crime, did not get through.

What we did over the course of the summer was put them all together and we have reintroduced them into the House of Commons.

I know the committee has done very good work in terms of calling witnesses before them and listening to what they had to say. Some of those witnesses were representatives of the police forces in this country. There was the prosecutorial perspective, the bar associations and legal academics. I, of course, was pleased to appear with representatives of the Department of Justice.

I think it was good. We reintroduced our proposal to have minimum prison sentences for serious and repeat firearms offenders. It would be five years for a first offence and, if the offender does not get the message, it would be seven years the second time around. I think it sends the correct message that guns are a problem when they are used in the commission of a crime.

In addition, we introduced a bill regarding a reverse onus on bail, which is also in this bill. We propose to strengthen the bail system so that those charged with serious firearms offences are kept in custody before trial, unless they can prove they do not pose a threat to the public. I have had people from coast to coast in this country tell me that sends out the right message to victims, to neighbourhoods and to witnesses.

We have dealt with impaired driving and getting rid of the two beer defence that was so problematic to people trying to prosecute impaired driving. There is no question about that.

There are good provisions in there. One of my favourites is raising the age of protection from 14 to 16 years of age, to protect 14 and 15 year olds from adult sexual predators. Somebody said that we were trying to get laws into the 21st century. That is something that was left from the 19th century. This should have been changed a long time ago. It did not get changed in the spring but we are absolutely committed and determined that it will get passed as part of this bill.

The other part of the bill relates to dangerous offenders, and what we have done, I believe, is very reasonable. We have asked for a declaration to be made by the crown attorney advising the court whether he or she will be bringing a dangerous offender application. This declaration is intended to ensure a more consistent use of dangerous offender sentences by crown attorneys in all jurisdictions. I think that is reasonable and it is a step forward in the right direction.

What we have said, and again I think most Canadians would agree with us, is that for an offender convicted of a third designated offence, a third serious offence, in a narrow and proportionate list of the 12 most violent and sexual offences, it will trigger a dangerous offender designation. Those offenders will be presumed to be dangerous offenders unless they can prove otherwise.

These are individuals who have been convicted three times. All we are saying is that the onus is on them to show why they should not be presumed to be dangerous offenders. I believe most Canadians would say that is very reasonable.

Motions in amendment
Tackling Violent Crime Act
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

An hon. member

All Canadians.

Motions in amendment
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Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Niagara Falls, ON

My colleague from St. Catharines says “all Canadians”. No. We heard from the NDP members that they do not support this, so it cannot be all Canadians, but I think most Canadians will say yes to this and will say that we are on the right track in terms of protecting Canadians.

I want to be absolutely clear for those members and all hon. members of this House. We indicated when we introduced the bill that any attempt to sabotage the bill, any attempt to gut it or water it down, would be considered a confidence measure. I do not want there to be any misunderstanding at all in the House. If the NDP amendment to take this out of the bill passes, we will consider that a confidence measure, and we will go to the people of Canada and let them decide if they want to get serious about fighting violent crime in this country, let there be no mistake about it.

Motions in amendment
Tackling Violent Crime Act
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, in terms of my comment, we do not have a great relationship with the Senate. I do not know if the Minister of Justice appreciates that. It is rather difficult for us to pick up the phone and call the senators since we do not talk to them. We just want to abolish them.

With regard to the reverse onus section, without exception in committee, except for the minister himself, every witness who came before the committee who had any legal expertise at all made it very clear that the reverse onus section would not survive a charter challenge. We did not have one person tell us otherwise.

I am asking the minister on what basis he is saying this other than his own opinion. I respect his opinion. He and I are graduates of the same law school, the best law school in the country, at the University of Windsor. I respect his opinion, but I think that on this one he is wrong. I am wondering if he has any other opinion from a constitutional or charter of rights expert who says this will survive a constitutional challenge.

Motions in amendment
Tackling Violent Crime Act
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Niagara Falls, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member covered a number of different areas. Certainly in regard to that part of his comments about the University of Windsor being the best law school in this country he will get no disagreement from me. I want to say that I do not usually disagree with the NDP. I was thinking of the hon. member for Brant. He knows what I am talking about and we can have a unanimous motion on that.

In any case, the member mentioned that he has no relationship with the Senate, but I think he will admit, because I remember seeing in print comments from him that if we had introduced the other four they would go easily through the system, that it is not that easy. That is what I was saying. If there was any help that we could have had last spring it would have been much appreciated, or if there is any help that we can get this fall in getting these through both houses of Parliament it would be much appreciated.

With respect to the constitutionality of these, I am sure he heard from the officials at the Department of Justice. I presume he asked that question of them. In my examination of bills, I always watch for two things, and they are very important to me. I want every piece of legislation to satisfy the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and of course I want to make sure that it complies with the Canadian Bill of Rights. Both of those documents are very important. I have satisfied myself on that. Indeed, I would not have introduced the bill into Parliament if I did not believe that it satisfied both of those important documents.

Motions in amendment
Tackling Violent Crime Act
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Robert Thibault West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, could the minister clarify the following for Canadians? When he talks about the area of the twelve most violent crimes and the three offences, does he mean that the three offences are in that category and that this does not apply to someone who has had one offence in that category and then two lesser infractions since?

I have a second question, if he has time. His expert who gave testimony, Mr. Stanley Cohen, said that the legislation in question was “not manifestly unconstitutional”. Not being a graduate of any law school, I am not sure what that means. I would like the minister to explain it. It sounds to me rather weak and is not like a full-fledged endorsement. Could the minister clarify those comments?

Motions in amendment
Tackling Violent Crime Act
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Niagara Falls, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would be pleased to provide the hon. member with a graph so that he has the exact enumeration of all the designated offences within the dangerous offender section.

More importantly, he asked whether it does not manifestly comply; whatever the wording was, I think I got the gist of it. I can tell him that I believe this complies with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and I believe this complies with Mr. Diefenbaker's Canadian Bill of Rights.

Certainly I can say that there is no legislation to which I would lend my name and my office as Minister of Justice, nor on behalf of the government would we introduce any piece of legislation, were we not convinced that it complied with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms and the Canadian Bill of Rights. I hope that satisfies the hon. member.

Motions in amendment
Tackling Violent Crime Act
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Larry Miller Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is a great pleasure for me today to stand behind our justice minister and speak in support of the great bill he has put forth. I can tell members that over the last couple of years I have heard from people in my riding and through my surveys and the number one issue has been the tough on crime issue. A recent survey I did just came back and that is no longer on the list. The people of my riding are very happy with what has been put forth here in the House. They know this government is doing good things.

Would the minister explain a little more for our colleague from Windsor—Tecumseh about why someone who has committed three dangerous crimes and has obviously designated himself as a dangerous offender should have to explain to the rest of us in this country why he is no longer a dangerous offender?

Motions in amendment
Tackling Violent Crime Act
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Niagara Falls, ON

Mr. Speaker, all we do is put the onus on those individuals to explain why they are not dangerous offenders. All the protections we might expect in terms of rebutting that are available to those individuals.

I do not want to leave this topic without saying something about the member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound. I have had the honour of knowing the member for 10 years. I knew him as the mayor of Keppel Township. He was the warden of Grey County. He has had a distinguished political career.

I can tell members that in the 10 years I have known him he has been very consistent in his opposition to the proliferation of violent crime in this country. He has been supportive of every measure to make the streets of this country safer. I have to thank him publicly for that support, because it certainly made my job and the job of the government a little easier.

Motions in amendment
Tackling Violent Crime Act
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Robert Thibault West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to debate this bill and amendment introduced by the New Democratic Party.

I think the Conservatives have a weak argument when they say that the Liberals used the Senate to slow down the passage of some bills. On the contrary, throughout the legislative process the House was asked a number of times for unanimous consent. Such a motion was even introduced on one of the opposition days. This motion would have ensured the quick, the immediate passage of the vast majority of these bills. It was voted against by the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and the Conservative Party.

I think they preferred to make it look like the Liberal Party and its members did not support tougher, more enforceable crime legislation, which is completely absurd.

When I look at the motion presented by the New Democrats and at the bill it modifies, the bill it would amend, I note that we as a party have indicated and continue to indicate that we support the bill before the House.

All through the process, three of the five bills contained within this bill have had and have the full support of the Liberal Party. The fourth we had questions on. That is the one about the famous reverse onus question, the question on dangerous offenders.

As for the reasons we had the questions, there are multiple reasons that can vary among members, of course, but one is that the current dangerous offenders legislation process in Canada is working. There is discomfort with it, but it is working. By the number of applications that are made and by the number of people held behind bars by this process, and we could name a lot of them, the system seems to be working.

What this bill does now is go to reverse onus. If we listened to the minister earlier and if we saw the types of offenders being sought by this, I think we would all agree that these people would inherently pose the threat of being dangerous. I do not know that it is unreasonable to say that these people warrant special consideration and special identification. If somebody has had three offences, has been indicted three times on the same offences and has been found guilty in those areas of very dangerous criminal activity, they warrant special consideration. I do not think one would argue that.

We had a consideration of the Charter of Rights and whether this was within the Charter of Rights and whether it would meet constitutional challenge. We are somewhat assured by the presentation at committee by Mr. Stanley Cohen, senior general counsel in the human rights law section of the Department of Justice.

I still have a little bit of a reservation about the question that it is “not manifestly unconstitutional”, but I will not spend too much time on that, not being an expert on the matter. However, that does give support. Therefore, for that reason, we will continue to support the bill and we will find it very difficult to support the amendment now proposed, which would gut the bill.

In the little time remaining, I would like to point out one area in the bill with which I have certain concerns. It is the question of mandatory minimum penalties. If at first we look at the list that is proposed in the bill where we would apply mandatory minimums, I think all Canadians would agree that these are very serious offences and should be taken very seriously by the judicial system. I think they would agree that there should be a message sent out to anybody who is considering that type of offence and also that there should be protection for the public from the type of people who do those types of offences.

However, there is always the case out there that is a little different. Having some leeway, some discretion in the judicial system for the justices in this country to exercise, I think is always warranted. I will bring the attention of members to one of those cases. I will try to remain as vague as I can because I believe some aspects of it may still be before the courts.

A few years ago in an insular community in New Brunswick, not that long ago, there was one house in that community about which there were a lot of allegations of criminality. There were allegations of drug sales and illegal weapons. All sorts of problems were happening there. There was huge frustration in the community that the RCMP or the police system was not able to take care of the problem and not able to provide security to the community.

It came to the point that there was a blow-up in the community. Although I do not believe anyone was shot at, gunshots were fired. A house was burned. A vehicle was burned. Charges were filed by the RCMP. When I look at that case and those people, I cannot condone their actions. I do not believe in vigilante justice. However, I sort of understand the situation they were in. There is some compassion from me in that regard.

I look at the prescriptive list of penalties. Should these people be incarcerated for two or more years because they were part or party to that activity? Will justice be served? Will we provide more security to the communities or will we have an adverse effect on communities by breaking up families?

I am not the judge in that. Nor am I a legal expert. However, I have enough confidence in our judicial system that we could have some leeway for justices to look at situations around cases similar to that and not necessarily have a system that is this prescriptive.

On the question of impaired driving, Liberals offered to move it along as quickly as possible. There was no holdback by us. Another bill on the list was at the committee, but the House leader in the committee would not bring it to the Senate. It was brought forward by an opposition member on the Senate floor. The Conservatives talk a lot about the bills being stalled, but there was a lot of willingness on their part to stall them. It made their lives and arguments a lot easier.

Liberals support the provisions dealing with drug impaired driving. I do not know if a set of laws can be created to solve the whole situation, but we need to have laws and penalties that discourage people from doing this. It has had an effect. As we have made the laws stricter, both federally and provincially, in the areas of driving while drunk, we have seen a great reduction. Also the population understands that it is unacceptable behaviour.

Great credit for that should go not only to the people who created and applied the laws, but organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Drivers. It has done a great job of sensitizing the population and getting people to understand that when people get behind the wheel of a motor vehicle while impaired, their competency is reduced because of alcohol or drugs. It is not unlike walking around with a loaded gun. People take the chance of causing serious harm.

We all know people in our communities who have been seriously harmed. We also know people who have caused that harm. We know people who have been in accidents because of driving while drunk and themselves have been seriously harmed. My hat is off to all of them who, after having lived through that, have gone to the schools, have talked to young people and have educated them without excuse for what they have done. They show the kids the risks of that type of behaviour.

I am encouraged to see young people in our communities take a very responsible approach, with the designated driver rules, safe graduations, all those other activities that young people live up to and espouse. This is a great advance in our communities.

When we look at the current dangerous offender legislation, my empathy goes to the families of the people who are now behind bars as dangerous offenders. I understand the concerns they have. Every few years dangerous offenders have a right to apply for bail, although they are almost always refused. We know the difficult cases where the families of the victims are again put through the stress, knowing that these people could be freed or they have to relive looking at the evidence again, preparing themselves or being present when the appeal is heard. It is very costly to them emotionally.

However, I thank them because freedom has a huge cost. The right to appeals and hearings of even the worst elements of our society are part of the rights that protect all society. Unfortunately, the cost of freedom is not always borne evenly and a lot is disproportionately toward the victims in the case of criminal justice. We know the cost of the military in the case of our freedoms generally.

It would be difficult for Liberals to accept the amendment proposed by the New Democrats. We will continue our support for the bill.

Motions in amendment
Tackling Violent Crime Act
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I know the member for West Nova was not on the committee as this went through. I do not know if he knows much of the history of that part of the bill, which deals with the dangerous offender designation. When the bill was originally introduced as Bill C-27, the spokespersons for his party spoke very strongly against it, along the same lines of what our amendment intends to do, which is to ensure it complies with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Then at committee that same spokesperson, the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, heard the same evidence I heard from all the experts, all the people with legal backgrounds, with the exception of justice officials and the minister, that this would not pass muster as far as the standard set by the charter.

Is his party's unwillingness to support the amendment motivated entirely by the fact that this is a confidence motion or is there some other reason why it is opposed to it?

Motions in amendment
Tackling Violent Crime Act
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Liberal

Robert Thibault West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, we support a lot in the bill and we have all along. We have agreed to the increase in the age of sexual consent. We have agreed with the use of alcohol and driving provisions. We have agreed to most of the bills as brought forward by the government on criminal justice. We even offered to fast track them. We have offered amendments. We have worked with all parties, through committee and through the House, to offer amendments to improve some of the bills, and we see some of those improvements in these bills. That is how a minority Parliament should work.

Members of our party have some concerns about the reverse onus. However, if we look at the question of three offences in a very limited class of the most serious offence, an individual having three offences under that class before this provision applies tempers it somewhat. Then we look at the expertise of Mr. Cohen provided at the committee. While I am no constitutional expert and I do not have the distinction of the member as being one of the most intelligent parliamentarians and not a graduate of a law school, I am concerned about the question of manifestly unconstitutional. I do know how strong this is in giving us confidence that it would meet charter challenges.

However, I also know that it is pretty well impossible for experts in the field of constitutional law to give absolute guarantees on anything because we cannot prejudge the court. The court is an independent body that looks at the laws by itself, and we have seen many instances. I remember one in the fisheries role in the Marshall decision, where the government was not prepared for the Marshall decision that came out of the Supreme Court. All experts had told us that the federal case was strong.

Motions in amendment
Tackling Violent Crime Act
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Conservative

Myron Thompson Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the member's speech and I agree with his comments on driving while drunk and those kinds of crimes. Having been a high school teacher and principal for about 30 years, one thing I have seen increasingly is more young people are committing crimes under the influence of alcohol. The member related to a lot of excellent programs such as safe grads. However, does he realize that a great number of these youth are under the age of 18?

We have heard of tragedies that have happened at house parties or block parties because of underage drinking. I cannot remember the last time an adult was arrested for supplying liquor to a minor. It seems as if we are really getting loose on that. Would the member agree with that?

Motions in amendment
Tackling Violent Crime Act
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Liberal

Robert Thibault West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, I agree it is a serious situation, but youth at the age of 14, 15, or 16 will always experiment and they will be adventurous. Should that happen, it is very important that they be provided with supervision. If we can control it and make it not happen all the better, but I do not think we can guarantee this will happen. I do not think it happened when my hon. colleague was 16 and it did not happen when I was age 16. We sought adventure.

With that, we have to ensure, through our school programs and great work by Mothers Against Drunk Driving, that our youth recognize the danger they put themselves in when their faculties are reduced with drugs and alcohol. They need to be encouraged not to do this at all and to understand the dangers that come from it.

Motions in amendment
Tackling Violent Crime Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to take part in the debate at this stage, and I want to say how disappointed the Bloc Québécois is that the government has opted to make the vote on the amendments proposed by our NDP colleagues a confidence vote. Making room for some discretionary power and giving the Crown more room to manoeuvre and interpret the law is something that we have always supported and that we want to keep supporting.

That being said, the government has decided that the NDP amendment is a matter of confidence in the government, and since we want to support the bill, we will not support our colleagues' amendment.

