House of Commons Hansard #119 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was drugs.

Topics

The House resumed from November 26 consideration of the motion that Bill C-58, An Act respecting the mandatory reporting of Internet child pornography by persons who provide an Internet service, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Child Protection Act (Online Sexual Exploitation)
Government Orders

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to this bill which deals with child pornography and to put on the record the concerns, comments and support of my caucus.

This bill is roundly supported by all parties. We are here today to acknowledge the work of those in our community who have been fighting for decades to stop the curse of child pornography and more recently to put restrictions on the spread of this vile propaganda by the Internet.

I want to spend a few minutes reminding Canadians how we all have to work together on this issue. I want to reference the work of an organization in Winnipeg, Manitoba, that is headed up by Roz Prober, who has been working on issues of the sex trade and child pornography for many years. In fact, just this past week in Winnipeg a number of sessions were held and media awards were presented to organizations and individuals in our country who have been outspoken, vocal, and ever present on the issue of child pornography.

Roz Prober and her organization, Beyond Borders, have started a campaign called “Man to Man”. The reason for that campaign is that it is recognized that in most instances regarding child pornography and the use of the Internet to spread child pornography, the main propagators of this offensive material are men.

The idea of the campaign is to persuade other men, who know the importance of stopping the spread of child pornography, who know where it can lead, and how harmful it can be to our whole society, to encourage those men to speak to other men whether it be in terms of how they treat women generally or how they view women and children as sexual objects.

However, the importance of the campaign is to start at the very beginning with that notion that somehow women and children are the sexual property of men. If we can get at that root cause, if we can understand what drives people to produce, promote and spread child pornography, then we will have won half the battle.

Many in the House have worked for years trying to convince the present Parliament and previous ones to take tough stands and take serious legislative steps to crack down on anything that promotes the use of violence, violence against women, violence against children, and violence against any vulnerable members in our society, as a way to exercise power over others.

Many in the House have worked for years, and I think about previous members of Parliament: Margaret Mitchell, Dawn Black, Audrey McLaughlin, Alexa McDonough, and the list goes on and on. These women have stood in this place to say that we as a society, as a Parliament, and as a country have an obligation to get to the roots of pornography and violence against women and children. The only way to do that is to recognize it for what it is, which is the exercise of power over others.

The House will remember Rosemary Brown, who was a prominent member in Canadian politics, who was the first black woman to seek the national leadership of any political party. She worked as an NDP MLA in British Columbia for years and was well known renowned feminist across this country. I remember her words to this day, acknowledging that she passed away a couple of years ago and we lost a great heroine and a great fighter, but she always said, “If we do not challenge the notion that might is right, [that competition is the basis to survival,] then there is no point to this struggle after all”.

What we are talking about in this debate is power over others, how it is wielded, how it degrades people, how it makes them second-class citizens, and how it puts people on a life cycle of dependency, hopelessness and despair because the victims of child pornography are faced with formidable challenges in trying to overcome that humiliation, that sense of no identity, that feeling of being dirty and second class.

That is something that takes years and years to overcome. Sometimes it is never overcome and the victims of violence, child pornography, sexual degradation, or the sex trade, if they can escape it, they will fight for their whole lives trying to regain their sense of self worth and purpose in life.

This debate is pretty fundamental to our notion of a civil society, our notion that everyone among us, no matter whether we look at people through the prism of sex or race or ability can contribute to society. It is absolutely clear that our job as parliamentarians is to ensure that everyone, regardless of sex, race or ability is able to be who they are and contribute on the basis of their unique talents their individual potential and contribute that to our society. When they become pawns in a massive trade regarding child pornography, we demean not just those who are the victims who are portrayed in child pornography but we, in fact, demean an entire society and reduce it to its lowest common denominator.

Our job must be to use every strategy at our fingertips, every mechanism available to crack down on child pornography. This is not a time for anyone among us to debate the whole issue of freedom of speech because we all know that there is no freedom of speech when that freedom is used to take someone else's freedom away. That is what child pornography does. That is what pornography does generally. It takes away the freedom of that child or woman, or any other victim of pornography and sexual degradation, to be who they truly are as individuals.

Mr. Speaker, I would urge you to ensure that we move the bill as expeditiously as possible through all levels and all processes in this place to honour the work of those who have come before us and to recognize those members in our communities everywhere, whether it is in Winnipeg with Beyond Borders, whether it is a national organization in terms of child protection, or whether it is the women's movement, where feminists have been speaking out for decades to end violence against any individual and sexual degradation of any individual. We need to honour that work and bring it to fruition, entrench it in law, and crack down on the production, dissemination, and the spread of this vile propaganda that degrades and humiliates people and lowers the whole level of civilization in our country today.

I think it is an offence to the very notion of a civilized society that child pornography is allowed in any shape or form. It is contrary to any notion of what we believe in, in terms of a society where everyone is treated with decency, equality, dignity and respect.

I think it is incumbent upon each one of us to do what we can in our respective constituencies and communities, so that we are not just here promoting laws that will actually make a difference but we are on the streets, in our neighbourhoods, at the community level, in the grassroots of our communities, speaking out every time there is any sign, any sense, any whiff of material or actions or activity that shows and reveals children as sexual objects or women as second-class citizens.

So, what I am saying is this debate is more than just about the law. It is about government policies, in general, and whether or not we are there to support those organizations, those non-governmental community organizations, the women's movement, the cross-borders organizations of the country,and whether we are there supporting them through resources and through acknowledging the validity of their work.

While I know the government is very supportive of cracking down on pornography, as witnessed by this legislation, we sometimes wonder if the government is really there, prepared to get at the roots of the problem, and support organizations that need resources of the government to fight, to speak, and to act. We have had huge debates in this place about whether or not government funds should be used to do such things, to advocate on behalf of others. Many organizations have lost their funds because they are seen as advocates, as speaking out for a purpose, as fighting against something.

I know we have disagreements in this place sometimes about the end goal and our very notion of what is a civil society. However, I would implore government members today to think about the wisdom of that kind of approach and decision, and to, in fact, reconsider supporting women's organizations, which are the leaders on this issue, through core funding.

Most of the organizations I know that fight on these terms, on this basis, spend half their time trying to figure out how to keep going as an organization. They spend half their time making applications and trying to fit their program into a government-sponsored initiative, trying to fit a round peg into a square box, trying to be as creative and as imaginative as possible, in order to access a bit of resources just to keep going.

The women's movement has been drastically hurt in its ability to keep being that voice in our communities against child pornography and violence against anyone because it is spending most of its time trying to figure out how to stay alive, if it is still alive. In fact, many important organizations have had to be silenced, have had to terminate their existence because there is no support from a government that should support such organizations since they get to the very roots of the problem that we talk about today. We cannot just do it with the heavy hand of the law.

We support the bill because it takes a multi-disciplined and a multifaceted approach, but we have to fight at the community level, too. We have to deal with the very fundamental attitude that people can overpower others and do so in the most vilest of ways, through the degradation we have seen in some of the most horrific child pornography cases anywhere, as we know recently from the news in terms of pornography rings that have been broken and individuals charged.

That is just the tip of the iceberg. Pornography is everywhere. The way in which we treat women and children is rooted in a society where the powerful are given licence to overcome the more vulnerable, given licence because we do not stop them from repressing women and children and making them victims.

I hope, through this legislation, we crack down on child pornography on the Internet, that is spread electronically, at the speed of light, everywhere and is so readily accessible to everyone in society. At the same time, I hope, in the process, we recognize that we also have to change attitudes.

Every time there is an act of violence against another in our society, any time women are treated as sexual objects or children are seen as pawns in this game of trading pornographic material, anytime individuals in society are not allowed to be who they are on their own terms, then we have to act and we have to support community groups to do that.

