House of Commons Hansard #128 of the 39th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was budget.

Topics

Financial Institutions
Oral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Whitby—Oshawa
Ontario

Conservative

Jim Flaherty Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, the member speaks about ordinary Canadians. In the budget we brought in something that had been talked about in this House for a long time: the workers income tax benefit. I cannot believe it, but the member who asked the question and her party intend to vote against the workers income tax benefit.

We also introduced for the first time in the history of Canada a registered disability savings plan for the most severely disabled people in Canada. I cannot believe that the member and her NDP colleagues are going to vote against a registered disability savings plan.

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Questions

2:55 p.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, the federal interlocutor for the Métis nation makes excuses for his government's betrayal of aboriginal Canadians by saying that it is not about the money. Does this mean his government need not live up to financial commitments?

The Manitoba Métis Federation remortgaged assets to continue delivering programs and services because it has not received funding for the year that is ending in nine days. Why is the government forcing aboriginal organizations to rely on lines of credit instead of delivering funding in a timely and responsible manner?

Aboriginal Affairs
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Calgary Centre-North
Alberta

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, my friend needs to make sure that she has her facts straight. The arrangements with the Manitoba Métis Federation have been executed. The funding is in process and will be in place by the end of the year.

The Budget
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Warkentin Peace River, AB

Mr. Speaker, last Monday the finance minister delivered a balanced budget that will make things easier for working families by making investments in health care, the environment and infrastructure.

As well, the budget also reduces taxes for these working families through the working family tax plan. Could the minister responsible provide more details on this plan?

The Budget
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Whitby—Oshawa
Ontario

Conservative

Jim Flaherty Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, the member for Peace River has asked an insightful question about tax reductions in Canada. Canadians pay too much tax. On this side of the House, we know that. Since taking office, we have provided $37.8 billion in tax relief for individuals only over this and the next two fiscal years.

Budget 2007 has four significant tax reductions: the $2,000 child tax credit per child under the age of 18; $550 million for the working income tax benefit, or WITB; eradicating the marriage penalty; and improving RESPs for Canadian families.

Status of Women
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Bloc

Johanne Deschamps Laurentides—Labelle, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Canadian Heritage and Status of Women maintains that she cares about the status of women, but she is changing eligibility criteria in order to deny funding to women's rights advocacy groups.

How can the minister claim to be contributing to the advancement of women when she is cutting funding to the agencies that defend women's rights?

Status of Women
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Durham
Ontario

Conservative

Bev Oda Minister of Canadian Heritage and Status of Women

Mr. Speaker, I want to be very clear. Canada's new government understands the difference between supporting not only organizations but real women, women in the communities, women who actually--

Status of Women
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Status of Women
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Liberal

The Speaker Peter Milliken

Order. The hon. Minister of Canadian Heritage has the floor.

Order, please. We want to hear her answer.

Status of Women
Oral Questions

3 p.m.

Conservative

Bev Oda Durham, ON

Mr. Speaker, we understand and we live with women in our neighbourhoods and our communities. We understand the challenges they face.

That is why our budget recognizes the part that women play in their communities and in their families. Women need this support in order to meet the challenges. That is why we have addressed $5 million in addition, in new money, to support women in Canada.

Slave Trade Abolition
Routine Proceedings

March 26th, 2007 / 3 p.m.

Calgary Southeast
Alberta

Conservative

Jason Kenney Secretary of State (Multiculturalism and Canadian Identity)

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to rise to mark the bicentenary of one of the great achievements in the fight for freedom and human dignity, the abolition of the slave trade in Canada and throughout the British Empire.

Two hundred years ago, on March 25, 1807, King George III granted royal assent to the act for the abolition of the slave trade, which read as follows:

Be it therefore enacted by the King's most Excellent Majesty.... That... the African Slave Trade, and...all manner of dealing and trading in the Purchase, Sale, Barter, or Transfer of Slaves, or of Persons intended to be sold, transferred, used, or dealt with as Slaves, practiced or carried on, in, at, to or from any Part of the Coast or Countries of Africa, shall be, and the same is hereby utterly abolished, prohibited, and declared to be unlawful;

These words were the beginning of the end for the vile practice of the African slave trade, a practice that would be unthinkable today.

For three hundred years, millions of African men, women and children were kidnapped from their homes and families, transported across the Atlantic in horrible conditions and then sold into a life of duress and misery across the Americas.

It is impossible to say how many thousands died on this journey due to illness, mistreatment and even murder since those believed to be too weak to survive the voyage were simply thrown overboard.

Today we celebrate the victory of those brave abolitionists who overcame overwhelming opposition to call a nation and an empire to her conscience.

Foremost among those heroes of human dignity was the great William Wilberforce whose lifetime struggle against the evil of slavery did not stop with the adoption of the act we celebrate today, but continued to his deathbed in 1833 when he learned that Parliament had adopted his bill abolishing slavery altogether.