Since the early days of the Bloc Québécois, our party has been interested in issues surrounding organized crime and violence and safety in our communities. I was the first member of this House to introduce a bill to make gangsterism an offence. Members may also recall that my former colleague from Charlesbourg was the member who worked to fight organized crime by proposing that the $1,000 bill be removed from circulation. My former colleague from Charlesbourg—

Motions in amendment
Tackling Violent Crime Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

An hon. member

Mr. Marceau.

Motions in amendment
Tackling Violent Crime Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga, QC

—Richard Marceau, also introduced a bill to reverse onus with respect to proceeds of crime acquired by criminal organizations. That bill was passed unanimously.

We have a history of being concerned about fighting organized crime. A series of events began in 1995 when a car bomb took the life of young Daniel Desrochers and ended in 1997 when Allan Rock, the justice minister at the time, introduced an anti-gang bill. During that time, our party carried out a media campaign with our partners—police services and other law enforcement agencies—to bring in new legislation.

I remember that in 1995, a number of senior officials believed that the Hells Angels, the Rockers and the Bandidos were going to be brought down using the conspiracy provisions of the Criminal Code. The Bloc Québécois said that there was no way to stop major criminal organizations. There were 38 such organizations across Canada at the time. We said there was no way to stop them on the basis of conspiracy alone. We knew full well that the people giving orders at the head of these criminal organizations were not the people carrying them out. We also knew that, when it came to evidence or charges of conspiracy, these objectives could not be met using section 465 of the Criminal Code. I will have the opportunity to talk about this after question period.

In June, the Bloc Québécois made public 20 extremely progressive measures. If they became law, they would be much more effective than many other measures the Conservatives have introduced. After question period, I will have the opportunity to explain each of these measures in detail.

If my colleague from Marc-Aurèle-Fortin were here, for example, he would agree with me that we have never understood why the government did not focus first on accelerated parole review, a procedure under the Corrections and Conditional Release Act whereby an offender can be released after serving one-sixth of his or her sentence. We also do not understand why, with the parole system, people do not take part in programs and why the concept of merit and rehabilitation is not being looked at as an absolute priority.

These are some amendments and bills that we would have liked to see adopted and that we believe are far more effective than the whole philosophy of imposing mandatory minimum sentences.

I understand that it is time for oral question period. The stars have favoured me this morning, because I will be asking a question myself. Therefore, I will be quiet for now.

Motions in amendment
Tackling Violent Crime Act
Government Orders

11 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I regret to inform the hon. member for Hochelaga, but, it being 11 a.m., we will now proceed to statements by members.

Special Olympics Month
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Patricia Davidson Sarnia—Lambton, ON

Mr. Speaker, today I would like to recognize the importance of support for people with an intellectual disability by supporting the declaration of November 2007 as Special Olympics Month by Special Olympics Canada.

There are more than 800,000 Canadians with an intellectual disability. Special Olympics Canada is a national not for profit grassroots organization that seeks to enrich lives by providing sports training and competition opportunities to 31,000 athletes. They are supported by more than 10,000 volunteers.

In the spirit of Special Olympics Month, I call upon all Canadians to set aside some time to think about their families and communities and how they can make a difference in the lives of persons with an intellectual disability.

Diabetes
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Lui Temelkovski Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, November 14 marked World Diabetes Day. Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation Canada launched a campaign across Canada to urge the federal government to commit to funding for type 1 diabetes research in the budget of 2008.

After meeting with several constituents regarding diabetes, I was surprised to learn that globally, Canada has the third highest occurrence rate of type 1 diabetes in children 14 years or younger.

Because diagnosis often occurs in childhood and adolescence, type 1 and other forms of diabetes threaten to place a heavy burden on Canada's health care system.

In one of those meetings, I was presented with two keys to deliver to the Minister of Health and Minister of Finance signifying my support for the foundation's funding initiative.

I believe Canada has the potential to play a role in the treatment of type 1 diabetes.

Bangladesh
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Bloc

Marcel Lussier Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, Canada has contributed more than $86 million in development aid to Bangladesh, according to CIDA statistics for 2005-06.

After tropical cyclone Sidr, which has left thousands dead, Canada has promised to donate up to $3 million in humanitarian aid. With the damages caused by the hurricane, there will be a lot of rebuilding to do. Canada must commit to increasing its development aid to Bangladesh.

In light of the current political situation in Bangladesh, which needs political, electoral and institutional reform, it is essential for Canada to ensure that the donated money will contribute to reducing poverty and not to supporting the current interim regime.

The release of political prisoners is the first step toward democracy in Bangladesh.

Omar Khadr
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, for more than five years, Omar Khadr, a Canadian citizen, has been languishing in the U.S. military prison camp at Guantanamo Bay. He was captured and detained at the age of 15 and remains the only detainee from a western country not to be repatriated.

The United Nations has launched a formal protest to the U.S. over Mr. Khadr's continued detainment. Members of the European Union and the international community have spoken out on his detention, and Mr. Khadr's military lawyers have gone to Britain to help secure his release to Canada.

All the while the Government of Canada has refused to involve itself. We have a responsibility as a government to protect our citizens, whether they are here in Canada or in other countries. However ,we see this government reversing the decades-long policy of seeking clemency for Canadians facing the death penalty, failing to make representations on behalf of Canadians detained abroad, and allowing children to languish in solitary confinement in a U.S. military prison. It begs the question: Why?

Ottawa Book of Everything
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Gerald Keddy South Shore—St. Margaret's, NS

Mr. Speaker, I encourage every member of this House and all listening to get a copy of the Ottawa Book of Everything, written by Arthur Montague and published by John MacIntyre, a resident of Lunenburg in the constituency of South Shore--St. Margaret's.

This book gives an in-depth look at the city of Ottawa, covering a wide variety of topics, past and present, such as culture, crime, the economy, politics and weather. This book is interesting, entertaining and informative.

Following the success in 2005 of the Nova Scotia Book of Everything, John MacIntyre decided to branch out and cover other provinces and larger cities in Canada. In 2006 his company, MacIntyre Purcell Publishing Inc., launched two more books, one for New Brunswick and one for Newfoundland and Labrador. This fall, along with the release of the Ottawa Book of Everything, there are books being released about P.E.I., Montreal, Calgary, Edmonton and Saskatchewan.

Mr. Speaker, you and any of my colleagues who do not have a copy of this book need one.

Bangladesh
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Maria Minna Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to express my condolences to the family members and individuals who lost loved ones in a recent cyclone that struck Bangladesh. This devastation has left more than 3,000 people dead and destroyed over 500,000 homes.

The Red Cross and Red Crescent are doing great work to raise money to send to the devastated region.

As a former minister, I have dealt with major natural disasters around the world and understand the importance of immediate assistance in order to prevent further deaths as a result of the spread of disease.

I urge the government to ensure that all assistance is given to the people who need it most. I request the Government of Canada to expedite immigration applications already filed in order to achieve family reunification more quickly.

On behalf of the thousands of Bengalis in my riding and across the country, I stand with them in this time of sadness. I extend to them my most sincere condolences and offer any assistance I can in helping to reunite family members.

International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Sylvie Boucher Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, November 25 has been declared International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

Violence against women affects every one of us. It destroys families and communities and weakens our social fabric. It knows no bounds: age, race, income, geographic location or social status. Who among us has never been affected by violence against women in some way?

On the eve of International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, let our thoughts go out to these girls and women, too many to count, who throughout history and still today, in Canada and in the rest of the world, are victims of this terrible sickness plaguing our society.

Let us vow to take tangible action, in our personal lives and in our communities, to put and end to all forms of violence against women, girls, and young girls in particular, once and for all.

Forestry Industry
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Bloc

Robert Bouchard Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean and spokesperson for the forestry file in Quebec recently gave some encouragement to workers at AbitibiBowater in Dolbeau-Mistassini, promising them some assistance. Unfortunately, by voting against the Bloc Québécois motion to resolve the forestry and manufacturing crisis, he ignored the workers' demands.

Over the weekend, the president of the Saguenay—Lac-Saint-Jean FTQ, the president of the AbitibiBowater sawmill union and the warden of the Domaine-du-Roy RCM all denounced the double talk being spouted by the member for Roberval—Lac-Saint-Jean.

The forestry sector cannot sustain the Conservative government's laissez-faire attitude much longer.

The member must admit that he was wrong to vote against the Bloc Québécois motion to help the forestry sector. He should now join us in pressuring his government.

The Grey Cup
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Dave Batters Palliser, SK

Mr. Speaker, Sunday is the 95th Grey Cup, featuring the green machine, Saskatchewan's beloved Roughriders versus the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.

In the heart of the CFL, Rider pride has never been stronger. Today is Green Day and the Rider nation is descending upon Toronto for a prairie party to remember and for a victory that all Rider fans will cherish forever.

Last night our QB Kerry Joseph was named the CFL's outstanding player. He will triumph over a young Dinwiddie who will be dominated by the big rider D and have to watch Scott Schultz's Moose Jaw Stomp all day long.

On behalf of all Saskatchewanians and the entire Rider nation, congratulations to everyone in the Roughriders organization on a very successful 2007 campaign. We cannot wait to see the cup paraded through Regina by Gainer the Gopher and the whole team next week.

To Bomber fans, thanks for coming out. Go Riders go!

Canadian Executive Service Organization
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize the volunteer efforts of a constituent of Don Valley East, Mr. Jaan Arro, who served with the Canadian Executive Service Organization in Belgrade, Serbia.

During his assignment, Mr. Arro used his experience as a human resource professional to assist the development of a local company that is emerging in a struggling economy.

This year Canadian Executive Service Organization is celebrating its 40th anniversary. Since 1967, highly skilled Canadian volunteers have been using their professional expertise and experience to help others achieve their goals.

Volunteers like Jaan place Canada highly on the international stage. Mr. Arro and his fellow volunteers have truly earned Canada a reputation as a caring and compassionate country.

The Environment
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Luc Harvey Louis-Hébert, QC

Mr. Speaker, from December 3 to 14, 2008, Bali will host the international climate change conference. Once again, our government will reaffirm the leadership role it intends to play in guiding all nations towards a global solution.

Canadians will recall the leadership shown by the Prime Minister during the Berlin conference. One of the main topics of that meeting was the need to reach an agreement concerning the reduction of greenhouse gases among all large emitters, particularly China, India and the United States.

Yesterday, the Minister of the Environment met with the Indonesian special envoy for climate change and confirmed that Canada strongly feels that any future agreement must establish binding commitments for all greenhouse gas emitting countries.

Our government remains committed to the interests of Canadians, in contrast to the negligence of the Liberals and the impotence of the Bloc Québécois.

Social Housing
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, in Burnaby--New Westminster and across the lower mainland the lack of affordable housing is causing a crisis.

Across Canada hundreds of thousands of Canadians are without homes and many more families are in a precarious state where keeping a roof over their heads is becoming a greater and greater challenge.

Given that two-thirds of Canadian families have lost income since 1989, the housing crisis is inextricably linked to the income crisis that Canadians are experiencing.

Canada needs a strong federal housing program; sufficient investment for social and cooperative housing, which would help people meet their basic needs; sufficient healthy food; clean and safe housing; and footwear and clothing for each season.

Affordable housing is a human right. It is a right of all Canadians. It is time the government stopped shovelling money at corporate CEOs and started providing housing and hope to Canadians.

Atlantic Accord
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Michael Savage Dartmouth—Cole Harbour, NS

Mr. Speaker, yesterday after weeks of cancellations parliamentarians finally got a Department of Finance briefing. The topic was just how much the government has gutted the Atlantic accord.

The meeting started at four o'clock. By 4:02 it was clear why the minister wanted the meeting cancelled all month. One thing became crystal clear. The deal with Nova Scotia is not the Atlantic accord.

The Conservatives can spin it, they can flip it, they can flop it, they can do whatever they want with it, but no matter how hard they try, they cannot turn it into the Atlantic accord.

The parliamentary secretary deferred to finance officials who squirmed in their seats during heated questioning from caucus colleagues. They could not explain why the deal is being applied to the 2005 equalization formula and not today's equalization as the original accord specified.

The people of Nova Scotia have been clear on this. Honour the Atlantic accord. Why change it at all? The only defence the government could muster was that there are many interpretations to the accord.

The government will soon find out which interpretation the people of Atlantic Canada will choose.

Manufacturing and Forestry Sectors
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Bloc

Thierry St-Cyr Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, last Wednesday, before a group of Quebec engineers, the member for Lévis—Bellechasse stated that the situation facing the manufacturing industry is alarming. The Conservative member said that action must be taken immediately and that the situation is such that we cannot delay.

Yet, the Minister of Finance continues to say that we must wait until the next budget for measures to support the manufacturing and forestry industry. Unfortunately, this is not the first time that the Conservatives have said one thing and done the opposite. The Conservative members from Quebec voted in favour of the budget statement, which contains no measures for the forestry industry. What is worse, on November 14, the Conservative members from Quebec voted against the Bloc Québécois motion calling for immediate action.

I urge the Conservative members from Quebec to stop being hypocrites and to take the same stand in the House as they do outside. Either they adopt the minister's jovial attitude everywhere in Quebec or they vote with the Bloc Québécois when it is time to defend Quebec's industries.

Football
Statements By Members

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, this week has seen Manitoba in a football frenzy on its way to claiming supremacy in Canadian football.

The University of Manitoba Bisons and the Winnipeg Blue Bombers each have their respective league championships this weekend in Toronto.

Winnipeg fans will be taking the city by storm with their usual prairie flair. The blue and gold will take on the Saskatchewan Roughriders in the ultimate banjo bowl for an all prairie Grey Cup and the feisty U of M Bisons will be taking on the University of St. Mary's Huskies looking for their first championship since 1970.

As one Winnipeg fan said, “The Bombers and the Bisons on the same weekend, it's hard to believe that it could get any better than that”.

Manitobans across the country will gather to cheer the Bombers and the Bisons from coast to coast. We hope the best is yet to come this weekend when they bring both cups home to Manitoba.

Go Manitoba go!

Liberal Members from British Columbia
Statements By Members

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

Ed Fast Abbotsford, BC

Mr. Speaker, Liberals have some explaining to do. British Columbia is the most underrepresented province in the country. Our MPs represent 15,000 more constituents than do MPs from other provinces. That is unacceptable.

We have acted after 13 long years of Liberal inaction. This week we introduced a law which increases the number of B.C. MPs by seven. Finally, British Columbia gets it fair share of seats. And the response has been overwhelming.

Premier Gordon Campbell praised our efforts by saying, “This is a non-partisan measure that strengthens democracy, and I hope all parties will support it”.

Yet, the federal Liberals, under their mad professor, are playing politics again. They oppose this legislation.

Where are B.C.'s federal Liberal MPs? Where are the MPs for Vancouver South, North Vancouver and Vancouver Centre? Nowhere to be seen. Why have B.C.'s Liberal MPs abandoned British Columbia? Weak leadership? Or because they put their own interests ahead of Canadians?

British Columbians can rest assured that our government puts their interests first. We are getting it done.

Justice
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, the foundational principle underlying the abolition of the death penalty is the sanctity of human life.

Does the Justice Minister 's new case by case review policy mean that some lives are more sacrosanct than others?

How can the government justify a policy in which all Canadians are not afforded equal protection and where the state is not only the executioner but the arbiter of who gets executed?

Justice
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Niagara Falls
Ontario

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, we indicated yesterday and in previous days that an individual who gets convicted of multiple murders, or a mass murderer, can no longer count on the Canadian government to necessarily intervene where an individual has been tried in a democracy that adheres to the rule of law.

I think we have been very clear on that and we will look at each case.

Justice
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, Canada said no to the death penalty, no to the death penalty internationally, and our Supreme Court has determined that it constitutes cruel and unusual punishment, even in the case of multiple murderers.

The government said it will not intervene because the U.S. is a democracy with the rule of law.

Why do the Conservatives not give credence to our democracy, to our rule of law, to our Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and to our Supreme Court decisions?

Justice
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Niagara Falls
Ontario

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, we are actually sticking up for a lot of people who are not always heard.

I noticed yesterday that the Leader of the Opposition said that he had written a letter to the governor of Montana about this double murder. I just ask this question of the hon. member: Was there any discussion about writing a letter to the victims of crime over there? I hear what members opposite are saying. That did not make the cut.

I am proud to serve with a group of people who are quite worried about the innocent victims of crime. I am very proud to stand with them.

Justice
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Irwin Cotler Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, that is an answer by dissembling.

The Minister of Justice is no doubt aware that wrongful convictions occur and that people on death row, even in Canada, have later been exonerated. There is no appeal from capital punishment.

Is the minister willing to accept that the government's determination in a specific case could send an innocent person to death? What about those instances of victims' rights?

Justice
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Niagara Falls
Ontario

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member talks about victims' rights. I have heard very little of it come from the Liberal Party of Canada.

You heard them, Mr. Speaker. Those members started guffawing when I asked an innocent question: Had they written a letter to the victims of this individual's crimes?

We have instituted the first federal ombudsman for victims of crime. We are introducing legislation that takes into consideration law-abiding Canadians and the honest victims of crime.

Justice
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, it would be nice to have the minister actually address the question he is being asked for a change.

Could the Minister of Justice explain how the death penalty is justified in democracies?