We cannot sit back and allow cultural conditioning to overwhelm us, sex stereotyping to be pervasive, second-class status to be attributed to children. We have to recognize every one as an individual who should be unencumbered and free to pursue his or her life's dreams without being defined, stereotyped and placed in precarious situations because of a society that needs to make money off the treatment of others as second-class citizens.

I am thankful for the opportunity to speak today and to recognize community groups that have been there for us. In turn, I would ask Parliament to be there for them.

Child Protection Act (Online Sexual Exploitation)
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Winnipeg North for spelling out how women have been silenced in Canada by the government and connecting that use of power by the government to the wish to have power over others and not necessarily for a positive reason.

Once children are violated by predators, it is too late. As my colleague pointed out, they live with humiliation and despair. My concern is that the government only talks about punishment. It is so focused on punishment that it has paraded a series of less than effective crime bills in front of the Canadian public, yet has acted negligently in terms of prevention.

Just last week, I received a letter from Mark Biagi from Powell River, B.C. He was very concerned about predators who used date rape drugs to take advantage of young women and the fact that there was nothing in our laws to prevent or to prosecute in these cases. We have also heard nothing about prevention of the crime of child pornography.

Could my colleague comment on the resources that should be in place so we can address the very serious problems of violence against women, violence against children in the form of pornography and physical violence and violence against women in terms of date rape drugs and those who use them and those who allow their use?

Child Protection Act (Online Sexual Exploitation)
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague, the NDP Status of Women critic, for her ongoing work in Parliament, raising these fundamental issues and questions.

I agree with her that there are too few resources and too little acknowledgement of some deep-rooted problems in our society and of the limited ability of organizations to fight back when government does not take them seriously.

Whether we are talking about cracking down on date rape and stopping date rape drugs or trying to work with young people and with organizations that try to dispel this notion of stereotyping and conditioning that is so pervasive in our society, or whether we are looking at more funding for organizations that provide services and programs to fight back against violence in the home or violence on the streets, or whether we are looking at organizations that simply work to create awareness and understanding about the vile impact, the horrific fallout from any kind of materials that treat people as second-class citizens or sexual objects, all those issues must be on the table. They must be addressed. In fact, this is a pervasive, serious problem that creeps up in every aspect of our lives, and we need to be there to deal with it.

I want to reference other organizations that work to end child sexual exploitation. Recently some of the celebrities in Beverly Hills started to get involved in this whole campaign. Maybe this will help in terms of bringing some awareness, when we see actors like Jason Priestley and race car driver, Jacques Villeneuve, among high-profiled Canadians involved in a campaign to end sexual exploitation of children.

This along with the work that I mentioned earlier of Beyond Borders is so important for getting the message out. Public awareness campaigns have to focus and be ever present. To do that, they need resources, money and support to do that.

Beyond Borders, which I mentioned earlier in my remarks, shows that 90% of those charged in terms of sexual exploitation of children or the use of children for sex or the perpetuation of child pornography are men. This goes back to reasons for their man-to-man campaign.

We need to be out there saying, “It's important for boys and men to hear that using children for sex and profit is not OK”. Those are the words of Roz Prober, president of Beyond Borders.

Child Protection Act (Online Sexual Exploitation)
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, when the minister announced the bill and spoke in the House the other day, she said that $42.1 million over five years would be provided to help law enforcement with more financial resources. When I asked her afterward whether this was new money, she could not answer the question. It goes to show us how ill-prepared the government is and how rushed the bill was.

The government did not look to best practices in other countries. Sweden simply solves the problem by blocking access to the sites. Brazil set up an ethical rules committee for the ISPs. Germany and the European Union block access to the sites as well.

Does that not make more sense than to bring in a bill that will simply slow the problem down a bit? We all agree that it has developed in an explosive manner in the last five or six years. It will only get bigger and fines will not solve the problem.

Child Protection Act (Online Sexual Exploitation)
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I thank my colleague from Elmwood—Transcona for a very important point. We absolutely must have a comprehensive strategy for something as serious as child pornography and sexual exploitation of women and children. It is not good enough for the government to stand and say that it has $40 million, we are not sure from where, to enforce this bill, yet it takes away money from women's organizations and organizations that stand and say to all citizens, especially young boys and men, that the treatment of women as sexual objects is wrong, that child pornography has dire consequences and they should be aware of their actions, even if they make comments or gestures that are inadvertent.

We have to start from square one in terms of education and awareness, and that takes money and support from the government.

My colleague also mentions the point about other tactics, shutting down sites, other strategies used in other jurisdictions that have proven to be effective in ending these rings that produce and spread child pornography. Surely the government can come forward with a more comprehensive approach than simply this one measure in this one particular bill.

Child Protection Act (Online Sexual Exploitation)
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

LaVar Payne Medicine Hat, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to ask questions on this very important bill.

I point out that citizens of the fabulous riding of Medicine Hat have very much been in support of the anti-crime bills that we have put through. They regularly call our office and ask why we have not done something about the criminals in the system.

Although some of the colleagues on the other side appear to be somewhat soft on crime, I am pleased to hear that the hon. member opposite appears to be in favour of supporting the bill through the House. Does the hon. member have the ability to see that the bill will certainly help to protect our children?

Child Protection Act (Online Sexual Exploitation)
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the question from my Conservative colleague across the way. I want him to know that the NDP absolutely supports the bill and we will help to ensure its quick passage to Parliament. However, we also want our colleagues in the House to know that we are dealing with a very serious and pervasive problem, and it takes a multifaceted approach.

We hope the government may see its way clear to look at other ways to crack down on the spread of child pornography through the Internet. We also hope the government might look at ways to help change attitudes at the earliest stages so we do not end up with people engaged in this kind of activity, which is so harmful to others.

I want him to know that we are here because we believe in this and in the past introduced similar initiatives in the House. Someone just reminded me that the NDP had introduced a bill about Internet luring back in 2006. My colleague, the member for Sackville—Eastern Shore, introduced that bill, the intent of which was to prevent the use of the Internet to unlawfully promote, display, describe or facilitate participation in unlawful sexual activity involving young persons. That was in 2006, so we are glad we finally have a bill in 2009.

Child Protection Act (Online Sexual Exploitation)
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Is the House ready for the question?

Child Protection Act (Online Sexual Exploitation)
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Child Protection Act (Online Sexual Exploitation)
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

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

Child Protection Act (Online Sexual Exploitation)
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Child Protection Act (Online Sexual Exploitation)
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

The House resumed from November 24 consideration of the motion that Bill C-31, An Act to amend the Criminal Code, the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act and the Identification of Criminals Act and to make a consequential amendment to another Act be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles
Québec

Conservative

Daniel Petit Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak today to offer my strong support for Bill C-31, which would amend the Criminal Code and other acts, in order to make our justice system more efficient.

To fight crime and ensure the safety of Canadians, we need a justice system that reflects our reality, that allows us to use technology effectively, that adapts to scientific advances, to changes in the nature of evidence and scientific procedures, and that operates as efficiently as possible, while still remaining fair and equitable.

This bill is another concrete measure that demonstrates our government's ongoing commitment to fighting crime in the most effective and advanced way possible.

I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate the Minister of Justice for his continued efforts and for recognizing that making minor changes and reforming outdated procedures can also make a difference.

I would also like to take this opportunity to look at what effect some of these proposals would have on the work of the public servants who also help provide security and protection for Canadians.

Public officers are not police officers. Their primary responsibility is the enforcement of non-criminal offences covered by federal legislation other than the Criminal Code and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. One proposed amendment would give public officers the same authority as police to deal with goods seized under section 489.1, bearing in mind that they both have the same authority to conduct searches.