To this day, Wilberforce and his passion for speaking truth to power remains a model for all of us as parliamentarians.

On this day we should also call to mind the leadership of Canadians in the struggle against slavery, foremost amongst whom was Lieutenant Governor John Graves Simcoe who in 1793 persuaded the legislature of Upper Canada to pass the first meaningful restrictions on slavery in the British Empire.

We also recall those who made Canada the North Star of the underground railroad for tens of thousands who escaped American bondage to come to British North America, beginning with the thousands of black Loyalists who helped to settle Nova Scotia.

Finally, we should remember the courageous role of Canadian sailors in the Royal Navy, many based out of Halifax Harbour, who, at great risk to themselves, helped to enforce the ban on the African slave trade throughout the 19th century.

While we celebrate the bicentenary of these great achievements, we must acknowledge that unjust racial discrimination is one of the sad vestiges of slavery and we must reaffirm our dedication to combating such racism in all of its forms. The achievements of great Canadians, such as His Honour Lincoln Alexander and, indeed, of Her Excellency the Governor General, demonstrate that Canada has met this challenge in so many ways. Canada is truly a land of hope and equality of opportunity and a refuge for the oppressed.

Let us honour the memory of the abolitionists by fighting against slavery and the conditions similar to slavery, which continue to exist even today.

Millions of individuals throughout the world do not enjoy personal freedom when they live in conditions of forced labour or sexual slavery, among others.

The government is dedicated to acting against the vile practice of human trafficking here in Canada. In this regard, I would like to commend the Standing Committee on the Status of Women for its recent report on human trafficking entitled, “Turning Outrage Into Action to Address Trafficking for the Purpose of Sexual Exploitation in Canada”.

Today, 200 years later, let us remember the glorious work of William Wilberforce and his colleagues, brave men and women, who were willing to take on a vile and odious industry and to bring the beginning of freedom to millions of people of African origin who had so unjustly been deprived of it.

Slave Trade Abolition
Routine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Liberal

Colleen Beaumier Brampton West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very proud today to stand in the House to mark and to honour this important date in the ongoing and ever present struggle against oppression and discrimination.

I am especially proud because I stand in the full and confident knowledge that my party, the Liberal Party, has a long and proud history of standing up for the rights of the vulnerable and for all those who are discriminated against arbitrarily on account of their social, cultural or ethnic background.

As just one recent example of this commitment, I remind the House that it was the member of Parliament for Laval—Les Îles, a member of the Liberal Party, who introduced a motion last Friday that reads:

That the House recognize the importance of March 25, 2007, as the International Day for the Commemoration of the 200th Anniversary of the Act to Abolish the African Slave Trade in the British Empire.

It is a credit to all members of the House that the motion passed unanimously.

Anniversaries, such as the one we mark today, are important because they provide us with the opportunity to reflect on how far we have come and how far we must still go in the ongoing battle against oppression and discrimination. As odious and unthinkable as slavery may be to us, for very many people in the world today, slavery remains a reality.

Moreover, it saddens me to remind the House that slavery is not something that exists only in distant and foreign lands. No, slavery can and does exist even today here in Canada. We members of the House, the government and all Canadians must be ever vigilant and ever ready to identify new forms of human degradation which are all but slavery in name.

It is right, I think, to highlight the special role played by William Wilberforce in the struggle to abolish the slave trade and slavery itself. What most impresses me about Mr. Wilberforce's personal struggle was his commitment to principle and his far-reaching vision. Unwilling to be swayed by public opinion or to curry political favour at the expense of the vulnerable, Mr. Wilberforce pushed against the tide of public opinion, which, in his day, supported slavery, and eventually he helped to turn that tide.

On this day all members of the House and all Canadians must remember that the achievement of high ideals requires lasting conviction and sometimes the strength of will to resist popular opinion. Nevertheless, above all else on this day, we must remember and honour as best we can those who directly suffered at the cruel hands of the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

The trans-Atlantic slave trade may have left an ugly scar on the history of the world but racism, forced detention and labour, and dehumanization of millions that is associated with it, left very real scars on very real people who endured it.

Tragically, it took the lives of at least three million people. It was a barbaric and appalling chapter in the history of humanity. The misery and suffering borne by men, women and children of African decent as the result of this horrific practice should never be forgotten.

We must congratulate ourselves for turning the page on this moment in history but we must never forget the reality of that history.

Slave Trade Abolition
Routine Proceedings

3:10 p.m.

Bloc

Maka Kotto Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank you for giving me an opportunity today in this House to draw attention on behalf of the Bloc Québécois to the bicentennial of the abolition of the slave trade in the British Empire.

Prior to March 25, 1807, the black slave trade made it possible for the British Empire's industry, merchant fleet and English ports to flourish. Beginning in the 16th century, all of Europe took part in the transatlantic slave trade to the enormous profit of a few. An estimated 250 million Africans died or were deported to the Americas during four centuries of the slave trade.