Justice
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Niagara Falls
Ontario

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I think I have indicated to the hon. member that a decision has been taken in this country with respect to the death penalty and there are no plans to change the law.

Justice
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, I wish the minister could hear himself and the things he has been saying this morning. For a trained lawyer, the leaps in his logic are remarkable.

Just consider the illustrious group of democracies that have the death penalty: Pakistan, Afghanistan and Indonesia. It is quite a club.

Or is it all about the U.S. for this minister? Is it simply that he is enamoured with the U.S. legal system, a system that has executed over 20 innocent people, and since 1976, at least 30 mentally challenged people?

Justice
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Niagara Falls
Ontario

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I think we have been very clear in this country. We have made a decision within Canada with respect to the death penalty. We will continue to seek assurances in extradition cases. I think the law is clear. The law is working in Canada. We should continue to support it.

Manufacturing Sector
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, at a conference in Oshawa today, the Minister of Finance said that the government might consider helping struggling Canadian manufacturers. He said that he was open to new measures to help the manufacturing sector.

Is the minister's sudden about-face related to the fact that he just recently became aware that the crisis in the manufacturing industry is wreaking havoc on the automobile industry, whose nerve centre is in his own riding?

Manufacturing Sector
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Pontiac
Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, once again, I must remind the member from Rivière-du-Nord that in our economic statement, this government clearly indicated its intention to support and assist not only the manufacturing sector, but also the forestry sector.

Need I remind my hon. colleagues that in our economic statement, we brought in some very specific tax measures to accomplish exactly that? And what is the Bloc Québécois doing? The Bloc Québécois continues to categorically oppose those measures.

Manufacturing Sector
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Rivière-du-Nord, QC

Mr. Speaker, when a manufacturer is not making any money, all the tax credits in the world will not do a bit of good. For a year now, everyone in Quebec has been telling the minister that something must be done, yet a single visit to Oshawa, the heart of the auto industry, was enough to change his mind. Unfortunately, the minister has asked us to wait until the budget, when he will no doubt make all kinds of wonderful announcements.

The minister understands the mess industry is in, so what is he waiting for? Three months from now, it will be too late.

Manufacturing Sector
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Pontiac
Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, if the Bloc Québécois could agree to work with us, we would be able to implement the measures we proposed in the economic statement immediately, particularly those measures that will reduce the tax burden for individual Quebeckers and for businesses in Quebec. The Bloc members have opted to leave $12 billion on the table.

Manufacturing Sector
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Pauline Picard Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, the general consensus in Quebec is that tangible measures are needed to help the manufacturing sector. In addition to the Bloc Québécois, all the political parties in Quebec, as well as engineers and unions, not to mention manufacturers' associations and exporters, want real action now.

Given the extent of the crisis, how can the Minister of Finance ask manufacturers to wait another three months?

Manufacturing Sector
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Pontiac
Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, once again, I invite hon. members to consider what has been done. If they looked at the plan introduced today by the Government of Quebec, through the premier and the economic development minister, they would see that it includes provisions to expedite the elimination of the tax on capital in Quebec. Which government first gave the provinces tax incentives in the 2007 budget, so that they could do this? We did. That is action.

Manufacturing Sector
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Pauline Picard Drummond, QC

Mr. Speaker, thousands of jobs have been lost in the manufacturing sector, and the federal government is doing nothing. Since the Conservatives came to power, 65,000 jobs have been lost in Quebec alone.

With even the FTQ now decrying the lack of response from the federal government, when will the minister finally do more than just call for patience?

Manufacturing Sector
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Pontiac
Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, first of all, last year in Canada, because of economic activity, business has created more jobs than ever. Clearly, instead of saying that Quebec is losing jobs, we should be saying that Quebec has created 69,000 jobs.

Let us look again at what the Quebec federation of chambers of commerce has said about the economic statement. The federation welcomes the economic update by Canada's Minister of Finance. The federation is satisfied with the measures to help Canadian companies.

Manufacturing Sector
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Robert Thibault West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Justice has clearly put the interests of his political mentor, Brian Mulroney, ahead—

Manufacturing Sector
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Excuse me, I forgot something. I am sorry, but I wrote things incorrectly on my list. The hon. member for Outremont has the floor.

Public Safety
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Thomas Mulcair Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, all police officers receive in-depth training and are subject to strict rules when it comes to the use of deadly force. Tasers are a grey area that can give a false sense of security to police officers. Another tragic death yesterday in Nova Scotia is of concern to all of us.

Is the Minister of Justice prepared to declare a moratorium on tasers, in the best interests of the public and police officers, until a clear protocol is developed for their use?

Public Safety
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Oxford
Ontario

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, there are a number of ongoing investigations into the use of the taser. We do sympathize with those people who have been involved in the incidents of tasering.

Yesterday, the parliamentary committee decided to also look at it. I think the Minister of Public Safety has asked Mr. Paul Kennedy to look into this matter and to report back to the minister by December 12. I think it is incumbent on us to wait.

Public Safety
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Thomas Mulcair Outremont, QC

Mr. Speaker, the taser is an intermediate weapon. It turns off the person. It has an unfortunate side effect that is called death. How many more people will need to be killed by tasers before the government understands that it is time to decree a moratorium?

The minister just talked about sympathy with those people. Those people include not only the victims of the tasers but the police officers whose own professional and personal lives will be affected by years of investigations.

It is time to act now. Why are the Conservatives sitting on their hands?

Public Safety
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Oxford
Ontario

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, as I have already indicated, the minister is not sitting on his hands. He has a report coming forward from Mr. Kennedy. It would be important to wait for that report. It only about three weeks away. The hon. member's comments may not be appropriate given that there are a number of investigations under way.

Justice
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Robert Thibault West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Justice has clearly put the interests of his political mentor, Brian Mulroney, ahead of his departmental responsibilities. He refuses to be briefed on the Mulroney-Schreiber affair, but he signs the letters refusing requests to examine new information on the extradition of Mr. Schreiber.

Now that the parliamentary committee has invited Schreiber to testify, will the minister ensure that he appears before the committee? Will he ensure that Mr. Schreiber appears?

Justice
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Niagara Falls
Ontario

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, inasmuch as this matter is before the court, it would be inappropriate to comment.

Justice
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Robert Thibault West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, the minister's own government finally yielded to public pressure and agreed to call a public inquiry and, if I may pre-empt the minister's usual non-answer, we all eagerly await the work of Dr. Johnston's review. However, the inquiry will be meaningless if it cannot question and examine evidence provided by the two key figures, Mulroney and Schreiber.

Why is the minister refusing to use his power to ensure that Schreiber will remain in Canada until the inquiry can question him? Is he still planning to whisk him out of the country on December 1?

Justice
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Niagara Falls
Ontario

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I do not think the hon. member should prejudge a public inquiry that has not been set up yet.

I would indicate to the member that the Prime Minister has put in place a process by which he will be advised on the terms of the public inquiry and I think everyone should let Dr. Johnston do his work.

Justice
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, for weeks the justice minister has squirmed uncomfortably between loyalties: his duty to remove his government's fingerprints from the Mulroney file and his real duty as Canada's justice minister.

Why will he not allow full disclosure when it comes to his own involvement on this file and tell us who shut down his department's review of the $2.1 million Mulroney settlement?

Justice
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Niagara Falls
Ontario

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I have been completely comfortable answering questions on this and I invite the members of the Liberal Party to ask all 20 questions during question period on this.

As I have indicated, the Prime Minister has set in place a reasonable process whereby an independent third party will make recommendations with respect to a public inquiry and I think the hon. member and her party should let that take its course.

Justice
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, the question is the responsibilities of Canada's justice minister.

Two days after the Conservative government took office, the media reported that Brian Mulroney had received three cash payments of $100,000 from Mr. Schreiber. Mr. Mulroney, of course, claims that he never disclosed these payments because he was never asked. However, in 1996 he testified that he knew very little about Mr. Schreiber's business dealings.

Did his Mulroney era friends tell the minister about this contradiction? Is that why he refused to be briefed by the justice department? Let us see if we can get a proper answer for that.

Justice
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Niagara Falls
Ontario

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, the incident to which the member referred was four prime ministers ago. If we remember what members of the Liberal Party were saying about 10 days ago, they all wanted a public inquiry. They were determined to have a public inquiry but they seemed a little disappointed when they got a public inquiry. I think we should let Dr. Johnston do his work.

Energy Efficiency
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Bloc

Claude DeBellefeuille Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives are better at making cuts than they are at managing energy efficiency programs. Now 10 months later, we see that businesses have lost out because of the cancellation of the commercial building incentive program, that the 2008 criteria for cars eligible for the ecoAuto program have not yet been announced and that the ecoEnergy retrofit program does not have enough evaluators for residential housing in some regions, particularly in the Gaspé.

Can the minister tell us if this irresponsible management of energy efficiency programs is not in fact indicative of his total lack of interest in these kinds of programs?

Energy Efficiency
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Cypress Hills—Grasslands
Saskatchewan

Conservative

David Anderson Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources and for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, the member knows that is not true. She knows that we are interested in energy efficiency and that we have focused on that through the last year and a half.

All our initiatives have been very practical and well-focused and they will achieve real results for Canadians, especially homeowners across this country.

Energy Efficiency
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Bloc

Claude DeBellefeuille Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, with the surplus expected to reach some $11.6 billion dollars, what does the government intend to do for the environment? How much of this windfall will go to energy efficiency programs?

Energy Efficiency
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Cypress Hills—Grasslands
Saskatchewan

Conservative

David Anderson Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources and for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, we are achieving real results. We are helping Canadians to save money and improve the environment.

Our average grants so far in this program to deal with home energy efficiency have averaged $250 per home, more than the previous program. Under our initiative, 95% of that money will go directly to homeowners.

We are proud of this program and we know it is serving Canadians well.

Montreal Planetarium
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, a year and a half ago, the unelected Minister of Public works signed a letter of intent on behalf of the federal government for the relocation and construction of the new Montreal planetarium at the Biodome. Despite repeated requests from the mayor of Montreal, Muséums nature Montréal, the Government of Quebec and the Chambre de commerce de l'est de Montréal, Ottawa still has not honoured Minister Fortier's signature.

Does the minister realize that his government's inertia is jeopardizing the relocation of the planetarium and the $33 million in economic spinoffs from this project for Montreal's east end?

Montreal Planetarium
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Pontiac
Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his interest in this project. As he mentioned, the Government of Canada together with the Government of Quebec, the City of Montreal and private enterprise are reviewing this matter. I hope that we will find a solution in the very near future.

Montreal Planetarium
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, could the minister immediately commit the $9 million from the building Canada fund, since $8.8 billion is available for the next seven years. The project needs $9 million. A minister signed a letter. They must keep their word. That is the fact of the matter.

Montreal Planetarium
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Pontiac
Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, when I hear the sovereignists talk about keeping one's word, I cannot help but think of René Lévesque and Jacques Parizeau, of the Quebec government, who went back on their word to officials. So much for keeping one's word.

When the Government of Canada makes a commitment and when this government promises to do something, we deliver the goods. That is the big difference between us and the Bloc Québécois opposition members.

Federal-Provincial Relations
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Ken Boshcoff Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, the government House leader has chosen childish name-calling over constructive debate with the Premier of Ontario about the government's bill that shortchanges Canada's largest province. He cannot support his arguments with facts because the facts are clear: Ontario is getting the short end of the stick.

If the minister really believes in representation by population, will he show a little respect today and amend his bill and agree to consult with the Government of Ontario?

Federal-Provincial Relations
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, the problem in the current formula for representation in the House of Commons is that fast-growing provinces are severely underrepresented. That applies to Alberta, British Columbia and Ontario. Unless we change that law, that underrepresentation will get worse over time.

For 13 years, although the Liberals introduced bills twice on redistribution, they did nothing to change that formula to help British Columbia, Alberta and Ontario.

We are finally taking the step of doing that, and that should be welcomed as a positive thing to restore the principle of representation by population. That was why the former Liberal critical said that the Liberal Party was supportive of this bill. It has changed--

Federal-Provincial Relations
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

The hon. member for Thunder Bay—Rainy River.

Federal-Provincial Relations
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Ken Boshcoff Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, do not try and divide our country. We support more seats for Alberta and British Columbia.

The minister has already had to apologize once this week for misleading the House on this issue, but he clearly has not learned his lesson. All he can offer Ontario is mudslinging. The people of Ontario deserve better. All Canadians deserve better. They want their government to work for them.

Does the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs think this is how federal-provincial relations should be conducted?

Federal-Provincial Relations
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I have a high regard for the hon. member for Thunder Bay—Rainy River, but when Ontario was underrepresented and his party was in government, he never raised one word once in the House of Commons about that issue.

Today we are finally doing something to give Ontario better representation, to correct a law on the books that the Liberals did not change, which punished Ontario. We are looking to give Ontario a better position. He, like that small man of Confederation, Dalton McGuinty, says, “Sure I'm getting more, but I want more”.

Guess what? We are doing something for Ontario. We are making it better in terms of restoring fairness for all these provinces, and those members should welcome that.

Manufacturing Industry
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Lloyd St. Amand Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, the government has been systematically ignoring the manufacturing crisis since coming to power. In Ontario hundreds of thousands of good manufacturing jobs are disappearing at an alarming rate. This is affecting workers, their families and their communities.

When will the industry minister take his rose-coloured glasses off, accept what is happening out there and put forward a comprehensive plan that will actually help the workers of the manufacturing sector?

Manufacturing Industry
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Oshawa
Ontario

Conservative

Colin Carrie Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, the government has taken action, and I ask that member to support the government.

We understand the importance of manufacturing jobs. We have taken many steps to support this important sector. We have reacted positively to the 22 recommendations of the INDU report, which was a unanimous report. All parties supported it, and that member voted against it. He voted against his own critic.

We increased the capital cost allowance for write-offs. We have supported infrastructure, $33 billion, a record amount for seven years.

We are delivering on our commitments. That is something that party did not do for 13 long years.

Manufacturing Industry
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Lloyd St. Amand Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, the auto sector, which is one of the cornerstones of the economy of Ontario, is suffering greatly from the government's indifference. Shoving the problem under the carpet by refusing to act is negatively affecting the whole Ontario economy.

I ask the industry minister this. Is this indifference caused by the Conservatives' narrow, laissez-faire ideology, or is it yet another way to show their disdain for the Province of Ontario?

Manufacturing Industry
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Oshawa
Ontario

Conservative

Colin Carrie Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, again, this is the government that has acted for the auto industry. The auto industry has asked for partnership and investments. We have done that. It has asked for investments in infrastructure, the Windsor-Detroit border. We gave $400 million to that. That member and his party voted against it.

In human resources, we have made record amounts of investment in education, the apprenticeship programs, tools, education deductions, innovation and over $1.3 billion for our science and technology strategy. That member and his party voted against it.

He should stand up and vote to support good action for Canada's auto industry.

Income Tax
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, recently the Liberal leader had the audacity to claim that our government had not taken action to tackle poverty. That is quite the statement from a leader whose own MPs, like the member for York Centre, openly admit that the Liberals have not done well in the past in combatting poverty. It is also astonishing coming from someone who is against our working income tax benefit.

Could the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance please explain the importance of this measure?

Income Tax
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Macleod
Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Burlington for his work on this file.

Unlike the Liberals, we are not simply talking about tackling poverty. We are doing it through measures like the working income tax benefit. This measure will supplement earnings of low income Canadians to encourage them to work, instead of remaining on social assistance. We hope to build on this key first step.

The Liberals should stop opposing this measure and vote for Bill C-28.

International Trade
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, disingenuously the Prime Minister is attempting to convince Canadians that the SPP is about nothing more harmful than jelly beans. Unfortunately, his government's own internal documents, when they are not totally censored, tell a different story about a wide and dense agenda.

The SPP involves the giveaway of Canada's energy and water resources and the dumbing down, the worst thing, on lowering of regulatory standards in over 300 areas, including transportation safety, food safety, consumer and environmental standards. So much for jelly beans.

Will the Prime Minister respect Canadians and come clean on his dirty SPP agenda?

International Trade
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Oshawa
Ontario

Conservative

Colin Carrie Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, in a competitive global economy, Canada benefits from strong relationships with our North American neighbours. Under the SPP, we are working to ensure Canadian firms continue to have access to U.S. suppliers and American markets. We are working with our neighbours on smart border initiatives, infrastructure improvements and regulatory cooperation.

It is something on which the NDP should be supporting us instead of going against the government.

International Trade
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, we are smarter than that.

This government is working behind the scenes on a free trade agreement with Colombia, a country that violates the Canadian values of justice and human rights. Since the arrival of the new president, 560 Colombian citizens have been assassinated for the crime of unionizing. The army has carried out over a thousand summary executions of journalists and peasants.

The U.S. Congress refuses to support a similar agreement because of these abuses. Will the government stop talking business with a Colombian government whose hands are stained with blood?

International Trade
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Portage—Lisgar
Manitoba

Conservative

Brian Pallister Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade and to the Minister of International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, the key is the government understands we do not separate trade opportunities from human rights benefits. Human rights benefits can accrue to the people of other nations if we give them the opportunity to enter into trading relationships.