At present, subsection 489.1(1), which deals with the return of seized goods, only applies to peace officers and allows them to return the goods seized directly to a person when there is no dispute as to ownership of the goods and if the goods do not need to be kept as evidence.

Subsection 489.1(2) applies to anyone who is not a peace officer and requires that they bring the goods seized before a justice of the peace or that they retain them until the justice orders that they be returned to the lawful owner.

Under these sections, a peace officer can seize an item in situ, or on the spot, in order to examine it and return it to the owner, if he is convinced that the item need not be retained as evidence.

In the same circumstances, a public officer exercising his authority under section 487 would have to bring the item before a justice or retain it until it can be reported to a justice or until the justice authorizes its return. In situ seizure under a warrant is becoming an increasingly common practice in a regulatory context because search warrants are used to investigate quasi-criminal matters often pertaining to equipment that is impossible to move in an industrial workplace or similar setting.

Another amendment would specify that the peace officer or public officer who fills out report 5.2, the report to a justice of the peace, can have another person file it under subsection 489.1(1). When the peace officer has seized items and has subsequently returned them to the lawful owner, he must report it to a justice of the peace, on Criminal Code form 5.2.

This addition will save a great deal of time for an administration that has employees in the court house, because they will be in a position to file the documents in question rather than the peace officer or public officer who completed them.

The bill also includes a new provision that will permit the release of any items seized by the police for scientific examination before the trial. The current provisions allow for the release of such items for scientific examination only at the trial stage, which often delays the trial, and is particularly difficult and inefficient in cases of trial by jury.

The new provision will allow items seized to be released before the trial with the court's permission and on the condition that appropriate measures are taken to ensure that they are properly preserved.

The provisions of the Criminal Code regarding prize fights must also be amended in order to exclude legitimate amateur sports, specifically, karate, judo, tae kwon do and wushu, which have emerged since the last amendment in 1932. Some of these sports are included in the International Olympic Committee program, which means that the international, national and provincial sports organizations in question are dedicated to the values and requirements of the IOC in matters of safety. From now on, amateur sports included in the IOC program will be excluded from the definition of “prize fighting” and the provinces can impose conditions on holding fights for these sports if they so choose.

Furthermore, the provinces could exclude any other amateur sport from the application of section 83 and could also impose conditions on holding fights for these sports. These amendments are the result of extensive consultations with the provinces and territories in 2003 and 2004, as well as consultations with national sports organizations at various times since 1998 when the issue was first brought to the government's attention.

In addition, amendments to the pari-mutuel provisions will clarify the federal government's responsibility for permitting and monitoring legitimate pari-mutuel betting on horse races. These amendments will eliminate the unnecessary power to limit the number of races on which bets can be placed at a race-course in Canada. The amendments will also allow race-courses to harmonize their method of calculating payouts with others in the “foreign race pool” when they accept bets on horse races that take place outside of Canada.

These amendments will enable Canadians to place lower bets than what is currently permitted, which will improve their chances of winning without having to spend more money.

The bill also contains an amendment to better preserve the impartiality of jurors by allowing the court to exclude jurors—on application or on its own motion—from the court room in the case of a challenge for cause. Currently, only the defence can make such an application.

This bill also amends telewarrant provisions. For example, three changes will be made to the current telewarrant system. First, the convenience criterion has been removed, except for telewarrants requested orally—in other words, by means of telecommunication that does not produce a writing. Second, access to telewarrants will be expanded. Third, public officers will now be permitted to use telewarrants.

We have also proposed eliminating the convenience criterion in the case of requests submitted in writing because of technological progress and the reliability of modern means of telecommunication. The telewarrant system enables more efficient use of justice system resources, especially the police. These amendments will save time by making it unnecessary for police officers to go to court to submit a warrant request in person, thereby giving them more time to spend on investigations.

With respect to oral telewarrants, our provincial and territorial partners have observed that requiring police officers to express their reasons in writing promotes the provision of complete and well-organized information for the judge's consideration.

It will now be possible to obtain the following warrants: warrants respecting the seizure of weapons, ammunition and explosive devices; search and seizure warrants in offences related to gambling, betting and stolen minerals; production orders for documents and business records; tracking warrants; and warrants with respect to number recorders.

Police and public officials could request a greater number of warrants by using this process, which would no doubt be beneficial to them. This will be particularly useful for federal public officials, who would otherwise have to make special arrangements in order to show up in person at various locations across the country to secure warrants. This makes the job easier.

This bill also proposes reclassifying certain Criminal Code offences as hybrid offences. This reclassification would convert an offence punishable by summary conviction or indictment under the Criminal Code into a hybrid offence. This allows the prosecution to proceed either by indictment or by summary conviction, whichever it deems most suitable under the circumstances of the case.

We feel that these changes are necessary and quite useful since they give the prosecution more latitude by allowing it to choose the most appropriate procedure for the case at hand. This will considerably simplify the administration of justice and deliver on the government's commitment to make Canada's criminal justice system more efficient.

I would also like to mention that reclassification has no impact on the seriousness of the offences in question. All it does—and I want to stress this—is allow the Crown to choose the procedure for prosecuting the alleged offender. For example, a criminal offence that becomes a hybrid offence can still be prosecuted by indictment if, under the circumstances, a more complex procedure, including a preliminary inquiry and a jury trial, is warranted. However, when the facts of the case do not warrant the full procedure or a heavier penalty, it is possible to prosecute the offence by summary conviction.

It is important that the procedure used reflect the seriousness of the offence and that we make the best use of the court's time and resources. Reclassification offers greater flexibility, making it possible to choose the most appropriate procedure under the circumstances and to increase the efficiency of our criminal justice system. The defence will still have the right to a preliminary inquiry or a jury trial where a full procedure is warranted.

This bill also includes changes to the expert witness regime. Once again, these changes are necessary because the time currently set out in the Criminal Code for communicating expert reports is sometimes not enough to allow the other party to respond appropriately to what is frequently becoming complex and highly technical evidence.

To respond to expert witness evidence, it is generally necessary to find and hire an expert in the particular field, brief that person on the case, obtain transcripts and so on. The changes make various improvements to the regime. First, to encourage compliance with the notice requirements in the Criminal Code, the bill provides for a mandatory 10-day adjournment if these requirements are not met. Second, so that all the parties are prepared to respond to expert evidence, the bill provides for a discretionary adjournment when the notice requirements have been met, but the other party has not had enough time to prepare.

Third, the Criminal Code will contain a list of factors the court must consider in deciding whether to grant an adjournment or to lengthen or shorten an adjournment that has already been granted. These factors are meant to reflect the challenges associated with a trial involving expert testimony.

Lastly, the court will have to explain if it refuses to grant an adjournment or reduce the period of adjournment. The new measures will also help the courts in rendering decisions. These changes would enable the courts to make enlightened decisions that are adapted to different cases of non-compliance and would encourage parties to adhere to the notice provisions.

These changes will not generate any additional obligations on the defence. Both parties' obligations will remain the same. The changes would simply improve the expert evidence regime in the Criminal Code to ensure that the parties can respond appropriately to the expert testimony, by providing new measures that the court can take if there is insufficient time, and to encourage parties to adhere to the notice provisions in the Criminal Code.

We know that the Identification of Criminals Act does not authorize police officers to fingerprint or photograph individuals in lawful custody until they have been charged or convicted, which often results in unnecessary delays.

Some people have called for the enforcement of this legislation to be simplified and clarified. That is what our proposed changes would do. The proposed amendments would streamline this process by adding the authority to fingerprint and photograph an individual who is in lawful custody following an arrest, but not yet charged.