Why?

Because the cotton industry became such a major source of revenue for the southern states of the United States.

Because European immigrants went to America so they could own their own land and were therefore reluctant to work for others. There was also a shortage of labour because there was so much land.

Because people wanted to maximize their land ownership and their profits. They needed a vast supply of labour. Slaves were cheap labour that made it possible to get the work done at low cost while maximizing profits.

Because an oligarchy realized that it could get very rich very easily by exploiting a black slave population.

Because black slaves from tropical West Africa were considered efficient labour because they were used to working in the heat and were immune to certain tropical diseases.

Slaves were cheaper for landowners. Slaves were cheaper, just like workers in developing countries today in various globalized economic sectors.

On March 25, 1807, by a vote of the Commons, Great Britain—which, of the European powers, was considered to be the most active in the slave trade—officially ended this unspeakable practice that reduced black men to beasts of burden and left scars that can still be felt in Africa today.

I have walked along the beaches of the Gold Coast, the West African coast, many times. I have felt a deep connection to the narratives stored in the collective African memory. I have felt the despair of a woman who drowned her little boy because she could not bear the idea of seeing him become a slave one day.

Many times I have pictured these slave ships leaving the west coast of Africa with a cargo of slaves headed for the Americas. I have felt the atrocities during the months of crossing, a gloomy eternity, horror-filled centuries of these countless European ships engaged in the slave trade. I have had a glimpse of all the horrors, humiliation, desperation and heroism experienced by the captives of these ships and I have been plunged into the depths of despair.

When the long lasting horror of the slave trade came to an end, countless shattered men and women had to learn how to live again, step by painful step.

Today we must honour the memory of the victims of the slave trade, acknowledge the fight of the abolitionists, slaves, former slaves, statesmen and ordinary citizens, and give credit to those who enacted abolition.

I want to focus on the memory of William Wilberforce, from England, and on the memory of Victor Schoelcher, from France. Let us not stop addressing the poverty and inequality that still exist in Africa and the West Indies.

Let us not stop fighting the inequality, discrimination and racism that persist today and that affect, in particular, populations originally from Africa and the Caribbean that are now established here in Canada. Let us fight unrelentingly against modern day slavery in all its forms.

Slave Trade Abolition
Routine Proceedings

3:15 p.m.

NDP

Wayne Marston Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is with a great sense of humility that I rise on behalf of the NDP caucus to speak on this occasion of marking the bicentenary of the abolition of the slave trade, one of the most evil enterprises in our history.

Millions of men, women and children in Africa were forcibly abducted and relocated across an ocean. Countless lost their lives in the journey and those who survived were subjected to some of the most heinous and reprehensible treatment imaginable.

In recognizing and marking the bicentenary, it is time to focus on the slave trade and some truly inspirational individuals who dedicated the fight for human dignity that brought it to its end.

Many of those have been mentioned here today. I want the House to know that we in the NDP are equally appreciative and awed by the inspirational work of political representatives, grassroots activists, and in many instances soldiers and law enforcement officials in many countries, including Canada, who helped bring about the end of this disgraceful endeavour.

As a member from Hamilton I was proud when I heard the name of the Hon. Lincoln Alexander mentioned earlier here today. Linc, as he is affectionately known, remains a fine example of a man with the principles and beliefs that made Canada the great country it is today.

It is also critical at this time of commemoration that we focus on the impact of the slave trade and what it still has in our world today. The slave trade fostered the more modern issue that continues to affect Canada and many countries around the world and that is racism.

I welcome the comments made here today by the government and other opposition party colleagues but, as I did several months ago and again on Friday when the motion was passed to commemorate the bicentenary, I must repeat that this is not enough.

Our words here today are not enough. We cannot fight human trafficking whose roots are likely found in the slave trade by making statements alone.

Only with real efforts to eradicate poverty and injustice throughout the world can we combat the reasons why people are abducted, sold or trafficked in our modern world. Last week's budget put us nowhere ahead in the push to meet our international commitment of 0.7% of national GDP in official foreign aid.

We cannot just be grateful for the women's committee recent report. We must act now on the 33 recommendations made in the report on combating human trafficking.

We cannot educate our youth about the bicentenary if we do nothing to support the grassroots efforts around this country that are trying to hold public educational events and programs commemorating the end of the slave trade.

Last week's budget and the response of Canadian Heritage to date has been to ignore the requests for help from individuals and groups across this country seeking to educate and commemorate this important anniversary. We should be commemorating this important bicentenary with a plan of action to move forward to continue the fight against racism.

It is not too late and I hope the words in this House today will help rededicate all in this House to the important fight against inequality, injustice and intolerance.

Natural Resources
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

3:20 p.m.

Conservative

Lee Richardson Calgary Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the fourth report of the Standing Committee on Natural Resources.

The committee report is entitled “The Oil Sands: Toward Sustainable Development”.

Pursuant to Standing Order 109, your committee requests a government response.