In fact, as opposed to the ideological protectionism that the member and his party demonstrate all too often, we understand that opening doors to trading opportunities around the world is a way to advance human rights successfully, and we will continue to do that.

Economic Development
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, since the Conservatives came to power, 65,000 manufacturing jobs have been lost in Quebec. The forestry sector has lost 10,000 jobs since April 2005. These sectors are in crisis and the Prime Minister still has not met with the provincial premiers to talk about it.

What is the Prime Minister waiting for to wake up and send out invitations to the provincial premiers?

Economic Development
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière
Québec

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Labour and Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec

Mr. Speaker, the Economic Development Agency of Canada is helping with the diversification of the forestry communities, among other things, through its new CEDI-Vitality measure. Between February 7, 2006, and September 30, 2007, the agency provided assistance to 680 projects, creating 5,663 jobs in the manufacturing and forestry sectors of Quebec, which now employ over 11,000.

Economic Development
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

Francis Scarpaleggia Lac-Saint-Louis, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Labour and Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec read the wrong briefing note.

When will the Prime Minister invite the provincial premiers, as the Premier of Quebec has been asking him to do, to a public meeting under the media spotlight in order to discuss serious matters to do with Canada's economy?

Economic Development
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière
Québec

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Labour and Minister of the Economic Development Agency of Canada for the Regions of Quebec

Mr. Speaker, today the Government of Quebec announced assistance for the manufacturing and forestry sectors and we are happy about that.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday morning we learned of another tragic taser death. This is the second death in just one short month.

The British Columbia, Nova Scotia and Quebec governments are all conducting reviews. A review of RCMP taser use protocol is not enough.

When will the government call a national review on the use of tasers that includes all law enforcement bodies?

Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Oxford
Ontario

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, as I have already indicated, there are a number of ongoing reviews on this matter. I think the member, if he listened to my last answer, would understand that the minister has asked Mr. Paul Kennedy to bring back a report by December 12 on the use of the taser by the RCMP.

The hon. member has to also respect the jurisdictional issues that apply across the country.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Liberal

Sukh Dhaliwal Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, the answer is not satisfactory. Two people have died and another one is in critical condition after being jolted by a taser. At least 19 people have died by taser since 2003.

Canadians are outraged. They want answers now. When will the government act responsibly and initiate a full national review and will the minister make all the reports public?

Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Oxford
Ontario

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

As I said, Mr. Speaker, there are a number of ongoing investigations, including a number of provincial investigations. The minister has asked Mr. Paul Kennedy to bring back a report, which he will have on or before December 12. I think it is important we wait for that.

Citizenship and Immigration
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Bloc

Meili Faille Vaudreuil-Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, the inaction on the part of the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration is responsible for the backlog at the IRB. When this government first came to power, the board had reduced the average processing time for refuge claims to 9.4 months. This year, there is a backlog of more than 12,000 files and the average processing time has jumped to 14.3 months. There are currently 43 vacant commissioner positions, which represents 34% of the total work force.

Is the minister aware that not enough of these positions are being filled and that the backlog will continue to grow?

Citizenship and Immigration
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk
Ontario

Conservative

Diane Finley Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, as a government, we care very deeply about helping real refugees. Canadians want a government and a refugee system that helps legitimate refugees.

We have been taking steps to replace some hundred vacancies that the previous Liberal government allowed to be created. We have appointed over 70 new members for the IRB. We look forward to appointing more so we can deal with the backlog the Liberals created and ensure that legitimate refugees get the help they need and deserve.

Guaranteed Income Supplement
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Bloc

Raymond Gravel Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, as we all know, the government is expecting a surplus of more than $11 billion this year. Yet, despite the Bloc Québécois' many questions, we still have not had an answer regarding full retroactivity for the guaranteed income supplement for our seniors. I would remind the House that 40,000 seniors in Quebec entitled to this supplement have yet to be contacted. What is more, the secretary of state for seniors is asking them to settle for 11 months of retroactivity.

How can the government on the one hand deny these older people indexation and their dignity, and on the other continue to plump up the coffers of the oil and gas companies?

Guaranteed Income Supplement
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Blackstrap
Saskatchewan

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, I remind the member that this happened under the Liberal watch and nothing was done about it. Since we formed government, we have taken actions. We are committed to modernizing and strengthening the guaranteed income supplement, old age security, the pension plan, and that is exactly what we have done.

After years of being neglected by the Liberals, seniors can rest assured that the government is listening and we are delivering results.

Correctional Service Canada
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Karen Redman Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, Ashley Smith tragically died at the Grand Valley Prison for Women when she suffocated herself just weeks before she was to be released. Rather than receiving treatment, this mentally unstable teenager spent most of her sentence in segregation. Segregation cannot be confused with treatment.

The government has ignored several reports calling for a mental health strategy in our prisons. When will the government take action and implement a mental health strategy in Canadian prisons?

Correctional Service Canada
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Oxford
Ontario

Conservative

Dave MacKenzie Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, I want to extend my sincere condolences to Ashley Smith's family. We do take the death of an inmate very seriously and the loss of life at any time is tragic.

This incident is extremely disturbing and of serious concern. I expect it will be addressed in an expedient, efficient and sensitive manner, after which appropriate action will be taken.

The commissioner has appointed Dianne Brown as the new warden of Grand Valley Institution for Women. She will commence her duties on Monday, November 26.

Fisheries and Oceans
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

Mike Allen Tobique—Mactaquac, NB

Mr. Speaker, two days ago the House heard about the success the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans has achieved with respect to curtailing foreign overfishing. Notwithstanding this significant achievement, fisheries has faced significant challenges over the past several years.

Could the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans update the House on what the government has done to advance issues, bring forward opportunities and improve the economic viability of this important industry?

Fisheries and Oceans
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission
B.C.

Conservative

Randy Kamp Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, the question of my colleague is insightful and timely. It is timely because the minister is meeting with fisheries and aquaculture ministers from the Atlantic provinces, Quebec and Nunavut today to discuss these very challenges that they are facing in the industry. The goal is to work together to enhance fisheries in a way that works for each province and territory.

Our minister is setting a new standard for working cooperatively with the provinces and territories as we continue to implement an “oceans to plate” approach to fisheries, just one more area where the government is taking action and getting the job done.

Fisheries and Oceans
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Catherine Bell Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, from the closure of the cod fishery on the east coast to the millions of missing fish on the west coast, the collapse of fish stocks puts our culture, livelihoods and ecological heritage in jeopardy.

Employees of Fisheries and Oceans Canada are no longer able to fulfill their mandates in stock assessment and fisheries enhancement programs essential for preservation and rebuilding of fish stocks.

We just celebrated International Fisheries Day. Will the minister commit to increased funding for stock assessment, enhancement, enforcement and protection before we have nothing left to celebrate?

Fisheries and Oceans
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission
B.C.

Conservative

Randy Kamp Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, I reject the premise of my colleague's question. If she had been paying attention, she would have heard about our Pacific fisheries renewal initiative where we invested $175 million. A good portion of that money will go toward enforcement and stock assessment, the very things she mentions. We will do that because we want to ensure the fisheries survive and thrive.

Fisheries and Oceans
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Catherine Bell Vancouver Island North, BC

Mr. Speaker, the only thing new is repeated new calls for action from the government. I asked a similar question over a year ago and we have seen no evidence of any increase to funding, especially on the west coast.

What we do see are hatcheries and equipment in need of major repairs and employees doing the best they can with little resources. We see huge tax breaks for large corporations but no investment in fish habitat protection, leaving our stocks in peril.

When will the minister commit this increased funding to protect and conserve Canada's fragile fisheries?

Fisheries and Oceans
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission
B.C.

Conservative

Randy Kamp Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans

Mr. Speaker, I do not know where the member was on July 16 of this year but that is when we announced the Pacific integrated commercial fisheries initiative and the $175 million. We are already moving forward with implementing the measures that will do the very things that we need to do to protect this fishery. We are getting the job done.

Human Resources and Social Development
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Joe McGuire Egmont, PE

Mr. Speaker, recently a government computer was stolen from the home of an HRSDC employee which contained the names, addresses, birthdates, SINs and banking information of over 1,300 Canadians, all of them seniors.

Although the government initially notified the people whose identity had been compromised, it has done nothing since, not even notifying banking institutions of the breach or providing counselling to those seniors. These seniors are very concerned and nervous.

What is the minister doing to protect those people and to ensure this does not happen again?

Human Resources and Social Development
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Blackstrap
Saskatchewan

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, we take this quite seriously. There is a process in place and we are doing everything possible to ensure this is taken care of.

Bill C-303
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Bev Shipley Lambton—Kent—Middlesex, ON

Mr. Speaker, on Tuesday night we sat in this place ready to hear the Minister of Human Resources and Social Development speak to Bill C-303, a bill that the NDP had identified as a priority. However, when private members' hour came, imagine this. The NDP manipulated the system to delay the debate on its own child care bill on National Child Day.

I wonder if the parliamentary secretary has any insight into why the NDP might have done this and whether our government supports this private member's bill.

Bill C-303
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Blackstrap
Saskatchewan

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, it is because the NDP did not want parents to hear how this bill would remove real choice in child care and limit the options available to them.

I think the New Democrats are afraid that the public will realize that the only thing that the bill would do is remove the provinces that do not support this one size fits all model. They do not want Canadians to know that the provinces oppose the bill because it would put a halt to the creation of tens of thousands of child care spaces across the country.

I think the New Democrats have a hidden agenda. I think they and the opposition parties all have hidden agendas. The government realizes that and that is why we cannot support such a flawed bill.

Foreign Worker Program
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, Canada's temporary foreign worker program is fast-tracking thousands of people into Canada with complete disregard for their rights. Workers are paying thousands of dollars to come to Canada, only to be exploited, intimidated and traded from job to job, with no consequence or accountability.

Surely temporary workers must have the same opportunities for permanent residency as other immigrants and equal rights.

Will the government commit today to halt the expedited labour market opinion program until there is a full review and compliance mechanisms are in place, as it promised and has not yet delivered? Why are these workers--

Foreign Worker Program
Oral Questions

Noon

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

The hon. Minister of Citizenship and Immigration.

Foreign Worker Program
Oral Questions

Noon

Haldimand—Norfolk
Ontario

Conservative

Diane Finley Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, there is no question that we have some challenges. In the west, in particular, there are significant labour shortages. We as a government have been working with industry to expedite accessibility for foreign workers to keep our labour economy moving and to keep our businesses in business.

We need to work with them and they need to work with the provinces to ensure that all labour laws are respected by all employers and all of the employees. We are working to make that happen.

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Questions

Noon

Liberal

Anita Neville Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, shamefully, Canada voted against the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Now it has told the UN Human Rights Council that it would consider the declaration only where appropriate.

The idea that a human rights declaration adopted by the UN should apply in some countries but not others is an affront to the core principles of international human rights protection.

Why is the government undermining the rights of indigenous peoples at home and around the world?

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Questions

Noon

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, I find that question quite surprising. Actually, it is our government that has pushed forward extending the Canadian Human Rights Act to first nations people. If it were not for the efforts of all the committee members and, in fact, the Prime Minister himself putting that important measure in the throne speech, the member opposite would probably still be voting against human rights for first nations people.

National Capital Commission
Oral Questions

Noon

Bloc

Luc Malo Verchères—Les Patriotes, QC

Mr. Speaker, the National Capital Commission acknowledged its mistake, changed the panel on Lord Durham, which was considered to be a historic affront to French Canadians, and made a public apology. The new panel now recognizes Lord Durham's intention, which was to assimilate French Canadians.

Could the government do the same and make a public apology to lay this unfortunate incident to rest once and for all?

National Capital Commission
Oral Questions

Noon

Pontiac
Québec

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, in fact, the National Capital Commission recognized it had made a mistake with the historical interpretation, and made changes to reflect the facts and not to interpret Canadian history.

Beyond that, I think we were able to set the record straight, and at the same time, ensure that on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the national capital we can celebrate as Canadians the choice of Ottawa as the capital of Canada.

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Oral Questions

Noon

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, during question period, the member for Lambton—Kent—Middlesex falsely accused the NDP of somehow manipulating the process regarding Bill C-303.

I want to be very clear that the NDP, as with other parties, completely stood by the Standing Orders. It was within normal procedure in terms of the process with Bill C-303.

I would ask the member to withdraw his remarks because he has made an allegation that somehow the NDP manipulated the process when in fact we stood by the process and did what is usual practice in the House regarding a private member's bill.

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Oral Questions

Noon

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons and Minister for Democratic Reform

Mr. Speaker, I welcome the opportunity to repeat back the member's words the next many times that the NDP objects to our efforts to utilize the Standing Orders and rules to advance our very important priority agendas on matters like justice and cutting taxes for Canadians.

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Oral Questions

Noon

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

I am afraid the Chair has no familiarity with whatever procedure may have occurred in respect to the private member's bill to which the hon. member for Vancouver East is referring.

However, I am quite prepared to review the comments made by the minister to see if they did constitute some suggestion that there had been an abuse of the rules of the House or privileges of members in the answer that was given. It did not sound like it when I heard it, I have to say that, but maybe I did not hear it correctly and maybe the facts were such that the minister's suggestion was misunderstood by the Chair.

I will look into the matter and, if necessary, come back to the House.

Treasury Board of Canada
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Nepean—Carleton
Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, as part of our overall efforts to inform parliamentarians and Canadians about the government's performance, I have the honour of presenting on behalf of the President of Treasury Board, in both official languages, a report entitled “Canada's Performance 2006-07: The Government of Canada's Contribution”.

Finance
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Prince George—Peace River
B.C.

Conservative

Jay Hill Secretary of State and Chief Government Whip

Mr. Speaker, there have been discussions among all the parties and I believe you would find unanimous consent for the following motion:

That, notwithstanding the provisions of Standing Order 83.1, the Standing Committee on Finance be authorized to present its report on the prebudget consultations no later than February 8, 2008; and,

That, during its consideration of matters pursuant to Standing 83.1, the Standing Committee on Finance be authorized to adjourn from place to place within Canada and to permit the broadcasting of its proceedings thereon, and that the necessary staff do accompany the committee.

Finance
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Does the chief government whip have the unanimous consent of the House to propose the motion?

Finance
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Finance
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

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

Finance
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Finance
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

(Motion agreed to)

Democratic Reform
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise to present a petition that has been a concern of not only my constituents but of citizens from coast to coast to coast. This is a petition to hold MPs accountable to their electors.

The petitioners want Parliament to strengthen democratic accountability by taking all necessary steps to ensure that MPs who switch party affiliation must immediately resign and face electors in a byelection.

I have thousands and thousands of names here from people from Ontario, B.C., places right across the country, the Maritimes, as well as the north who want their government to be accountable and their MPs to be accountable. They want to ensure that when they vote for an MP who is with a particular party that they do not wake up the next morning and find out, quel dommage, they have switched parties.

I present this petition and look forward to the response from the government.

Child Care
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Denise Savoie Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have three petitions to present on behalf of my constituents.

The first petition is from many parents in my constituency who are stuck on long wait lists for child care with costs that are rising out of reach. They face the threat of their child care centre closing because they cannot afford or find qualified staff.

The petitioners are calling on the Government of Canada to achieve multi-year funding to ensure that publicly operated child care programs are sustainable for the long term and to protect child care by enshrining it in legislation with a national child care act to be the cornerstone of Canada like the National Health Act, and to help end child poverty by using the $1,200 allowance to enhance the child tax benefit without taxes or clawbacks as is the case presently.

Arms Sales
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Denise Savoie Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, the second petition is from many constituents who are concerned about the continued military arsenal buildup in the world and the danger that it presents to us all. The sale of arms has become a flourishing industry in Canada and now represents a large percentage of our GDP. Our government refuses to give leadership in establishing a comprehensive peace process in Afghanistan.

The petitioners are therefore calling on Parliament to establish a department of peace that would reinvigorate Canada's role as a global peace builder and that would have the abolition of nuclear weapons as a top priority.

Democratic Reform
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Denise Savoie Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, the last petition is signed by many of my constituents in Victoria and many constituents across the country who are concerned about the constant floor crossings between Liberals and Conservatives.

The petitioners call on Parliament to strengthen democratic accountability by taking all necessary steps to ensure that MPs who switch party affiliation immediately resign and face electors in a byelection.

Pet Food
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in the House today to present a petition from many people in my riding of Vancouver East and in Vancouver generally.

I am sure members will remember that in March 2007 there was a flood of contaminated pet food that hit Canadian store shelves, causing severe illness and stress in a number of animals. What became clear is that there is no federal regulator or agency to monitor or protect the safety of pet food in Canada or to inform the public about the potential harm of pet foods.

The petitioners call on the Government of Canada to remove the self-regulatory regime that is now in place allowing pet food producers to basically monitor themselves.

The petitioners call on the government to develop mandatory regulations and inspections to ensure the quality and safety of pet food.

The petitioners also call on the government to direct the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to oversee the regulation and inspection of the quality of pet food, and ensure that there is a national protocol to inform the public about potentially harmful pet foods, so that we never again see the kind of anxiety and concern that happened in March 2007 when contaminated pet food hit retail shelves and pet food stores at that time.