For example, if the individual is not charged with an offence, if the charges are dropped or if the individual is acquitted, we know that many police forces destroy fingerprints and photographs at the request of the person involved, if the person is not found guilty. The courts have ruled that it is not unreasonable for police forces to retain fingerprints if no request is made for them to be destroyed or returned after charges are dropped.

I have listed some examples covered by this bill. It is important to note that the bill includes about 40 amendments that will all help improve, streamline and modernize our justice system. I urge all members to fully support this bill.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, near the end of the member's speech, he mentioned fingerprinting and identification and talked about how they can be kept on record. I find it a little sketchy. I am a bit puzzled why this would take place and, in particular, when a person would get these records back.

Perhaps he would like to explain that once again for the record.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

Daniel Petit Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, people who have been charged or accused often ask that question. Currently, under section 133, a person who is arrested and lawfully detained, and who is accused of a criminal offence, may immediately be fingerprinted and photographed. Once the trial is over, fingerprints and photographs may be returned to that person on request.

Right now, a certain period of time passes between the moment a person is taken into lawful custody and the moment he or she is charged. There are far fewer police officers in some jurisdictions than in others, or they may be very far away. That is why we need to ensure efficiency. We can help police forces be more efficient in all jurisdictions and physical locations where the Criminal Code applies, and update the code, by making it possible for fingerprinting and photographing to happen early on, any time after individuals are taken into lawful custody and before they are charged.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, at the end of his speech the member said that these 40 amendments were designed to improve the efficiency of the justice system.

I have a question for him regarding the amendment that deals with the permission of the provinces to decide whether to expand the list of sports permitted to take place within their province and to authorize specific contests.

I am referring to the issue of mixed martial arts, which Senator John McCain calls human cockfighting. I have an article that mentions that those who are attracted to this sport are men between the ages of 18 and 35 who have attention spans too short to watch 15 rounds of boxing.

The issue is whether mixed martial arts is something that we want to be promoting as a government in this country.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

Daniel Petit Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague raises a very interesting question.

Since 1932, many sports, also known as prizefighting, have been restricted by the Criminal Code. There have been no amendments since 1932, but a number of sports have appeared in the past 20 years, including initial martial arts. The Olympic committee decided that these should become Olympic sports. That is why they should no longer be proscribed under the Criminal Code.

In answer to my colleague's question, we have what are known as mixed martial arts. It is hard to tell whether these are martial arts or not. What my colleague said was that we have to choose our words carefully when provincial and territorial organizations refer to Olympic rules. In that case, they can be authorized or removed.

2009 Grey Cup
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

Mr. Speaker, it is with great pride, actually it is with Rider pride, that I stand in the House today as the 13th man. The Saskatchewan Roughriders nation is sporting jerseys, green body paint and watermelon helmets and following its team west in a sea of green to the 97th Grey Cup at Calgary's McMahon Stadium. To get there last weekend we hosted the western final for the first time in 33 years, beating Calgary 27-17.

But just like the challenge that Rider fans will face in finding a watermelon this time of year, the Saskatchewan Roughriders will face the challenge that is the Montreal Alouettes.

Some say the Als are virtually unbeatable. Some will also say that finding a watermelon this time of year is virtually impossible. But the Riders will play like champions and I am confident that 2009 will bring our province its fourth Grey Cup trophy.

The Riders and their fans will be sporting not just watermelon helmets, but sheer determination and passion. That is why they are Canada's team.

Status of Women
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Raymonde Folco Laval—Les Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, as chair of the Canadian Association of Parliamentarians on Population and Development, I have been proud to defend and represent Canada's policies abroad on women's equality rights, such as our commitment to the Cairo 94 program of action and the 2000 millennium development goals.

Canada has had a strong reputation of upholding our United Nations pledges, especially on women's health and their right to choose. But now a Conservative member “commends Saskatoon doctors for promoting a climate for less abortion”.

The Conservatives are also working hard to cut aid to organizations that promote women's health, like the International Planned Parenthood Federation.

I call on the government to clarify its policy. Canada cannot achieve its millennium development goals in women's health and in reducing violence against women if the government continues to target these organizations and the dedicated professionals who work in the field of women's health in Canada and abroad.

Linda Cyr Demers
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Bloc

Diane Bourgeois Terrebonne—Blainville, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to call the attention of the House to the remarkable volunteer work done by Linda Cyr Demers in her community of Terrebonne.

Ms. Cyr Demers has dedicated the better part of her life to volunteer work, including 20 years with the Amicale des vétérans, the veterans' association in Terrebonne. Furthermore, she was the first woman to chair that association, a position she held for 14 years thanks to her hard work, dedication and enthusiasm. In connection with her commitment there, she was also named an honorary member of the Royal 22nd Regiment.

She was awarded the Quebec National Assembly medal for her accomplishments, a distinction given to exceptional people for their extraordinary achievements or commitment, which is certainly true of Ms. Cyr Demers. It is now time for Ms. Cyr Demers to spend more time with her loved ones, who are the lucky ones, for they can now enjoy her unparalleled altruism even more.

Ms. Cyr Demers, I join with my constituents in extending our sincere thanks to you.

Italian Canadian Community
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

NDP

John Rafferty Thunder Bay—Rainy River, ON

Mr. Speaker, today I rise in the House to recognize the contributions of two long-standing organizations in my riding and to celebrate their significant anniversaries.

On November 21, the Italian Mutual Benefit Society of Port Arthur celebrated its 80th anniversary. The organization was founded in 1929 to provide benevolent aid to Canadians of Italian ancestry who now call Canada their home. Eighty years later, the organization continues its efforts to preserve and strengthen the fraternal spirit among those of Italian descent.

2009 marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Societa Italiana Principe Di Piemonte. The organization was formed in 1909 by a small group of Italian immigrants who wanted their heritage to stay alive in this new country they had come to call their own. One hundred years later, the Societa Italiana Principe Di Piemonte continues to thrive in the promotion and enhancement of Italian custom and culture in all its endeavours.

Please join me in acknowledging the efforts of these two very important organizations.

Counselling or Aiding Suicide
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, today I rise to thank the House for the unanimous support it offered last week for Motion No. 388, my motion to update Canada's Criminal Code.

Nadia Kajouji was a depressed 18-year-old student when she was targeted by an Internet predator. In her vulnerable state, she did not survive the assault. The tragedy of Nadia's story gripped each one of us. Eighteen months later, no charges have been laid.

The unanimous support of the House shows that hon. members can work together in good faith. It shows that common sense can cross party lines. It shows that the government would enjoy broad support if it took action on this file.

On behalf of Nadia's father Mohamed, her brother Marc, her mother Deborah, and on behalf of all Canadians suffering from depression, and vulnerable youth dealing with seemingly insurmountable obstacles, I thank all hon. members for giving the motion fair consideration and for their ongoing support.

Hunger and Malnutrition
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Frank Valeriote Guelph, ON

Mr. Speaker, last week, I joined the Canadian delegation to the World Summit on Food Security in Rome. Hosted by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, the summit was part of the international community's continuing attempt to address world hunger and malnutrition.

The situation is catastrophic. With every passing minute, 10 children die of hunger and malnutrition in underdeveloped countries. The United Nations estimates that the number of hungry or undernourished people in the world has now risen to over one billion; that is, almost one in six people on this planet.

Developed countries must strengthen the agricultural sectors in developing nations. The FAO reports the world has the resources, technology and know-how to eradicate hunger now and for the foreseeable future. Indeed, rapid progress is possible if real action is taken and policy is informed by the moral imperative that all human beings have a basic right to food.

Child Protection Legislation
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Edmonton Centre, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to be part of a government that has a proven record in protecting Canadians.

We have introduced legislation to fight gangs, organized crime and white collar crime and to curtail identity theft.

This week, the Minister of Justice introduced legislation that would make reporting online child pornography mandatory. This legislation is the next step in our government's efforts to fight the sexual exploitation of children. It would require suppliers of Internet services to report tips they receive from the public to a designated agency. At the moment, such actions are voluntary. The bill would set graduated fines for failure to comply.

A mandatory reporting regime across Canada would strengthen our ability to protect our children from sexual predators. It would help police to rescue these young victims and to prosecute the criminals responsible.

We must always remain on the offensive when it comes to keeping our children and neighbourhoods safe. I would like to thank the Minister of Justice and all members of this House who are working on this legislation and I encourage it to be passed in a timely manner.

Working together we can deliver real results for Canadians. That is why we were elected.

Official Languages
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Bloc

France Bonsant Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, for two days, the member for Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière has been saying he is insulted, claiming that the Bloc failed to defend the French language in committee and proclaiming his indignation and his supposed attachment to French.

But where was the member when it came time to defend the use of French in federally regulated businesses? He stood up, all right, but it was to vote against this.

Contrary to what the member thinks, francophones are not fooled by this farce. The member is clearly in no position to lecture the Bloc Québécois, a party that has always worked hard to protect the French language and that will continue to do so.

When it comes to protecting the French language, the member for Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière is quick to take offence, but slow to act.

TV5
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Sylvie Boucher Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, today, Canada is chairing the 21st conference of ministers responsible for TV5, in Ottawa.

We can be proud to host this important conference, especially in a year when TV5 Monde is celebrating its 25th anniversary and when TV5 Québec Canada is celebrating its 20th.

We can also be proud of the leadership role Canada has played in the past two years as chair of the TV5 partnership, investing $25 million over five years.

Canada has once again demonstrated its commitment not only to TV5 Québec Canada and TV5 Monde, but also to the Canadian and international Francophonie.

Phyllis Gotlieb
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, this past summer Canada lost one of its pioneers in science fiction writing, Phyllis Gotlieb, born Phyllis Bloom, in Toronto, in 1926.

The Sunburst Award, an award given annually to Canadian writers of speculative fiction, is named after her first novel, Sunburst, published in 1964. Thanks to our parliamentary library, I have now had the pleasure to read that novel. I am truly happy to have discovered an author who gives us great characters and an intelligent storyline. I look forward to reading more of her novels.

Some have called her the mother of Canadian science fiction; others, grandmother. Robert J. Sawyer, Canada's most successful author of the genre, settled it by calling her the grand dame of Canadian science fiction, and I concur.

I wish to extend to her husband, Calvin Gotlieb, her son, Leo, and her daughters, Margaret and Jane, our condolences, but also our gratitude for her legacy.

Justice
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, this government has made victims of crime a priority. We are committed to making our streets and communities safer.

We are tackling organized crime with our drug bill. We are cracking down on identity theft and auto theft, ending credit for time served and eliminating the faint hope clause. We are ending house arrest for serious crimes, cracking down on white collar criminals and ending sentencing discounts for multiple murderers. We are helping protect children from Internet sexual predators.

This government is standing up for victims of crime. We are putting the rights of law-abiding citizens ahead of the rights of criminals.

We can only hope that the Liberal leader will for once stand up for victims in this country by ensuring that our bills get passed. Canadians can expect our government and the Prime Minister to stand up for the rights of victims and law-abiding citizens.

Access to Medicines Regime
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, night has already fallen in much of Africa. Another day has passed and another 14,000 people have died needlessly from infectious diseases for which medicine is readily available, just not for them.

It is mostly grandmothers who care for the dying and who are left to piece together the shattered lives that remain. They tell us through the Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign, Canadian women devoting incredible energy in solidarity with their African sisters, that Canada's access to medicines regime, which was supposed to make more drugs available, is not working.

UNICEF, Oxfam, Canadian Crossroads International, Results Canada and the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network all agree and have called for the changes set out in my private member's Bill C-393. I urge all members to vote for this bill to ensure that we fix Canada's access to medicines regime and get Canadian drugs moving to save lives.

Official Languages
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière, QC

Mr. Speaker, this week I witnessed something that I never expected would happen. The Bloc voted to prevent me from obtaining a document in French even though they are always going on about protecting the French language.

The Bloc obviously forgot to keep up the pretence. Its fine words disappear without a trace but the written record remains.

I am a parliamentarian and, like all Canadians, I have the right to obtain English government documents translated into French. When I raised the matter, the Bloc leader laughed at me and ridiculed me. I would like a formal apology from the Bloc.

I am not sure which Quebec the Bloc leader claims to represent, but it is certainly not my Quebec. I would go so far as to say that Quebeckers trust the Conservative government to preserve the rights of francophones.

Immigration
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Bloc

Thierry St-Cyr Jeanne-Le Ber, QC

Mr. Speaker, in his new guide “Discover Canada”, the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism points out that Quebec is a nation and that the majority of its population is francophone. However, there is not a word to new immigrants about Bill 101 and the requirement to send their children to a French school.

This guide also completely omits the fact that new arrivals have to learn French first in order to settle in Quebec. A unanimous motion in this Parliament clearly indicates that is the case.

Instead, the guide goes on at length about the Queen, even describing her as “the focus of citizenship, ... guardian of Constitutional freedoms, reflection of our history and an encouragement for Canadians to give their best to their country”.

How shocking. Instead of promoting an obsolete institution to which Quebeckers have no allegiance, the minister should be reminding immigrants that in Quebec we live our lives in French.

Canadian Football League
Statements By Members

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Bernard Patry Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, Grey Cup fever is in the air. The final match of the CFL playoffs is being held this Sunday.

The melon heads are sure to turn out in droves at Calgary's McMahon Stadium to cheer for Saskatchewan's pride and glory, the Roughriders.

To challenge them, Montreal is sending its Alouettes. While I mean no disrespect to the Roughriders, I think they will find the Alouettes not so friendly.

Last night the Alouettes quarterback, Anthony Calvillo, received the CFL outstanding player award for the second consecutive year and the third time in his career.

It will mark the 97th occasion Lord Grey's silver is at stake and as it does every year, it promises to be an epic battle.

The stakes are high. The mayors of Regina and Montreal have made their bets. The losing mayor must wear the winning team's jersey at a city council meeting and fly the winning team's flag in front of city hall.

Go, Als, go.

Liberal Party Fundraising
Statements By Members

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, after the Liberal decade of darkness this government has invested in the Canadian armed forces because we support our troops, not because of political gain, but out of national pride. That is why it is shameful the Liberal leader would show such calculated cynicism by fundraising on the issue of detainees.

Even the Liberal member for Vancouver South, when asked if this was appropriate, said unequivocally, “No, it's not”.

When the Liberal leader fundraises on the backs of our soldiers and their sacrifices, it proves what we have been saying all along: He is in it for himself.

We will not stand idly by while the Liberal leader tries to score political points by smearing our soldiers in this House or anywhere else in this country.

There will be more questions today about our soldiers and our military leadership, but the real question now is are the Liberals asking these questions to help, or are they asking these questions to fill the Liberal leader's war chest?

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, in 2006 the United States Department of State noted a human rights report in which authorities allegedly continued to routinely torture and abuse detainees. Torture and abuse consisted of pulling out fingernails and toenails, burning with hot oil, beatings, sexual humiliation and sodomy.

A year later the United Nations Secretary-General told the Security Council that initial findings noted that ill treatment and torture had been used to force confessions.

Would the minister not at least agree that in 2006 reports of widespread abuse were available to the Government of Canada?

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, we have always been perfectly clear. When military and diplomats have been presented with credible, substantiated evidence, they have taken the appropriate action.

Canada instituted an enhanced arrangement with Afghanistan over two and a half years ago. The agreement replaced the inadequate prisoner transfer agreement that was left by the previous government. That is why we established this agreement. That is why we took action.