Age of Consent
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have three petitions today; two are on the same subject and one on a different subject.

The first two petitions are on the subject of the age of sexual consent, a matter that is before Parliament right now.

The large number of petitioners draw to the attention of Parliament their opposition to the age of sexual consent being set at 14. They urge Parliament to raise the age of sexual consent to 16. They point out that this would do a considerable amount to protect teenagers from sexual predators. They point out that the Canadian Police Association, a number of parliamentary governments and parliamentary committees have all advocated raising the age of consent and they, and I, feel strongly about this.

Firearms Registry
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Reid Lanark—Frontenac—Lennox and Addington, ON

Mr. Speaker, the third petition is on the subject of the long gun registry. This is a matter that once again is before Parliament, so it makes the petition very timely.

The petitioners point out that the majority of violent gun crimes in Canada are committed with unregistered or illegal firearms and, therefore, the long gun registry does nothing to protect Canadians against this kind of crime.

The petitioners also point out that the long gun registry is 500 times its original cost, at more than $1 billion. They point out that a number of legal gun owners, including farmers, sport shooters and hunters, are in fact the people who have to pay the freight for the long gun registry. They therefore encourage Parliament to rescind the long gun registry.

The Environment
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, the province of Manitoba, an NDP government, is the leader on climate change and I have a petition signed by hundreds of people from Winnipeg and other towns in Manitoba, as well as across Canada, on the issue of climate change. That is understandable given that Manitoba has been the leading government in the nation in fighting back against climate change.

These petitioners from Manitoba, a leader in climate change, call upon Parliament to honour the legal commitment to the Kyoto treaty and to further pledge to reduce Canada's greenhouse gas emissions by 30% below the 1990 level by 2020 and 80% by 2050, as the Federation of Canadian Municipalities and the state of California have done.

These Manitobans, part of the NDP government that has led the country in climate change, are asking Parliament to take action.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:15 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 suppose the only real question for today is: By how large of a margin will the Saskatchewan Roughriders beat the Winnipeg Blue Bombers in Sunday's Grey Cup?

However, since that answer is forthcoming on Sunday, in the parliamentary context I humbly ask that all questions be allowed to stand.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Tackling Violent Crime Act
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

When debating Bill C-2, there were five minutes remaining to the hon. member for Hochelaga.

Tackling Violent Crime Act
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, thank you for allowing me to continue. When I was interrupted, I was saying that the fight against organized crime had been a Bloc Québécois issue for a long time. I was citing the example of the anti-gang bill that I tabled in 1995. I also recalled the initiatives of the member for Charlesbourg who had worked on taking $1,000 bills out of circulation and who had presented the bill to reverse the onus of proof for proceeds of crime. That bill was passed unanimously in this House.

Bill C-2 before us may be considered a compilation of all the legislative measures initiated by the government since coming to power in February 2006. It contains five measures, including former bill C-10, which caused a great deal of difficulties. In fact, that bill established mandatory minimum sentences for offences involving firearms.

It also contains the former Bill C-22, which invites us to no longer talk about the age of consent, but the age of protection. It increases that age from 14 to 16, and has close in age clauses. The Bloc was worried about this. More specifically, the hon. member for Laurier—Sainte-Marie clearly expressed our view to the media. We did not want young people who attend the same school and have non-exploitative sexual relations to be subject to charges. That is why a close in age clause, with a five-year age difference was established for 13 and 14 year olds. They may have non-exploitative sexual relations with young people of a similar age, on condition that the age difference does not exceed five years.

Bill C-2 also contains a former bill that also provided for reverse onus of proof at the pre-trial hearing stage. If a person commits an offence involving a firearm, the reverse onus of proof applies and that person, who could of course be released by a justice of the peace, must show that he or she is not a threat to society.

Lastly, Bill C-2 also incorporates the former Bill C-27. I discussed this with the member for Repentigny, and we found that this is the measure we have the most difficulty with. Even so, we will support this bill, but we would have liked this measure to have been reworked. These provisions reverse the burden of proof for individuals who have committed a third offence from a designated list.

Despite all that, we believe that the bill is reasonable and that it merits our support. However, we wanted to see greater discretion for the Crown. What makes us uncomfortable is our belief that the government is addressing the wrong priorities for justice. We wanted to see a plan to fight poverty or to address the bail and parole systems, particularly the accelerated review process. We also wanted to address the issue of individuals wearing colours and logos recognized by the court as representing criminal organizations.

We cannot have a balanced vision of justice without considering the causes of delinquency and the ways to ensure that everyone in our society has a fair chance.

Right now, the Bloc Québécois is especially committed to seniors and to addressing the guaranteed income supplement and the retroactivity issue. I would like to thank the member for Repentigny for his excellent work on this file. I am sure that my colleagues will join me in thanking him for all of his hard work.

In conclusion, we will support Bill C-2, but for the record, we were hoping for some adjustments. Nevertheless, we will support this bill.

Tackling Violent Crime Act
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened with interest to the presentation by my Bloc Québécois colleague. Hon. members know full well that the NDP tried to improve this bill in committee. Now we are introducing an amendment in this House that will improve the bill.

Is the Bloc Québécois supporting this bill without really trying to improve it, as the NDP is proposing to do today, because this government is imposing a motion of non-confidence in connection with the bill?

My colleague is well aware that we can improve this bill, which has many flaws. When the Conservatives look at justice issues, they do so with a lack of thoroughness and a real lack of professionalism. We can try to improve this bill. The NDP is trying to make it better. If I have understood correctly, the Bloc does not seem to be in favour of doing so.

Is it because of the non-confidence motion that goes with the bill?

Tackling Violent Crime Act
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague for his question. Let me make something clear. Our problem with this bill has to do with mandatory minimum sentences. We have always been uncomfortable with such sentences.

The NDP members, our neo-Bolshevik friends, are introducing an amendment today when they and we defeated all the amendments to Bill C-10 in committee and kept only two provisions of that bill.

Which party was it that, in an act of complicity approaching intellectual treason, resurrected the bill?

I could not believe my ears. I asked Annie Desnoyers to pinch me. I could not understand why this party, which had defeated all the amendments to Bill C-10 in committee, was resurrecting the bill in the House of Commons.

The moral of this story is that I give my colleague A+ for courtesy, but D- for his party's consistency.

Tackling Violent Crime Act
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, speaking of inconsistencies, one example is the softwood lumber agreement, which caused the loss of thousands of jobs for Quebeckers, and was supported by the Bloc Québécois. That makes absolutely no sense. There is an inconsistency the Bloc Québécois needs to deal with.

Let me get back to the question, which he did not answer. He knows very well that the provisions of this bill are actually unconstitutional. He knows very well that the NDP is introducing an amendment here today that will make it possible to prevent certain people being labelled as dangerous and subjected to an evaluation later on, when they are serving their sentence. The NDP is promoting this amendment precisely because the bill and this aspect of the bill do not work. He knows this very well. I would therefore like to repeat my question.

Is it because the Conservative government is calling this a non-confidence motion that the Bloc Québécois seems to want to support this bill, without thinking about the repercussions, knowing that there are some aspects of the bill that are unconstitutional?

Tackling Violent Crime Act
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for Hochelaga has one minute to reply.

Tackling Violent Crime Act
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Bloc

Réal Ménard Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, I will remind the House what happened. We fought Bill C-10 in committee. The NDP, with its inflated egos and puffed up chests, says it is against mandatory minimum sentences. The Liberals, the New Democrats and the Bloc Québécois fought the government and defeated those provisions of Bill C-10, a bill that would have imposed mandatory minimum sentences.

We are witnessing a contradiction on a scale I have never before seen in this House, since I arrived in 1993, and there is nothing we can do. The neo-Bolsheviks are resuscitating Bill C-10 with such a complete lack of consistency that I will never forget.

In closing, on the topic of softwood lumber, the Bloc Québécois aligned itself with the FTQ, the CSN and all those who defend the workers. This is why we are the strongest political party in Quebec, while the NDP remains at only 13% in the polls.

Tackling Violent Crime Act
Government Orders

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-2, an Act to amend the Criminal Code and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, the so-called tackling violent crime bill, something which our party has been working on for some time. I am quite proud of the work that we have already done on this very issue. It is critically important that Canada have safe communities and that we do everything possible to ensure that.

Canada has long been and continues to be one of the safest countries in the world. Although firearm homicides decreased between 1975 and 2003, even one death, or one violent episode involving guns, is one too many. When our communities challenge that it is decreasing, I am sure the reason is that statistics do not matter if people feel unsafe in their communities. People in my riding are very concerned about this issue, as are people in other ridings. It is important that we do everything we possibly can to ensure the laws are there to protect Canadians.

The Liberal government implemented a wide variety of measures in order to make our streets safer. We had a very successful crime prevention strategy that involved more than imprisonment. There is much more required than just imprisonment, which is why the former Liberal government took a more proactive role with a wide range of measures to stem gun violence and crack down on organized crime.

Since 2002 our anti-gang legislation has meant new offences and tougher sentences, including life in prison for involvement with criminal organizations. It is currently being used in cities like mine, Toronto, where it has been used numerous times. It is a tool the police are very pleased to have and they use it to its maximum amount.

We also broadened powers to seize the proceeds and property of criminal organizations. As well, we increased funding for the national crime prevention strategy, which is something again, we cared very much about and it was very effective. The decrease in crime clearly is because the Liberal government's crime strategy was effective and it continues to be effective.

Since it was launched in 1998 the national crime prevention strategy has helped numerous communities across Canada by giving them the tools, the knowledge, and the support that they need to deal with the root causes of crime at the local level, which is where it has to start. It has supported more than 5,000 projects nation-wide dealing with serious issues like family violence, school problems, and drug abuse.

These are just some of the measures that my party, while in government, undertook. Our campaign was working, hence, the reason there has been a decrease in crime, especially in violent crime. Whether funding programs to prevent crime or ensuring that violent criminals are brought to justice, the Liberal Party while in government was and now continues to be committed to protecting our communities.

Even though we are now in opposition, we, the Liberals, have been dealing seriously with crime legislation for the past year and a half while the Conservatives have been playing partisan games and doing everything they can to prevent those bills from being passed. We actually put more effort into passing the government's crime bills in the last session than the Conservatives did. So, we will not take any lectures from them on how we should be proceeding. Had they not blocked it, the legislation would have been passed and enacted already.

People will remember that on October 26, 2006 the Liberals made the very first offer to fast track a package of justice bills through this House. In spite of the government saying something different, we made every effort to work with the Conservatives to ensure the passage of anything that would make our country safer. This included Bill C-9, as amended; Bill C-18, on DNA identification; Bill C-19, on street racing; Bill C-22, on the age of consent; Bill C-23, on criminal procedures; and Bill C-26, on payday loans. All were important legislation.

The Conservatives like to claim, as I said earlier, that the Liberals held up their justice bills, but anyone who has been paying any attention knows that simply is not true. We are doing our job as a responsible opposition party. We are certainly not going to play partisan politics with the Criminal Code. I would ask the government to keep that in mind so that we can work together in a positive way to ensure the safety of Canadians and our country.

The Liberal Party, while in government, made great progress on making our communities safer. As I mentioned earlier, we increased funding for the national crime prevention strategy. We took steps to prevent gun violence by cracking down on organized crime in a very concentrated effort across the country. We focused on attacking the root causes of why people get involved in organized crime. We worked together with all of the crime prevention people across the country and with all of the officials in the various policing jurisdictions, because it certainly takes a coordinated effort in order to tackle organized crime.

When we are back in government, and we look forward to and expect to be the government after the next election, we have our own plans.

A new Liberal government would immediately provide additional funds to the provinces so they could hire more police officers. We would give the RCMP money for 400 additional officers to help local police departments deal with guns and gang activity, organized crime and drug trafficking.

We would also ensure that more money was made available to the provinces to hire more crown attorneys, which continues to be a problem and clogs the courts. It is one thing to arrest people but it is another thing to get them through the system.

We would continue to support reverse onus bail hearings for those arrested for gun crimes. We would establish a fund that would help at-risk communities cover the cost of security in their places of worship, which was started by the previous Liberal government, but which unfortunately was abandoned by the Conservatives.

A new Liberal government would make sure that children in vulnerable neighbourhoods got the very best start in life. We hear that all the time. It costs approximately $120,000 a year for each person who is kept in prison. We would reverse that and invest right at the very beginning. We are talking about early learning programs and high risk communities.

I represent a high risk community and I talk to many of the kids and their parents. Those parents are struggling to keep their kids on the straight and narrow. They truly need a variety of programs and help at that point. I realize that the Conservatives understand that as well. It is important to be investing early so that we can keep kids out of the justice system and make sure they know they have options and alternatives in life so that they are not dragged into the drug and gang culture, which is clearly happening now.

Many of the parents I talk to, the single mothers, are frantic with worry. They are looking for other places to live where it will be safer, where their kids will not be drawn into the gang activity that is very prevalent in my own riding.

By ensuring that children get the best possible start in life, we will be encouraging them to become positive contributing members of society and do not fall victims to poverty and crime. From providing resources for young mothers to interact and to learn about nutrition, to supplying early learning opportunities for their precious children, our communities need our support and we must provide it.

We invested in many worthwhile crime prevention initiatives. A few of those programs are the gun violence and gang prevention fund, support for community based youth justice programs and partnerships to promote fair and effective processes, community investments through the youth employment strategy, and the justice department's programming and partnerships to provide hope and opportunities.

We also committed another $2 million to the city of Toronto in support of programming under the Liberal government's youth employment strategy. This was all part of the $122 million that was dedicated to the youth employment strategy programming to help youth across the country.

Conflict Mediation Services of Downsview was a not for profit organization that helped people and families, workplaces, schools and neighbourhoods. Unfortunately, its restorative justice program was not funded because priorities have changed of course with the new government, and that no longer fits into that grouping.

In closing, I would like to say that this legislation is important. We look forward to it getting through the House and being enacted as we all move forward in a joint effort to ensure safety. Our communities will appreciate it.

Tackling Violent Crime Act
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Niagara Falls
Ontario

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member talked about priorities and the truth.

Is it not the truth that when Bill C-9, the bill that would limit conditional or house arrest, was before Parliament, it was the Liberal Party that gutted it and made it possible for arsonists who burn down people's houses to still be eligible to go back to their own houses after sentencing? Those members made sure that clause was in there. Was that not part of it?

Is it not the truth that when the Conservatives brought in a bill for mandatory jail terms for people who commit serious firearms offences and the Liberal Party voted against it in the House of Commons, five Liberals could not stomach the official Liberal position on it and voted against their own party?

Is it not also the truth that when Liberals came forward with their so-called fast tracking they knew it needed the unanimous consent of the House, they already knew that the NDP and the Bloc did not support it, and they also knew that it was procedurally out of order, which was confirmed by the Speaker on two different occasions? Is that not the truth?

Finally, I would like to know from the hon. member how surprised she is that every single time the Leader of the Opposition has been asked about his priorities since June, he has never once mentioned criminal justice, fighting crime in this country or making our streets safer. When he put out his pseudo speech from the throne, there was not one single word about fighting crime. How surprised was she about that?

I bet none of those members were surprised, because it is not a priority for the Liberal Party of Canada.

Tackling Violent Crime Act
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, let me tell the hon. minister that keeping our country and communities safe has always been a priority. It does not have to be something new. We do not have to bring it up as if we have never talked about it before.

Social justice, investing in our communities,and investing in our children and providing opportunities to ensure they get an education are the things that we ought to be focusing on. We have always focused on them so we are not going to have to make it a huge priority because it is an ongoing priority that we are going to continue to have.

It takes all of us in the House to work together. We tried. We made a legitimate offer to fast track this several times. The fact was that the government refused because it was playing games, nothing else. The Conservatives can stand there and accuse us of all kinds of things, but let me assure the House and any Canadians watching today that community safety is critically important to this party, as I would expect it to be for everybody in the House.

Tackling Violent Crime Act
Government Orders

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, as the member knows, the debate we are having right now is on the NDP amendment, which would essentially allow for sentencing provisions later in sentences for dangerous offenders.

When the Conservatives came at this bill, the reason why the former justice minister was essentially fired was that a lot of the bills they put forward were not bills that would actually hold water. They were sort of done on the back of a napkin. They would not stand up to a charter challenge. As a result, it is the members in the other three corners of the House who have had to work to try to improve legislation that in so many cases was very poorly drafted. They just did not do their homework.

The NDP amendment would actually correct a big mistake that was made by the Conservatives in the drafting of this bill. Is the member supporting the NDP amendment? If not, why not?

Tackling Violent Crime Act
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Judy Sgro York West, ON

Mr. Speaker, let me say on that particular issue that it is our intention to support the things that are in the best interests of our country. We always have to make sure they are constitutionally sound.

However, I certainly share the comments he made in regard to legislation that was being put forward being written on the back of an envelope. Thank goodness we can send these bills off to committee where there can be some serious work done.

It is one thing to get a lot of great press because a party introduces tough on crime bills and all the rest of it. We did the process of being tough on crime and we did it in a way that still had a compassionate side to all of it.