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, what the minister would now appear to be saying is that in 2006 there were problems, which is exactly what Mr. Colvin was saying, which is exactly what others were saying.

However, the problem is that it was not possible for Canada to investigate independently any allegations. Department of Foreign Affairs officials said “We don't investigate allegations. We record them”.

In light of that fact, could the minister explain why it took a year and a half for his government to develop the political will to finally get the evidence?

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, we have now heard testimony from three respected generals, three Canadian heroes, three of the country's highest-ranking military officers. We have heard from a senior diplomat. These generals and the diplomat have thoroughly rejected the allegations that have been made against them, that the opposition parties were just too eager to believe.

What is incredibly regretful is that the Liberal Party has tried to use this issue to raise funds in $25, $50 and $100 denominations. That is wrong. That does not serve the interests of our troops. Frankly, the Liberals should be ashamed of themselves.

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, the problem with the minister's answer is very simple. The government has all the information and is refusing to give it to us. We do not have access to the documents we need to find the truth.

So far, it is clear that the government is refusing to disclose the information and also refusing to face a huge problem, which is that for more than a year, the Canadian government did not conduct an investigation, but just tried to record—

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, let us be very clear. Government officials have provided and will continue to provide all legally available information. Yesterday in committee we heard from David Mulroney, a well respected senior public servant. We heard from three Canadian heroes, Generals Hillier, Gauthier and Fraser, who have called these allegations ludicrous.

We have one single priority when it comes to our armed forces and on this issue. It is to support and protect our men and women in uniform. We will not go on a political fundraising drive by maligning our men and women in uniform. That is shameful.

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, the government is making false claims that there is no proof that Afghans detained by the Canadian Forces were tortured.

Yet Mr. Colvin clearly stated that because of the nature of the detainee transfer system, it was not possible to make such a claim.

The Red Cross confirms what Mr. Colvin said, and yesterday, David Mulroney confirmed it as well.

When will the government finally admit that Mr. Colvin, the Red Cross and Mr. Mulroney are right?

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Central Nova
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay Minister of National Defence and Minister for the Atlantic Gateway

Mr. Speaker, two and a half years ago when we fixed the flawed, inadequate arrangement left by the government opposite, we then went about investing in and improving the Afghan justice system. Nobody has ever said there were not any problems.

Let us look at what Mr. David Mulroney had to say, not the partisan attacks, not an attempt to politicize the issue. Here is what he said: “I can say we have no evidence that any Canadian transfer of detainees was mistreated.... We never, ever transferred anyone if we thought there was a substantial risk of torture. We knew there were problems in the Afghan system, but we developed a robust monitoring system”.

Those are the words of a respected diplomat doing the work, not partisan--

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe.

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, the minister should read all of Mr. Mulroney's remarks because he said, “Whether someone was or was not a Canadian-transferred detainee is a very important issue. We were not able to determine that”.

This is simple. If no one knew who was or was not transferred to the Afghan authorities, how can the government claim there was no proof that Afghans transferred by Canada were tortured? Is the government simply trying to cover up its approach of hear no evil, see no evil? Is the government being wilfully blind?

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Central Nova
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay Minister of National Defence and Minister for the Atlantic Gateway

Mr. Speaker, are the hon. member and opposition members trying to politicize the issue and cast political aspersions?

Let us go back to what Mr. Mulroney said: “I think there was very widespread and incredible understanding that there were a lot of problems in the Afghan justice system and Afghan prisons with Afghan police, as there were many problems throughout the Afghan” justice system. That is why we acted. He went on to say, “We talked to people who made allegations of abuse, which we reported to the authorities, but what is important to note is that these were not, to our knowledge, Canadian-transferred detainees”.

That is the crux of the issue.

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, in his testimony in committee, David Mulroney acknowledged that as early as 2006, Canadian authorities were aware of allegations of torture in Afghan prisons. He also acknowledged that Canada lost track of prisoners once they were transferred to the Afghan authorities.

In light of this information, how can the government still deny that Canada violated the Geneva convention prohibiting detainee transfers when there is a risk of torture?

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, let me be perfectly clear. When the military or Canadian diplomats have received credible substantiated evidence, they have taken the appropriate action.

Canada initiated an enhanced agreement with Afghanistan more than two and a half years ago. This agreement replaced the inadequate prisoner transfer agreement left by the previous Liberal government.

We are going to continue to treat these matters seriously. Our first priority will always be, though, the safety of our men and women in uniform.

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Pierre Paquette Joliette, QC

Mr. Speaker, David Mulroney, who served as a foreign affairs advisor to the Prime Minister in 2006, stated, and I quote: “—there was very widespread understanding that there were a lot of problems in Afghan prisons with Afghan police. The possibility of mistreatment could not be ignored.”

Is it not because the Prime Minister knew as early as 2006 that Canada was violating international conventions such as the Geneva convention that he is trying to bury the affair today?

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, that is why a number of years ago Canada instituted an enhanced agreement with Afghanistan on this issue. That is why we took action.

Whenever there have been credible or substantiated allegations made, the government has treated them seriously and we will continue to do so.

The reality is there is no credible evidence suggesting that any Canadian transfer of a Taliban terrorist has resulted in any torture. Those are the facts.

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Claude DeBellefeuille Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, the government is doing everything possible to hide the truth about the atrocities suffered by detainees transferred to Afghan authorities. After derailing the Military Police Complaints Commission, the government is intimidating diplomat Richard Colvin and refusing to release various reports, which it nevertheless provided to witnesses who support its position.

Why put all this effort into hiding the truth if not to hide violations of the Geneva Convention?

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Central Nova
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay Minister of National Defence and Minister for the Atlantic Gateway

Mr. Speaker, we have provided and will continue to provide all legally available information.

Let us be clear. As part of the preparations to testify in hearings before the parliamentary committee, individuals like Generals Hillier and Gauthier, recently retired, as well as currently serving General Fraser were provided documents relevant to the issues being discussed at the parliamentary committee, as were Mr. Colvin and Mr. David Mulroney.

It is common practice for current and former public servants to be given information to which they are privy to give testimony before the parliamentary committee. It is the normal practice that we follow.

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Bloc

Claude DeBellefeuille Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, David Mulroney acknowledged that the government knew that prisoners transferred by Canada to Afghan authorities risked being tortured. The Geneva Convention has clearly been violated by the Canadian government, which was not even capable of keeping tabs on its detainees.

Will the government admit that all its attempts to hide the truth have one objective: to hide the fact that for months it did not comply with the Geneva Convention?

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Central Nova
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay Minister of National Defence and Minister for the Atlantic Gateway

Mr. Speaker, let us take a direct look at that statement just made.

Here is what Mr. Mulroney actually said: “We never, ever transferred anyone if we thought there was a substantial risk of torture”. The member has made a complete misstatement of fact.

He said, “We knew that there were problems in the Afghan system, but we developed a robust monitoring system”.

Those are the words of an individual closest to the mission, in the best position to make these assessments.

He continued, “I didn't agree with his assertion that everybody who went into the NDS was tortured, that the detainees were all farmers or probably all innocent. This is where I think he went from an observation to speculation”.

Those are the words of Mr. Mulroney in his testimony yesterday.

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, on the detainee torture issue, first the government starved the MPCC by withholding documents. Then it fought against the committee hearings. Then it intimidated the witnesses at committee and withheld information from members of Parliament. At the same time, it gave full access to documents to its witnesses, even those no longer working for government.

Despite that, Mr. Mulroney yesterday confirmed our contention that for a year and a half, Canada did not have in place proper protection for detainees, as required by international law, and left them at risk of torture.

When will this government stop playing games and hiding the truth? When will it call a public inquiry?