As for suggesting that everything the Conservatives put forward was perfect, heaven help us if they had passed some of what they originally put forward. I am sure it would have been struck down by the courts at the very first opportunity.

Tackling Violent Crime Act
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to second the amendment to this legislation made by the member for Windsor—Tecumseh. Essentially what the NDP amendment is doing is looking to provide provision for sentencing of dangerous offenders later in their sentence. There is no doubt that this is an improvement to the bill.

I mentioned earlier that a lot of the Conservative justice legislation was written very hastily and very poorly. That is why the former justice minister was fired. Then, in a number of cases when legislation was in a more advanced state and actually was going through the House and the Senate, the Conservatives pulled all that legislation back. They have been playing a lot of political games with legislation around crime and justice issues.

This is a case where clearly they are playing games. The NDP amendment would allow for provision of “dangerous offender” later in the sentence. The Conservatives' approach will surely not withstand a charter challenge, so their provisions for dangerous offender legislation simply will not hold water. It seems to be more of a cosmetic operation than anything that is going to have a practical application.

This amendment resolves that. It is not cosmetic. It has a very practical effect. I will explain why.

I live in a riding that was one of the residences of the balcony rapist, Mr. Paul Callow, who was released in the spring of 2007. A number of constituents approached me about this issue and asked why he was not designated a dangerous offender during the course of his incarceration.

As we know, the Criminal Code does not allow for that. The provision of dangerous offender can only take place in the first six months of a sentence. In Mr. Callow's case, even though he was sentenced for a number of horrendous crimes, it was not until later in his sentence that it turned out he had not gone through the appropriate treatment programs and that he had allegedly committed another offence while in prison.

As a result, he was kept for the entire duration of his sentence and then was unceremoniously dumped into New Westminster, British Columbia. No programs and no supports were provided to him. He was put into a homeless shelter that simply pushed him out every day, so he was walking the streets of New Westminster.

Does any of that make any sense? Of course not, but that is how the Conservatives approach these justice issues. They simply do not do the fundamental things that actually will make a difference in reducing the crime rate.

That is why the NDP amendment is here. In Mr. Callow's case, given the NDP amendment that is before the House, a judge would be able to, later in his sentence, look at the evidence, at the fact that he had not successfully gone through the treatment programs and at the fact of the alleged offence in prison, and would be able to designate that individual as a dangerous offender. It withstands a charter challenge.

The NDP amendment simply makes sense. It actually accomplishes the end that the Conservatives say they want to accomplish. Their proposed legislation, because it was hastily and poorly drafted, as are so many of the justice bills that have come from the government, simply will not withstand a charter challenge, which leaves us with the status quo. It leaves us with the same situation. If an individual like Mr. Callow is going through the same situation in the next couple of years, there is no legislation that will actually deal with that individual.

This cannot be a surprise to any of us. The Republican approach in the United States has been very similar. Rather than the Republicans doing the concrete fundamentals and getting things right in the justice system, many have accused the Republicans of actually trying to provoke an increased crime rate because somehow in the end that allows them to campaign politically on justice issues. They are not trying to get the substance done. They are trying to do political spin.

As for this government, we know that the Conservatives have gutted the same crime prevention programs that actually reduce the crime rate. As we know, one dollar invested in crime prevention programs saves six dollars in policing costs, justice costs and penal costs later on, and it means there are no victims.

If the government were really serious about justice issues, it would be investing heavily in crime prevention. Why? Because there are no victims as the crime never occurs. Why? Because it actually reduces the crime rate. Why? Because it is extremely cost effective. A buck there saves six dollars later on, so from the taxpayers' point of view as well it makes more sense.

Instead of investing heavily in crime prevention, the Conservatives have cut back in crime prevention. Instead of investing in alcohol and drug treatment programs, they have cut back. Instead of investing in youth at risk programs to reduce those youths at risk and turn them away from a potential life of crime, they have cut back. Instead of investing in building safer communities programs and providing safety audits for buildings and communities, they have cut back. Instead of investing in community policing, they have cut back.

Where have the Conservatives put their money? Into billions and billions of dollars in corporate tax cuts. We saw $16 billion in corporate tax cuts in the autumn financial statement. They are essentially shovelling money at the corporate sector when these fundamentals of community policing and crime prevention are simply not being taken care of.

We have to ask why the Conservatives are refusing the NDP amendment, which effectively would make absolutely certain that there are no future cases like that of the balcony rapist, Mr. Paul Callow. Why would the Conservatives resist putting in place a common sense solution that actually can be in place as soon as we adopt the legislation? Why would they rather go with a poorly drafted version of the bill that simply will be thrown out? It simply will not resist charter scrutiny.

We have to ask these questions about to what degree the Conservatives are serious. I raised the issue around the Republican style of actually provoking a higher crime rate because I have seen how quickly the Conservatives react on issues such as that. We have seen them use political spin. We have certainly not seen them approach this with the type of seriousness and responsibility that is required by these issues.

We have seen the government of Manitoba, for example, an NDP government, taking very effective measures on crime prevention. We do not see this from the Conservative government.

I implore my colleagues in the Conservative Party to not just blindly vote the party line, but rather, since they know there are problems with this bill, I urge them to support and vote for the NDP amendment that will allow for the provision of dangerous offender later in sentencing, thus making sure that these kinds of cases never occur again. I ask them to vote for Canada. I ask them to not just vote blindly the way the Conservative whip tells them to vote.

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12:45 p.m.

Nepean—Carleton
Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise today to speak about a subject that is very important to Canadians.

First of all, I am happy to congratulate the member for having some convictions. Although I disagree with his convictions, at least he has some. That is in stark contrast to our Liberal colleagues, who oppose this bill 100% but are pretending to support it in order to avoid the electoral wrath that would go along with standing in the way of the tackling violent crime act.

The Liberal Party voted against mandatory jail time for gun criminals. The Liberal Senate blocked passage of the bill to raise the age of sexual protection. I am working hard to raise the age of sexual consent in this country because it is necessary to protect our youngsters against the threats that Internet predators pose. The Liberals opposed such a move in the Senate.

The Liberals are opposed to this bill, but they are flip-flopping because their constituents are forcing them to pass this bill, and that is a good thing. We need the tackling violent crime act in order to keep our streets safe. That is why I am a proud supporter of this bill and proud to stand four-square with our justice minister and our Prime Minister to tackle violent crime.

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12:50 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, there was no question there, of course. Unfortunately, that seemed to be the just the platitudes that we get from the Conservative government. I am just astounded by the Conservatives' inability to deal fundamentally with issues of crime and justice in a serious and responsible way.

It now has been seven months since the member for New Westminster—Coquitlam, the member for Surrey North and I called on the government to allow for sentencing provisions later in sentence for dangerous offenders to avoid the kind of case that we have seen with the balcony rapist, to stop it from ever occurring again, and also to allow that safety measure for a judge to then judge, based on the evidence, whether or not someone should be designated as a dangerous offender later in sentence. At that time, the Conservatives refused.

We had the member for Windsor—Tecumseh present motions at the justice committee. The Conservatives refused again.

Now we have the NDP amendment and it seems that the Conservatives are resisting again. It just does not make sense. When they know their bill does not work, why do they not accept the NDP improvement?

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12:50 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for an excellent overview of this legislation, including the amendment that my colleague from Windsor put forward. I want to thank my colleague from Windsor for the excellent work he has done. He has provided common sense and insight to this because that is what has been lacking in the debate.

When I hear those who say that we will tackle violent crime and get tough on crime, that is fine, but when we are talking about legislation, we have to be smart on crime and what we are doing. If we do not think through what we are doing and how we write legislation, then we waste a lot of time and we are not as effective as we can be.

If this is to be a charter challenge, it requires some reflection. I did not hear from the Minister of Justice today a clear answer on what other opinions he has as a minister on whether or not this will be charter proof.

I have a question for my colleague. Was he aware that one of the most eminent experts, who is a prosecutor on this dangerous offenders designation, Mr. Cooper, had tried to provide the Minister of Justice with some common sense solutions? Was he aware of the fact that the committee did not hear from him, the minister obviously did not hear from him, but that our colleague from Windsor had heard from him and that Mr. Cooper provided some common sense solutions like our friend from Windsor.

What does he think of this lack of oversight, lack of analysis and lack of common sense?

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12:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for Ottawa Centre ignored the signals I was giving him that he was running out of time. There is now 30 seconds left for the hon. member for Burnaby—New Westminster.

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12:50 p.m.

NDP

Peter Julian Burnaby—New Westminster, BC

Mr. Speaker, that was an excellent question so I am glad additional time was given.

The hon. member is absolutely right. Not just Mr. Cooper, but a wide variety of experts have said very clearly that this legislation will be thrown out under a charter challenge, which is why the NDP brought forward this amendment. We are simply saying that we have to be smart on crime. We see the Conservatives taking the republican playbook, which is simply--

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12:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

Order. Resuming debate, the hon. member for St. Paul's.

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12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, we should not even be here debating this bill, which should have received royal assent last spring. The government has been playing games with Parliament. It is not governing and it uses Parliament as a political playground. It has shown a complete lack of respect towards Parliament.

The government refused the fast tracking offer of our party and it actively delayed these important initiatives while hoping for an election last spring in which they could run on their crime and punishment agenda.

As was mentioned by the member for Notre-Dame-de-Grâce—Lachine, I too would like to remind this House of the scenario from last spring. Bill C-10 received first reading on May 6 and was delayed 38 days before second reading, 146 days before it was sent to committee. The committee met 105 days and then from the committee report to report stage it took another 75 days. From report stage to third reading, it took 22 days.

Bill C-22 received first reading on June 22, 2006 and was delayed 130 days before second reading, 142 days before it was sent to committee. The bill was 29 days in committee, four days until the committee reported, 11 days to report stage, and then to third reading on the following day.

Bill C-27 received first reading on October 17, 2006 and was delayed 199 days before second reading on May 4, 2007, four days to committee, and then 36 days to report stage.

Bill C-32 received first reading on November 21, 2006 and was delayed 77 days before second reading, 113 days until it was sent to committee, and then 20 days in committee and the committee reported the following day.

Bill C-35, an act to amend the Criminal Code, received first reading November 23, 2006 and was delayed 123 days before second reading, two days before it went to the committee where it was studied for 61 days, and then one day until it was reported in the House. It took five days to report stage and one day until third reading.

This is no way to tackle violent crime. In fact, again the government is simply posturing and using the Parliament of this country as a little electoral toy, instead of actually taking this seriously. The Conservatives are only posturing. I have never been so disappointed, from the committees to the behaviour here, to see that these parliamentarians have not been allowed to act like parliamentarians because of this appetite for an election and a majority.

Last evening, at the End Exclusion 2007 conference, one of the members of the disability community said to me that social policy and social justice was homeless in the government. In terms of tackling violent crime, women with disabilities, who are the most abused, most often the victims of violent crime, want to see some policies that will affect them.

The seniors that we met with the member for London North Centre are very upset in terms of the people looking after them. Elder abuse no longer has automatic charges and the poor, vulnerable seniors are still asked as to whether or not they want to press charges.

From early learning and child care where we know we can help effect the behaviour of young children, to bullying programs, literacy programs, to cutting women's programs that affect the Interval houses, to the summer jobs program where kids can finally maybe find out that they are good at something, the government has consistently cut the prevention and the causes of violent crime.

I remember in 1995 when I ran provincially. We knew then what premier Harris was about to do. He cut the arts programs, the music programs, the sports programs, the homework clubs and the family counselling, and 10 years later we ended up with terrible trouble with guns and gangs.

At the Tumivut shelter in my riding, when I meet with some of the members of the black community, it has been absolutely horrifying to hear that the results of those cuts were really to people who did not feel included. The first time this young man said that he had ever felt included was when he joined a gang. The first time he was told that he was good at anything was when he was shoplifting.

It is very upsetting to see that the government just does not understand that investing in programs allows kids to find talents in art and music and find summer jobs. It is absolutely horrifying to think that this idea of just locking up people and throwing away the key will be the way to get a safer society.

Canada used to boast the lowest recidivism rate in the world because of what happened to people in prisons. That meant an education. They might even get a bachelor's degree. Some of them have even obtained law degrees. With anger management and drug rehabilitation programs, they have been able to come out with new talents, meet new friends, and never reoffend again.

We do not want our prisons to become schools for criminality, where people are trained for a life of crime. It is hugely important, as we look forward to the real challenge of tackling violent crime in the long term, that the government address the causes of crimes and the kinds of programs that are so important in our prison system.

I feel that I cannot stand in the House without commenting that the government has rendered this place and the committees of the House to an all time low in my 10 years as a parliamentarian. Members of Parliament are not allowed to speak freely in committee, they are scripted and rehearsed in the Prime Minister's Office. There is this unbelievable inability of cabinet ministers to even speak or show up at events they had booked themselves. As the Clerk of the House of Commons so often reminds us, this building is to be something more than to hang Christmas lights on.

It is appalling that we do not understand that the job of chairs of committees is not to dictate. Their job is to find the will of the committee and put it forward. They are not to have, like what happened yesterday in the health committee, the minister whispering in the chair's ear in the middle of the meeting. It is not up to the chair of a committee to decide, with 15 minutes to go, that the minister gets 15 minutes to sum up.

There seems to be an absolute lack of understanding of the role of the House and the role of committees in terms of really calling the government to account. Government reports to Parliament. It is not the other way around. No amendments mean no democracy. This is a travesty of the role of citizens.

I hope that in the next election people will see that the ballot box question will be whether citizens have a role at all after the next election because citizens have been silenced, members of Parliament have been silenced, and ministers are being instructed what to do. I worry for the democracy of this country should these people be allowed to govern any longer.

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1 p.m.

Conservative

David Sweet Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, there is one thing I wanted to ask the hon. member.

Some years ago there was a very tragic circumstance in downtown Hamilton. An offender who had been charged and convicted, charged and convicted, and charged and convicted walked across the road from what was purportedly a safe federal release site into Jackson Square Mall and repeatedly stabbed a young woman, who amazingly survived. The assistant crown attorney in Hamilton spent 18 months of his career trying to make sure that the dangerous offender label was put on this man, so that he could not do this again.

I would like to ask the member whether she is for our crown attorneys spending a year and a half to two years trying to get dangerous offenders off the street before they harm women, children or men again? Or whether she is for the Conservative provision that would allow crown attorneys to put the onus on defence attorneys when someone is repeatedly charged and convicted with violent, terrible crimes, so that they can prove to the public that the accused people are worthy of release?

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1 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, the issue of dangerous offenders has been a very difficult one for all of us. I think even my profession probably has not done what it should have to have proper assessments in terms of true psychopathy and the people who really do not know the difference between right and wrong. The people who think that what is right is what they get away with and what is wrong is what they get caught doing are a danger to our communities. We need ways in which we can determine the people who will not benefit from years and years of treatment and therapy and who really need to be off our streets.

We need to provide the courts the capacity to identify these people and to deal with them in a very serious way so kids who make a mistake once can really turn their lives around like the amazingly inspirational Matt Geigen-Miller, who appeared before the justice committee a number of years ago. He showed that getting into trouble can be turned around. Kids can come out to an absolutely amazing life of contributing to other kids, as he did.

This is a very important differentiation and I hope the government will put the resources necessary to this so we can deal with and diagnose dangerous offenders in an effective way.

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1:05 p.m.

Conservative

Ken Epp Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, the motion we are debating is the amendment put forward by the NDP. It would delete the clause with respect to declaring a person a dangerous offender and putting a reverse onus on it.

While the member spoke, she was all over the map. She did not really direct much of her comment to that specific amendment. However, it is true the whole issue of justice is a large issue, and she covered a lot more than just the motion before the House.

If she looks at the amendment to delete the clause on reverse onus, she must agree that this is not a lightly thought motion or concept. First, the list of items under which one is charged is very serious. We are talking about rape and murder, not once, not twice but three times. By then surely people will say that all these things the Liberals put in place to help prevent them from becoming a criminal did not work. All the things they have put in place to help them while in prison to learn not to be criminals have not worked. For the safety of others, we need to keep these people restrained on a more permanent basis for the protection of society. Surely this is not something she would be against.

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1:05 p.m.

Liberal

Carolyn Bennett St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, in all conscience we cannot support the NDP motion. We believe it is our obligation as a society to make this diagnosis as early as possible and to then put the accused in the proper place that will keep society safe.

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1:05 p.m.

Liberal

Maria Minna Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, protecting citizens against violent crime is very important in my community as it is to all of us. However, crime rates have actually gone down over the past 10 years, as we all know, but there much more to be done. I think we could all agree with that as well.

We must tackle the problem of violent crime, but we must also do it responsibly. We cannot simply lock people up and throw away the keys, as the government obviously wants to do.

We have worked hard to improve on these bills from the last session, despite the Conservative government's attempt to obstruct its own legislation by not calling the bills forward for debate in the House of Commons.

We proposed to fast track the legislation we supported in order to protect Canadians, but the Conservatives refused to pass their own legislation. I think they are still focused on being in opposition where all they did was obstruct government bills. They continue to do the same with their own government.

I want to talk about how violent crime affects women in the country and also try to get the government to see that we can do more to prevent crime, rather than increase penalties and lock people away forever.