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, the government has said, and I will say once again, that it will continue to provide all legally available information. Having said that, our first responsibility, our first priority, is to protect the lives of our men and women in uniform, and that will continue to be the case.

Mr. Mulroney testified before the committee not 24 hours ago that the government never transferred any captured Taliban where there was any realistic fear of torture. “Never” is what he said.

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, despite the widespread knowledge of torture in Afghan institutions, despite the recognition of the risk of human rights abuses, the government had no process to monitor whether or not Canadian-transferred detainees were tortured by the authorities.

For over a year, Afghan detainees were thrown into a black hole, prisons where beatings with cables, and electric shocks, punching and sexual abuse were normal practices. No one, not even Mr. Mulroney, could assure Canadians that those detainees were not tortured.

There is only one way to get to the truth. That is to call a public inquiry. Will the government do the right thing and call—

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. Minister of Transport.

Afghanistan
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, General Hillier dismissed some of these allegations not two days ago as ludicrous.

The member from the NDP, whom I have a great deal of respect for, seems to be happy to believe that Canadian soldiers are somehow arbitrarily rounding up farmers and taxi drivers and willingly sending them off to abuse.

Let me be very clear: our men in uniform would “never”, in Mr. Mulroney's words, do that. Never.

Tax Harmonization
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Conservative government is set to ask the House to approve its billions of dollars in bribes to the provinces so they can hit Canadians with the HST. We have learned that should the opposition parties vote down this tax grab, the government will not reintroduce it. Other opposition parties might still be iffy about how they will vote, but I am looking to get confirmation from the government.

If its motion fails, will it drop its plan to hike taxes on families? Will it commit not to reintroduce the HST tax grab if that fails in a vote in Parliament? Yes or no?

Tax Harmonization
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, let me say very directly that we have no such plan to raise taxes arbitrarily on Canadian families. Our government's first priority has been to cut taxes for working families.

We cut the GST from 7% to 6% and then from 6% to 5%, and when we needed help to do that, when Canadian families needed a break on paying high taxes, could they count on the support of the NDP? No. The NDP members stood up and said they did not want a 5% GST. They wanted it to be 7%. They wanted to keep taxes high.

It is this government that fought to cut taxes and keep them low for Canadian families.

Nortel
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Alexandra Mendes Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, we condemn the decision by Nortel executives to give themselves bonuses of several million dollars while employees are not entitled to severance pay, pensions or disability benefits.

Now that the Conservatives have taken steps for Nortel to be sold to Avaya, will they ensure that the Canadian employees, especially those who are disabled, are treated fairly and will receive the benefits for which they have worked so hard?

Nortel
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont
Alberta

Conservative

Mike Lake Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, we share the outrage of the hon. member at the news yesterday. It is incomprehensible that the executives at Nortel would choose to give themselves bonuses, court-authorized or not, at a time when the rest of the country is tightening its belt.

On the issue of pensions, our Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance has travelled the country over the course of the summer to hear from Canadians on this issue. Coming out of those consultations, we introduced measures to help protect pensioners by requiring companies to fully fund pension benefits on plan termination, make pensions more stable, give pensioners more negotiating powers and modernize the investment rules of pensions.

Nortel
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Alexandra Mendes Brossard—La Prairie, QC

Mr. Speaker, less than a month ago, those same employees from Nortel stood on the front lawn of Parliament Hill and asked the government to help them retrieve their hard-earned pensions and severance packages. The Conservatives were remarkable for their silence. We now hear that current Nortel senior executives have just rewarded themselves another round of huge bonuses.

When will the government finally stand up for rank and file Nortel employees?

Nortel
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont
Alberta

Conservative

Mike Lake Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, as I mentioned, of course we are outraged by the news that came out yesterday.

But again, on the subject of pensions, we have already completed cross-Canada consultations on federally regulated pensions. We are working with the provinces to set up a federal-provincial research working group on retirement income, and we have already convened a national summit of provincial and territorial finance ministers to discuss the group's findings in December.

What is remarkable is that the member for Markham—Unionville said just a few short weeks ago, “The Liberals don't actually have a policy on pension reform”.

Employment
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Liberal

Marcel Proulx Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, as the holidays approach, hundreds of people do not share the holiday spirit. Jobs continue to disappear by the hundreds. Yesterday it was Bombardier and Rogers that announced 715 and 900 layoffs respectively. The Conservatives have ignored our calls to introduce an aerospace strategy. They are allowing our technological giants to slip into foreign hands.

How high does the unemployment rate have to be before they decide to do something about it?

Employment
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont
Alberta

Conservative

Mike Lake Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, of course, we do understand that it has been a difficult year for the aerospace industry in these global economic circumstances, as we have seen a tightening of budgets, particularly budgets for executive business jets. That has had an impact, obviously, on Bombardier.

That said, our government is actively working with and committed to supporting Canada's aerospace industry. In fact, we have recently made a $350 million investment in Bombardier Aerospace for its CSeries program. We have also invested hundreds of millions of dollars in the strategic aerospace defence initiative, in fact just a couple of months ago, announcing a $200 increased investment in that program.

Museums
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Marcel Proulx Hull—Aylmer, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is not just the unemployed who are concerned about the fast approaching holidays. Workers involved in labour disputes are worried as well.

Such is the case for employees of the Museum of Civilization and the War Museum, here in the national capital region.

Will the minister wake up and impose arbitration in order to resolve this dispute once and for all?

Museums
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Souris—Moose Mountain
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, a mediator has been working with the parties from before the strike began, and we are continuing to work with them and encouraging them to come to the table to resolve this issue. Of course, if both parties agree, the minister can appoint an arbiter, but they both have to come to that agreement.

The Environment
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Serge Cardin Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, Canada is discrediting itself, not only on the international stage, where there are calls to have Canada expelled from the Commonwealth, but also here at home, where 3,000 Canadian scientists are calling on the government to negotiate an agreement that will rapidly and adequately address climate change.

What will it take for the government to announce a greenhouse gas reduction plan that is credible and produces results?

The Environment
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Langley
B.C.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, the fact is Canada is committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions 20% by 2020. That is one of the toughest targets in the world. The fact is President Obama just announced a conditional target of a 17% reduction by 2020 using the 2005 levels. That target is virtually identical to this government's target.

Why do opposition members want Canada to diverge from a North American target and instead choose a job-killing European target? Canada will not abandon the North American harmonized approach. We will not jeopardize Canadian jobs or the Canadian economy.

The Environment
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Serge Cardin Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, Quebec could be the first to pay for this government's inaction, since it exports the most to Europe.

Does the government realize that if Europe follows through on its carbon tax threats for delinquent countries, like Canada, Quebec exports will be the first to be hit hard?

The Environment
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Langley
B.C.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, the government has been very clear. Canada does want an international binding agreement on climate change that includes all the major emitters. One hundred and ninety-two countries will be at the negotiating table.

This government will ensure that any treaty will include Canada's economic, geographic and industrial realities. We will not sign a deal that would be bad for Canada. We will continue to work on behalf of all Canadians.

Employment Insurance
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Bloc

Josée Beaudin Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, once again, the government is trying to force workers in Quebec to swallow an insult. The contribution rate that self-employed workers in Quebec will pay for benefits under Bill C-56 is totally disproportionate. According to the human resources department's own estimates, Quebeckers will pay too much for the services they receive.

Will the government admit the injustice that is being done to self-employed workers in Quebec, who are going to have to subsidize other workers?

Employment Insurance
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Jonquière—Alma
Québec

Conservative

Jean-Pierre Blackburn Minister of National Revenue and Minister of State (Agriculture)

Mr. Speaker, on the subject of employment insurance for self-employed workers, I want to remind the House that we wanted to extend EI benefits by five weeks. The Bloc voted against that.