We see that even in U.S., where mandatory minimum sentences are in place, the government is moving away from this method because it simply does not work. It fills up prisons and does not help in rehabilitating the offender.

I believe it is better to prevent the crime in the first place. That way we do not have a criminal and we do not have a victim. It is so much better not to have victim. When prevention fails to stop an individual from committing a crime, we must ensure that the rehabilitation process is in place and is effective.

I want to give an example of the Youth Criminal Justice Act and how it is applied because that is a major area of discussion these days as well. Quebec, for instance, has a much lower recidivism problem with respect to young offenders than other parts of the country. Why? It is because its prevention program is much better, but also the supportive program, the rehabilitation program, is much stronger and much more effective.

In fact a few years back Chile signed an agreement with Quebec to use their model—

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1:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

Order, please.

The Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities on a point of order.

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1:10 p.m.

Conservative

Lawrence Cannon Pontiac, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would point out that we are now debating an NDP amendment, not this point. My colleague is all over the place with this, but she is not actually debating the issue in question.

Mr. Speaker, I would ask that you call her to order, so that the debate can remain relevant to the topic.

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1:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

I thank the Minister of Transport, Infrastructure and Communities for his point of order. I am sure he will agree that justice is a broad topic.

I am sure the hon. member for Beaches—East York will come to the point of the debate soon.

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1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Maria Minna Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is an indication of exactly what I was trying to say. We cannot deal with the amendment without dealing with all the other aspects I was discussing. With all due respect, what I was saying was very much appropriate. If we prevent crime in the first place, we do not have to get to the point of having to have reverse onus at all.

This is very important with respect to youth. Chile has an agreement with Quebec to take the Quebec model and to use it in Chile. Maybe the government might want to learn something from some of our own provinces and how they are applying prevention and rehabilitation so we do not get to the point of discussing the issue of reverse onus.

We must address the growing problem of domestic violence in the country as well. I know the hon. member does not want to hear about it, but the reality is that 53% of all women who are victims of a violent crime were victims of a common assault, 13% were victims of sexual assault and 11% were victims of assault with a weapon. Not all of these are preventable, necessarily, but most of them are if we were to spend some money in education with respect to problems with domestic violence. However, the government instead has chosen to cut and to change the mandate of the Status of Women Canada and eliminate not only the issue of equality, but the research and advocacy needed in this area and the kind of work that is required. The United Nations has pointed that out already.

Again, in order to change a social condition that exists in our country, we have to ensure that these kinds of crimes can be prevented. However, the government does not seem to be interested in these things.

We all know that women are considerably more likely than men to be victims of violent crimes, such as sexual assault and criminal harassment.

Women are also more often victimized in their homes, in communities and in prisons, as we have seen more recently. There were 224,000 women who said they feared for their lives as a result of a violent spouse. These are things that can be assisted. Rehabilitation will work in those areas in many cases. We should look at the conditions of poverty, mental health and other situations.

Furthermore, aboriginal women are more than three times likely to report being victims of spousal violence than their non-aboriginal counterparts, 24% of aboriginal women, or almost a quarter.

Due to the often cyclical nature of domestic violence, women involved in abusive relationships are often caught in a revolving door of abuse and refuge. The government is doing little to nothing in the way of prevention. In fact, it has gone the other way around. Portions of this omnibus bill attempt to do that, but I do not think it addresses it to the extent we need.

The government has proposed an American style “three strikes and you're out” law to jail certain offenders indefinitely. In fact, those particularly affected would include aboriginal women with addictions or histories of abuse who have acted out in violence and have inadequate access to healing. Again, these are areas of prevention; women who are incarcerated, larger numbers in the aboriginal communities. A great deal of issues are not being addressed by prevention.

In part, the government is criminalizing the poor and mentally ill as a result of this rather than ensuring access to affordable housing, incomes, training, support, mental health services and assistance. Mental health is one of the areas that receives the least attention and the least funds whenever it comes to health dollars. Yet more than 50% of all those incarcerated, as we know, have mental health issues. Again, this goes to prevention and it goes to the civility of the society.

According to Statistics Canada, the number of Canadians spending time behind bars increased in 2005-06 for the first time in more than a decade. This increase is due to the larger number of individuals in remand, serving time waiting their trials or sentencing. In fact, the number of adults in remand rose 12% in 2005-06. This means that for the first time, the number of Canadians awaiting their trial or sentencing outnumber those serving actual jail time.

The result is that offenders are spending less time in custody because courts are giving credit for time spent in remand when determining the length of a sentence and no rehabilitation is taking place while they are there.

If the Conservative government is so tough on crime, why is it that jail sentences for those found guilty of a crime is decreasing, while time spent in jail for those waiting to have a fair trial is increasing? Again, while they are waiting for justice, no rehabilitation is being offered at this time, which goes to the problem of recidivism.

It seems that the Conservatives' attempts to play partisan games with the Criminal Code is holding up more than legislation in this House. It is also holding up Canadians' rights to fair and speedy trials.

The number of women serving jail time is also on the rise. In fact, the fastest growing prison population worldwide is women. In particular, it is racialized. These are young, poor women and women with mental and cognitive disabilities. These escalating numbers are quite obviously linked to barriers in health care, education and social services. Again, these are areas that the government is ignoring, quite deliberately. Again it goes to the issue of rehabilitation, which means that we would not need to use the reverse onus or the draconian kinds of laws that we are so bound to use.

The number of Canadians incarcerated in 2005-06 was 110 per 100,000, which is a far cry from the United States where it is 738 per 100,000. The Americans have been going down the road of incarceration for many years and, in fact, they are beginning to look the other way because it has not worked. Increasing the jail population does not work. It does not prevent crime. It does not help to rehabilitate criminals. It does not reduce crime on our streets.

I would really like to challenge the government on this. Not only does the reverse onus not work and, as other members have mentioned, may not be constitutional, but, more important, it does not address the problem of the security of our communities, which is the main point.

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1:20 p.m.

Langley
B.C.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, I listened intently to my colleague across the way and a lot of what she said was incorrect. However, I would agree with her principle of being proactive, which is why I personally, in my riding, was involved with a number of announcements focusing on high risk youth.

She was correct in sharing the importance of dealing with the problem proactively, even at the early stages of an individual's life. That is why we have provided, as a government, programs that, unfortunately, the Liberal government ignored for 13 long years. From the comments that the member made, the Liberals knew that it was very necessary to be proactive but they ignored that. In 21 short months, we have accomplished much more than they did over 13 years.

It is very disappointing to hear that she knows what should have been done but it was not done.

I want to focus though--

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1:20 p.m.

An hon. member

I think she was the minister.

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1:20 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Langley, BC

She was the minister, so there was a huge responsibility on her shoulders. Why did she not do it when she had that opportunity?

However, I would like her to talk about these very dangerous, high risk people who reverse onus would apply to. Why would she not want to see them dealt with appropriately? Why would she want to see them released back into the community with zero consequence, the traditional Liberal hugathon philosophy? Why would she want to see that go on? Why would she not want to get serious about high risk offenders who will reoffend and who will put our communities at risk?

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1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Maria Minna Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member is not right when he says that we did nothing with respect to crime prevention.

The national crime prevention program was one of the best in this country. In fact, if I am not mistaken, I believe the hon. member's government reduced funding to that program with its first budget. Other programs came forward from the mayor of the city of Toronto with respect to gun violence in that city and other areas.

Some of the programs that were put forward by the Liberals were not renewed by the government, not to mention the fact that the government eliminated the national child care program that would have helped children with mental health issues receive assistance and be identified early on when they are in an early childhood development environment where they could receive help.

For me, it is more about the overall societal responsibility to prevention. It is not just one little program, a one off in one part of the country that may deal with it. It is an overall effort with respect to the prevention of crime for domestic violence, which, by the way, the government has done nothing about with respect to women. As I said before, it has eliminated advocacy and any other work with respect to women.

When it comes to high risk offenders, there is no question that we need to address that issue, but we must also be extremely careful as to who we identify because rehabilitation for people is still one of the best ways to prevent crime if we want to address crime seriously.

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1:20 p.m.

NDP

Denise Savoie Victoria, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the member's comments very carefully and appreciated a number of them to the effect that the government's supposed tough on crime approach is actually an American style approach on crime that just fills up prisons and does not tackle the violent crime issue.

What about rehabilitation? What about housing? What about mental health? In comparison to the amount that the government is investing in the criminalization part of the bill, the amount for rehabilitation and the preventive programs for youth has been very puny.

What confuses me about the member's comments is that we are speaking to the amendment that places a reverse onus on convicted persons to prove that they should not be considered dangerous offenders. Of course, we had supported the other--

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1:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for Beaches—East York has 20 seconds to respond.

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1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Maria Minna Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, as the hon. member said with respect to prevention and all of the programs, it is true that is the way to go in this country. As far as I am concerned, what happens--

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1:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

Resuming debate. The hon. member for Vancouver East has the floor.

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1:25 p.m.

NDP

Libby Davies Vancouver East, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to debate the amendment that has come forward from the NDP.

I congratulate the member for Windsor—Tecumseh who is our justice critic and who moved this amendment to delete this particular section of the bill. He has been outstanding in his work, not only on the justice committee but in the House. In fact, he was acknowledged by his peers in the recent award as the most knowledgeable member in the House. I think there is no question about his work on the justice file and the rational and intelligent arguments that he has brought forward to counter some of the absurd rhetoric, the political spin that has been put out by the Conservative government on its so-called crime agenda.

It has been refreshing to see how the member for Windsor—Tecumseh approaches his work and how he really puts forward, not a partisan interest but a public interest in terms of what should be the justice agenda and how the Criminal Code should be amended.

There is no better example of that than what was originally called Bill C-27, the dangerous offenders act, and is now all wrapped up in this omnibus bill called Bill C-2, in which Bill C-27, the dangerous offenders act, is still a part.

In the early days of debate on that bill, the member for Windsor—Tecumseh pointed out that there were certain aspects of the bill that would likely not survive a charter challenge. He also made it very clear in the House and in committee, and tried to gain support from other parties, that the so-called reverse onus provision for dangerous offenders or offenders who had been convicted for a third time and placing the onus on them to show why they should not be designated as dangerous offenders was a dramatic change in our justice system and was something that likely would not survive a charter challenge. The member brought forward very clear and intelligent arguments as why it was going down a blind alley, why it was a false lead.

It is very interesting to note the response of the government. In actual fact, it could not care less about that. It could not care less whether this was actually something that, from a legal point of view, from the point of view of upholding the long-established Criminal Code of Canada and the direction and the precedents that have been set over the years, could be reconciled and be credible in that tradition.

I think we all know now, and there is a gaining understanding across Canada, why the government could not care less. It is because this so-called crime agenda is nothing more than political optics. It is nothing more than pushing people's buttons. It is nothing more than trying to create a climate of fear in Canada about crime.

On behalf of the NDP, I am very proud of the fact that we take this issue from the point of view of protecting the public interest, but not going down this crazy road of creating a climate of fear and bringing forward proposals that the government knows are doomed to fail.

We brought forward this amendment today to once again put on the record that although we have supported other provisions of the bill as being something that are needed, this particular provision is something that should not be sanctioned in Parliament.

I know I will hear a great deal of rhetoric from the Conservative members saying that the NDP is weak on crime, the NDP is this or that, but let it be said that the NDP is here to stand for reasoned arguments and for amendments that will actually be effective in dealing with dangerous offenders. The NDP is here to protect that public interest and to hold the government to account for failing to deal with all of the preventive measures that are needed in our society to build safe and healthy communities, which is why we put forward this amendment--

Tackling Violent Crime Act
Government Orders

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

It is with regret that I must interrupt the hon. member for Vancouver East. When we next return to the study of Bill C-2 there will be five and a half minutes left in her allotted 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.

The House resumed from November 1 consideration of the motion that Bill C-307, An Act respecting bis(2-ethylhexyl)phthalate, benzyl butyl phthalate and dibutyl phthalate, be read the third time and passed.

Phthalate Control Act
Private Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

When we were last studying Bill C-307, the hon. member for Burlington had the floor and he has eight minutes remaining in debate.

The hon. member for Burlington.

Phthalate Control Act
Private Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, I concluded my conversation on the bill that my party and I will be supporting when it comes to a vote.

Phthalate Control Act
Private Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

Bloc

Marcel Lussier Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, Bill C-307, the Phthalate Control Act, essentially seeks to better control, if not to forbid, the use of phthalates in a wide range of commonly used objects because those substances represent a risk to the health of Quebeckers and Canadians.

The initial text of the bill obliged the Minister of the Environment to make regulations prohibiting the use of three types of phthalates. The prohibition applies first to BBP, which is found in many products for use by a child in learning or play, and products that are put in the mouth of an infant when used. The second product the bill seeks to prohibit is DBP, which is quite often found in cosmetics as well as in the products mentioned previously that are put in the mouth of a child or infant when used. The third product this bill seeks to prohibit is DEHP, which is also found in cosmetics, but especially in medical devices. However, the bill excludes blood bags from this prohibition.

Furthermore, the purpose of the bill is to amend Schedule 1 of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act, to include the three aforementioned products, BBP, DBP and DEHP, on the list of toxic substances.

Phthalates are part of a family of chemical products mainly intended for industrial use. Phthalates are found in a number of common consumer products such as adhesives, vinyl flooring, lubricating oils, capacitors, detergents, solvents, pharmaceutical products, electrical wires and cables and cosmetic products such as perfume, deodorant, shaving lotion, shampoo, hair spray and nail polish.

The use of phthalates as softening agents is another common application for these products. Most PVC-based—that is, polyvinyl chloride—rigid, semi-rigid and flexible articles also contain phthalates.

The proportion of phthalates can be as high as 50% in some products, for example, plastic bags, window frames, food wrap, raincoats, shower curtains, rubber boots, garden hoses, bath toys and medical devices.

The toxicity level of phthalates varies depending on the kind of compound. DEHP phthalates have a higher toxicity potential than the other two. The main effects of phthalates reported in experiments conducted on various animal species are testicular atrophy, decreased fertility and a lower fetal weight. Some researchers also believe that phthalates can be carcinogenic.

According to a report by the Institut national de santé publique du Québec, experts have concluded that BBP has little or no effect on reproduction and development. However, for DEHP and, to a lesser degree, DBP, the results arouse more concern. The use of various medical devices that contain DEHP raises some concern about the effects on the development of premature male babies who need intensive and prolonged care.

Let us now talk about the precautionary principle. This principle was officially recognized and confirmed by the international community in the Convention on Biological Diversity adopted at Rio in 1992, a convention that was ratified by Canada.

According to this principle, when there are sufficient grounds to believe that an activity or product could cause serious and irreversible damage to health or the environment, mitigation measures must be taken until the effects can be documented. Such measures may reduce or put an end to certain activities or ban certain products.

In Canada, these phthalates are no longer present in toys or objects that could be put in a child's mouth. In 1998, following a study of the risks associated with objects intended for children, Health Canada concluded that the amount of phthalates found in flexible PVC products could pose a risk to the health and safety of children. Manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers have since been obliged to ensure that flexible plastic soothers and rattles are free of DEHP.

As to DEHP in some products designed for use in children's education, we think the precautionary principle demands that they be banned.

With respect to DEHP and phthalates in medical devices, we must protect at-risk groups by doing everything in our power to promote the use of alternative DEHP-free products. Nevertheless, until such phthalate-free medical devices are on the market, Quebec's public health institute does not recommend restricting access to certain treatments or procedures, because the health benefits outweigh the dangers associated with DEHP exposure. Until suitable substitutes become more readily available, we believe that it may be risky to ban DEHP in all medical devices, excluding blood bags.

I would now like to discuss phthalates in cosmetics. DEHP and DBP are present in perfume, deodorant, after-shave lotion, shampoo, aerosol sprays and nail polish.

Many environmental groups and consumer associations have strongly denounced the use of phthalates in cosmetics. According to Health Canada, DBP in cosmetics presents no health risks in concentrations of less than 10%. In 2004, Health Canada announced its intention to amend cosmetics regulations in order to require cosmetics manufacturers and distributors to list the ingredients on the product label. According to our investigation, this change, which would have at least informed the consumer, never went into effect.

To summarize, the Bloc Québécois is in favour of Bill C-307. There has not been enough research to date on the effects of phthalates on human health. While awaiting more precise answers regarding the health risks associated with phthalates, the government should limit as much as possible the exposure of vulnerable populations to various chemical compounds, as a precautionary measure.

We note that some of the bans proposed in the original bill have been amended, since they went too far, given that reliable, effective and safe replacement products were unavailable for certain medical devices.

It has always been clear to the Bloc Québécois that implementation of the bill tabled by the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley should not give rise to more health problems than it solves.

The Bloc Québécois position is supported by the Institut de santé publique du Québec, which stated in a 2004 report that until medical devices without phthalates are on the market, it is not recommended or even warranted to deprive the public of some types of treatments or procedures that can be beneficial to health and whose outcome outweighs the dangers of exposure to DEHP.

The Bloc Québécois believes that Bill C-307 responds to the concerns of the Institut de santé publique du Québec with respect to medical equipment and that it provides protection as well as fulfilling a need. We will support it.

Phthalate Control Act
Private Members' Business

1:40 p.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my Bloc colleague and the member for Burlington for their support on this bill.

I want to start off my comments by speaking to the whole idea of the precautionary principle, which is the philosophy behind this kind of legislation. Earlier we were talking about some of the problems we have with reverse onus, but in this case it makes sense to have reverse onus. When a company manufactures a product and there are concerns about the potential harmful effects of chemicals or toxins on the health of human beings or the environment, the manufacturer and those who are involved in producing the product should provide clear evidence that there will be no harmful effects on human health or the environment.

In fact, the precautionary principle has been adopted as a guiding principle by our government, but we have yet to see a commitment from the government on some aspects in terms of the environment. This is something that Canadians should demand from their government and from companies. We must ensure that we not only hear about the precautionary principle, but that indeed we live by the precautionary principle.

There was a time when manufacturers would come up with new ways of manufacturing things and they would say they would wait and see what happened, but that time has ended. We need to be more vigilant as citizens and consumers, as advocates for public health. We must ensure that when new products come forward they are not detrimental to our health or to the environment in general.

I wanted to start off by making those statements. Canadians understand the concept, but I want them to be extremely vigilant and vocal in asserting that the precautionary principle is not simply something on paper, but that it actually has a life of its own and is being adopted.

Our party's environment critic, the member of Parliament for Skeena—Bulkley Valley, has put forward a bill that adopts the best practices of the precautionary principle. His bill would ensure that, in this case, the toxic substances that currently are on the shelves of some of our stores by way of children's toys were not allowed to exist. We believe and obviously my colleague believes that should be the case.

Phthalates are found in my things. They are ubiquitous, as we have heard from other members. They are in plastic softeners in children's toys, in nail polish and in fragrances. They seem to be everywhere.

There have been problems in the past with substances that were initially seen as miracle consumer products, but down the road they actually had a detrimental effect on our environment. It is the same case with phthalates. We know they have the potential to harm and when we employ the precautionary principle they should be eliminated.

I have to say that there was some compromise on this bill by my colleague. We would have preferred to have an all out ban on phthalates, but we understand when trying to get legislation through that we do have to compromise and there has been a compromise made on this bill.

Not only is it important to have this kind of legislation, but in fact, this has been done in other jurisdictions. The EU has banned phthalates since 2003. California banned them in children's toys in the last months. Health Canada does warn of exposure in medical tubing to children and vulnerable populations.

However, I think the time has come for legislation to ensure that it is not just a matter of giving warnings, prescriptions and advisories, but that our country actually has some teeth in regard to this. That is why this is an important piece of legislation. We believe there is evidence to show that there are potential detriments to human health. What is so important to note is that this is about the most vulnerable of our population. This is about children.

I am the proud father of two boys, twelve and nine, who are very healthy. I want to know that my government is doing everything it can to protect their health and certainly the health of the children in our population. If we are not doing that, I would submit, we are not doing our job.

One point some people have brought forward is that when we get into the area of banning something or taking a product off the shelf, it is very difficult because we have imports from all over the world. We have the situation of toys being imported from China. My colleague from Victoria was telling me recently about her grandson, who played with the Thomas the train toy for years and loved it.

As we have found out, there are toxins in that particular toy. It had to be removed. The precautionary principle, if it were employed, would ensure that this kind of practice and this kind of manufacturing would not be allowed to happen. We would have proper scrutiny.

Also, it should be noted when we are looking at withdrawing toxins in manufacturing that it is possible. I will give members the example of what has happened in the medical field with phthalates. In fact, hospitals in this country and across the United States have labelled themselves phthalate-free.

In other words, for all of the softeners that were used in rubber gloves and the medical devices that are everywhere now in our hospitals and health care centres, the hospitals took on the issue. They have made sure their workplaces and the products they are using are phthalate-free. This is an example of how we can actually make a difference if we get behind an initiative.

In that situation, it turns out, new markets opened up because alternatives were found. New products were designed. So as we might guess from this, changeover is possible and banning these products from being used does not create any kind of economic calamity. In fact, it opens up possibilities for new products. That is important to note.

When manufacturers have clear rules in front of them and understand what the rules are, they follow those rules and adapt to them. I think that is what has been missing here. Let me just again give members the example from the past six months in regard to all the products we have been importing from other countries, many from China, where there have been issues around concerns about toxins and human health, be it lead, paint or other toxins.

It is important to support this bill, not only because of its effects in terms of the products I have mentioned and not only because of protecting human health for our most vulnerable, but because of what it does when it says what is possible. It is possible, if governments and legislators wish to, to make sure that the products we buy and the food we consume are safe for all of us.

I look forward to the support of all members of Parliament for this bill. I congratulate my colleague on a job well done in protecting the health of all Canadians.

Phthalate Control Act
Private Members' Business

1:50 p.m.

Liberal

Lloyd St. Amand Brant, ON

Mr. Speaker, like my colleague who spoke earlier, I am very pleased to rise in the House today to speak about this important piece of proposed legislation.

Before I begin to speak about Bill C-307, I would like to congratulate my Liberal colleagues in Ontario for addressing the issue of potentially harmful chemicals.

As has been publicized, the Ontario McGuinty government's new toxins reduction strategy includes a range of measures to protect the health of Ontarians. Instead of waiting for the government to act, the provincial government in Ontario will appoint an expert medical and scientific panel to advise which toxins should be the focus of immediate attention, action and possible reductions. The Ontario government intends to do this immediately while new toxin reduction legislation is in the developmental stage.

An early priority for the expert panel will be to provide recommendations on how best to address bisphenol A, widely used, as we have heard, in plastic baby bottles and similar consumer products.

The Ontario government is also undertaking a number of initiatives that will be included under a toxins reduction strategy to help protect Ontarians from potentially harmful environmental toxins, including: first, legislation to ban the cosmetic use of pesticides, to be introduced in the spring of next year; second, working with Cancer Care Ontario and the Ontario Medical Association to identify, target and reduce the number of cancer-causing agents released into our environment; third, the imposition of tough new standards to reduce the amount of harmful air emissions on 14 toxins; fourth, replacing coal-fired electricity in Ontario, phasing it out completely by 2014; and last, implementing new province-wide standards and rules to protect children from exposure to elevated lead levels that may be present in the drinking water system of older neighbourhoods, older schools and older day care centres or facilities.

The Ontario government is already receiving praise for this recent announcement from various groups, including Environmental Defence and the Ontario College of Family Physicians. I would like to take this opportunity to commend the Government of Ontario for putting the health of Ontarians first.

I would also like to acknowledge the hard work of my federal Liberal colleague, the member for Lac-Saint-Louis. His private member's bill, Bill C-439, proposes to prohibit the use of bisphenol A in certain products and to correspondingly amend the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

There is considerable data which suggests that any exposure to bisphenol A is damaging to human health. It appears that the risks of using this toxic chemical outweigh the benefits. I believe the government should act now to regulate a ban on bisphenol A.

Surely Bill C-307 should warrant the same attention as Bill C-439, and it is my hope that the House will support both of these important pieces of proposed legislation.

After considerable discussion, debate and amendments in committee, Bill C-307, the phthalate control act, is now a strong bill, which all parties should certainly consider supporting.

I would like to congratulate the member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley for his ongoing contribution to the toxins debate in Canada, particularly with regard to phthalates. I would also like to congratulate the members of the House of Commons Standing Committee on Environment and Sustainable Development, including, of course, my Liberal colleagues, who have played a very important role in facilitating the successful outcome of the committee deliberations.

Bill C-307 deals with three major chemical compounds, part of a large group of chemicals known as phthalates. These substances, which were examined under the bill, are DEHP, BBP and DBP. For those of us without a scientific background, they are plasticizers, substances which enhance flexibility in plastic compounds. They are used in thousands of products, ranging from children's toys to medical devices to cosmetics.

Studies have linked such substances to infertility and other health related issues, but the three substances considered in Bill C-307 have been evaluated under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act in the past. One of the substances of the three, DEHP, was in fact designated toxic through the Canadian Environmental Protection Act.

The environment and sustainable development committee has heard that not all types of exposure were in fact evaluated by the federal government studies when looking at the other two substances. Therefore, proposed Bill C-307 calls for a more comprehensive reassessment that will include exposure through the use of consumer products, including cosmetics. This will help ensure the assessment of the cumulative effects of these substances on human beings.

Something which we are just beginning to grapple with in the scientific community is the question of whether we are able to measure a multiplicity of exposures, these compounds themselves, or how these compounds interact with other compounds, which are in our environment at large in Canada. Essentially, the study is of the cumulative effects of all these factors in combination with one another.

As I mentioned earlier, phthalates are found in thousands of products in our environment such as toys, medical devices, cosmetics, but also in many other items such as shower curtains and the vinyl that we find in products, for instance the vinyl dashboard in motor vehicles. We are concerned by the multiple exposure to phthalates, which perhaps in isolation may not have the impact which is feared on human health, but in combination can be particularly toxic. These repeated exposures could be enough to cause harm to human health.

We know that certain other countries, as my colleague from the NDP mentioned previously, including the entire European Union, have tighter restrictions on chemicals such as phthalates than Canada currently does. It is also fair to say that when Bill C-307 arrived at committee this past March, all members were in favour of closer scrutiny of these compounds, but the now amended Bill C-307 is in better form than it earlier was.

All members of the environment and sustainable development committee should be commended for introducing and passing amendments to the bill. It is our hope that the House will see fit to pass this important legislation.

Phthalate Control Act
Private Members' Business

1:55 p.m.

Stormont—Dundas—South Glengarry
Ontario

Conservative

Guy Lauzon Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and for the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario

Mr. Speaker, it is an honour for me to speak to Bill C-307. It is also an honour for me to be part of a government that takes its responsibilities, works with them and works with the opposition parties to ensure this minority government works in a truly effective manner.

Much has been said about committees not working or functioning as well as they could be. The truth is, when we get the cooperation from the opposition parties on committees, they work extremely well. This is a case in point when we look at Bill C-307.

We took a bill that was seriously flawed and when we received the cooperation from the opposition parties, under the leadership of maybe the best environment minister we have had in centuries, along with his very able parliamentary secretary, it was made into legislation that could be truly effective to ensure the health of Canadians from coast to coast to coast.

This should be an example to the opposition to quit the obstruction in the other committees. We can make some progress if we can only get the cooperation of our members opposite.

I will not go into the technicalities of the bill. I congratulate our minister and his parliamentary secretary and all members of the committee for their cooperation. I urge my colleagues to continue this cooperation and ensure that this minority government succeeds.

Phthalate Control Act
Private Members' Business

2 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

Resuming debate. Before I recognize the sponsor of the bill, I want to give fair warning that these will be the concluding remarks.

The hon. member for Skeena—Bulkley Valley has five minutes for his right of rebuttal.

Phthalate Control Act
Private Members' Business

2 p.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is a long road that brought us to this point with a private member's bill that was crafted in collaboration with many of the people in our country who are concerning themselves about the toxins in our environment, particularly those toxins that affect our children and vulnerable population.

There are a few things that have come to light through the process of this bill which I think are informative to all members of Parliament and to Canadians as to how it is we craft law in this country and what is encouraged and what is resisted. We brought some fundamental principles into this piece of legislation, principles that have not yet been seen before by Canadian legislators.

One of the primary principles is the precautionary principle, a principle that allows Canada and Canadian officials to finally make decisions to protect the health and well-being of Canadians when there is evidence that there may be damage done to the health of our population. There is probably no better example of how wrong a government can be and how long Canadians can be misled than the debate that occurred and existed for too long over smoking.

Year after year the big tobacco lobbyists worked members of Parliament, particularly the then Conservatives or whatever they were called at the time, and the Liberals to encourage them to not believe the science that was before us, to not believe that there should be some precaution in the way that we legislate and allow smoking in Canadian society.

There were detrimental effects, lives lost and families suffered because of the negligence, wilful and otherwise, of politicians who preceded us, some still in this place. It was absolutely shameful.

We created this bill to ban a plastic softener, for goodness' sake, that allows certain plastics to be a little more malleable, which is all well and good in and of itself, but has these unintended consequences of causing a whole series of terrible effects on the health and well-being of individuals, particularly children.

The tragic irony was that one of the few ways to release this chemical into a human system was mastication, actually chewing on the plastic. These chemicals were put into children's toys that by design were meant to be chewed. It was, of course, not the intention of the chemical manufacturers or the toy manufacturers to do this, but lo and behold, it happened.

We know there are other colleagues in this place attempting to do the same, to provide Canadians with laws and practices that actually defend our interests, not just the interests of narrow lobbyist groups but to defend the health and well-being of Canadians. This is something that is long overdue.

It is long overdue in a Parliament that has seen dysfunction time and time again from the government side and I will give one instance to close my remarks, and this should be instructive to all Canadians and MPs trying to do the right thing.

We saw officials under the direction of the government come forward at committee and make claims that we could not possibly ban these chemicals because it would put the well-being of Canadians at stake because some of these softeners existed in medical devices. And if we were to ban this chemical, it would be taken out of the medical devices and there would be no medical devices and Canadians “would die on the operating table as a result of this bill”.

At the very same hearing we had witnesses from the United States, nurses and practitioners, who had in their hands medical devices that were free of phthalates. They had lists of hospitals in the U.S. that had banned this chemical entirely from their operations.

The parliamentary secretary is nodding no, when he knows it is in fact true, that we had the devices available and we had a government sticking its head in the sand and willing not to do it.

What is amazing to me is that when we write legislation well and truly try to get parliamentarians to work together, those who resist suddenly seek to take credit. I have heard, particularly Liberal and Conservative members time and time again patting themselves on the back, congratulating themselves. I suppose when we do something right, everyone wants to jump on the bandwagon and everyone wants to feel like they win.

At long last this bill, which should pass through this place, will become law and protect Canadians into the future. We are proud to have it.

Phthalate Control Act
Private Members' Business

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

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

Phthalate Control Act
Private Members' Business

2:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Phthalate Control Act
Private Members' Business

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

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

Phthalate Control Act
Private Members' Business

2:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Phthalate Control Act
Private Members' Business

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

All those opposed will please say nay.

Phthalate Control Act
Private Members' Business

2:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Phthalate Control Act
Private Members' Business

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 98, the recorded division stands deferred until Wednesday, November 28, 2007, immediately before the time provided for private members’ business.

Is the member for Brampton—Springdale rising on a point of order or a question of privilege?

Comments Regarding the Minister of Justice
Privilege
Private Members' Business

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Ruby Dhalla Brampton—Springdale, ON

I rise on a question of privilege, Mr. Speaker. Thank you very much for giving me this opportunity.

In our parliamentary system we have ministerial responsibility. Ministers of the Crown are directly responsible to the public and to this House for all actions taken by their political staff or departmental officials.

The present Minister of Justice was the minister responsible when the investigation was being carried out by the Department of Justice into the settlement Mr. Mulroney received in 1997, a settlement that came at a time when no one in government knew about the $300,000 cash payment he had received from Karlheinz Schreiber. The present Minister of Justice was also the minister when this departmental investigation was brought to an abrupt and unexplained halt.

On November 14, on a CBC program, I stated that the Minister of Justice stopped the investigation when in fact the question of who stopped the investigation or why remains unanswered. Canadians would like to know who did.

To the extent that the distinction between personally stopping the investigation and being the minister responsible while the investigation was stopped troubles the minister or has caused him any embarrassment or discomfort in any way, I wish to make clear my apologies to him.

On behalf of Canadians, we will vigorously pursue the issue of who stopped that investigation, so I ask the minister again, who stopped the investigation and why?

Comments Regarding the Minister of Justice
Privilege
Private Members' Business

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

I thank the hon. member for Brampton—Springdale for rising on a question of privilege. The Speaker will come back to her and to the House in due time, if necessary. Is the hon. the chief government whip rising on a point of order?

Comments Regarding the Minister of Justice
Privilege
Private Members' Business

2:10 p.m.

Prince George—Peace River
B.C.

Conservative

Jay Hill Secretary of State and Chief Government Whip

I am rising on the same point, Mr. Speaker, if you will just indulge me for a moment.

I would just say that I have been a member of Parliament for some 14 years. I have never seen such a sad apology in my life, and to do it on a Friday afternoon when the minister the member has insulted is not even present is inexcusable. I would have to say that I for one at least, having not had the opportunity to talk to my minister, certainly do not accept that apology.

Comments Regarding the Minister of Justice
Privilege
Private Members' Business

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

The hon. member for Edmonton--Sherwood Park is rising on a point of order.

Comments Regarding the Minister of Justice
Privilege
Private Members' Business

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

Ken Epp Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, I believe you would have absolutely no difficulty finding unanimous consent that we see the clock as 2:30 p.m.

Comments Regarding the Minister of Justice
Privilege
Private Members' Business

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

Is that agreed?

Comments Regarding the Minister of Justice
Privilege
Private Members' Business

2:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Comments Regarding the Minister of Justice
Privilege
Private Members' Business

2:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Royal Galipeau

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

(The House adjourned at 2:10 p.m.)