We wanted to relax the work sharing rules; they also voted against that. We increased the amounts for workforce training; they also voted against that.

We wanted to add 5 to 20 weeks for long-tenured workers; they also voted against that. And they are getting ready once again to vote against what we want to do to help self-employed workers.

Employment Insurance
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Bloc

Josée Beaudin Saint-Lambert, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, at the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities, the Conservatives did everything they could to prevent the former chief actuary for the Employment Insurance Commission from testifying, because they knew that, like us, he was going to condemn the injustice being done to self-employed workers in Quebec, who will be paying three times what they should into the plan.

The government should stop saying the same thing all the time and tell us how it can possibly defend such blatant inequity.

Employment Insurance
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Jonquière—Alma
Québec

Conservative

Jean-Pierre Blackburn Minister of National Revenue and Minister of State (Agriculture)

Mr. Speaker, people know that group insurance costs less than private insurance.

As a government, we made a commitment to provide special benefits for self-employed workers, and we took the situation in Quebec into account. The contribution rate for workers there will be $1.36 instead of $1.73, which is affordable. Self-employed workers had been asking us for special benefits for a long time, and they will receive those benefits thanks to us, the Conservatives.

Government Accountability
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, the government continues to pay lip service to accountability. It is time to put its money where its mouth is.

There is clear evidence that the Minister of Natural Resources violated the Conflict of Interest Code. The Ethics Commissioner has written that the evidence clearly shows an inquiry is warranted.

Will the government stop covering up the minister's misconduct and ensure that a full investigation is conducted without government obstruction?

Government Accountability
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, this matter is currently before independent officers of this House. I think it is best to allow them to do their work independently, free from political interference.

Government Accountability
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Geoff Regan Halifax West, NS

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives seem to think that they are above the law. Transparency, honesty and accountability are words that they do not seem to understand.

Will the minister step down while officials try to get to the bottom of this? That would be the proper thing to do.

If the minister refuses, will the Prime Minister assume his responsibilities and relieve her of her duties?

Government Accountability
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, this government has brought forward the most comprehensive anti-corruption legislation in Canadian history.

We raised the ethical bar. We banned big money from politics and political campaigns, and eliminated entirely the role of corporations and unions in donating to political parties. We gave added independence to the independent officers of Parliament so they can properly and independently do their job, and we will allow them to continue to do that.

Federal Properties
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Martha Hall Findlay Willowdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, recent media reports have alluded to mysterious and secretive investigations at the Department of Public Works and Government Services.

Could the minister confirm, one, that an investigation is indeed currently under way and, two, that it relates to suspected irregularities in the government's sell-off of federal properties?

Federal Properties
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière
Québec

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services and to the Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, Public Works and Government Services is aware of these investigations, and I can make no further comment at this time.

Federal Properties
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Martha Hall Findlay Willowdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am sorry, but that was not an answer. We need an answer. If an investigation is currently underway, we need details. I specifically asked if the investigation was linked to suspected irregularities in the sale of government assets.

Federal Properties
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Lotbinière—Chutes-de-la-Chaudière
Québec

Conservative

Jacques Gourde Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Works and Government Services and to the Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, under our government, the new laws we have established and the criteria for accountability and transparency are clear. We will continue along that road.

Tax Harmonization
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

James Rajotte Edmonton—Leduc, AB

Mr. Speaker, provincial taxation is a provincial responsibility and the provinces should choose what suits them best. The previous federal Liberal government allowed three willing provinces, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, to harmonize new value-added taxes with the federal one. We believe that all provinces should have the right to make their own tax decisions.

Can the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance please update the House what we have done to respect provincial tax choice?

Tax Harmonization
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Macleod
Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, out of respect for provincial autonomy, we will facilitate any province's decision to switch to a harmonized value-added tax. This requires legislative changes to provide a framework that will be equally available to any province that chooses to fully harmonize value-added tax. Any framework of this sort does not affect federal revenue or federal spending, and therefore is not a confidence measure.

Next week we will ask Parliament to confirm the right of provinces to choose a harmonized value-added tax.

The Environment
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, the national round table on the environment and the economy says northern communities will need lots of help to adapt to the effects of climate change. Storm surges are threatening Tuktoyaktuk. Permafrost is melting causing roads and infrastructure to fail. Wildlife, such as caribou, is being threatened by changes to its ecosystem. All of these things are threatening the economic and human development of the north.

Does the government have a plan to help the north deal with the rapidly spreading effects of the changing climate?

The Environment
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Langley
B.C.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal approach is to add a massive carbon tax on the north. Our government understands that, as a northern country, Canada is particularly vulnerable to climate change. That is why the Mayo B hydro project in Yukon was the first project to receive federal funding of $71 million for the new green infrastructure fund. Since 2007 the federal government has invested over $85 million to help Canadians adapt to climate change, $21 million of which was specifically directed to communities in the north. There is the massive expansion of Nahanni, and on and on. We are getting it done for the north.

The Environment
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Dennis Bevington Western Arctic, NT

Mr. Speaker, the government's inaction on climate change is not just being noticed at home, but Canada's very reputation is on the line. A number of prominent figures from Commonwealth developing nations are moving to get Canada suspended from the organization for its active attempts to block action on climate change. This action is usually taken against the worst human rights abusers, but they argue that Canada's actions will end up having the same impact.

Will the government stop fighting against climate change, or is it willing to sacrifice our Arctic with its cynical lack of effort on climate change?

The Environment
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

The Environment
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Order please, there is a lot of noise going on and the Speaker is having difficulty hearing.

The hon. parliamentary secretary.

The Environment
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Langley
B.C.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, the fact is Canadians know the only party in the House that takes climate change seriously, that is actively working against climate change with our international partners, is this party right here. The Prime Minister has been very clear and the--

The Environment
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

The Environment
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Order, order. The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment has the floor.

The Environment
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, the minister has said repeatedly that Canada supports an international binding treaty that will balance environmental protection and economic prosperity, maintain a long-term focus, support the development of clean technologies, and support constructive and ambitious goals. We are getting it done.

Aerospace Industry
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Bloc

Daniel Paillé Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, large companies in Quebec's aeronautics sector are in crisis. Bell Helicopter, Pratt & Whitney, CAE and Bombardier have been forced to let 4,000 skilled workers go. That means that 4,000 workers—4,000 families—will lose their pride along with their jobs. Not to mention the 215 subcontractors that are in deep trouble.

Why is the Minister of Industry refusing to put short-term measures in place to support the industry and keep it from crashing?

Aerospace Industry
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont
Alberta

Conservative

Mike Lake Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, it is very difficult when a Canadian is laid off due to what is going on in the global economic environment.

That said, our government's long-term approach to the aerospace sector and our long-term dedication to improving this sector is unquestionable. We have put $350 million toward Bombardier's CSeries program. We have put $329 million toward an innovative flight simulator program with CAE. As I mentioned earlier, just a couple of months ago we announced a $200 million additional investment in the strategic aerospace defence initiative.

We are committed to creating a rich environment--

Aerospace Industry
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Order. The hon. member for Hochelaga.

Aerospace Industry
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Bloc

Daniel Paillé Hochelaga, QC

Mr. Speaker, our aeronautics companies are competing against international players that benefit from state support. A proper industrial policy would support research and development, sales and financing. Contrary to what the Minister of Finance believes, we need new measures.

Will the government introduce an emergency short-term plan to help Quebeckers?

Aerospace Industry
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont
Alberta

Conservative

Mike Lake Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, as I just mentioned, the government has taken significant measures to ensure the long-term success and viability of our aerospace sector.

From a larger economic standpoint, commentators around the world have commented on the strength of the Canadian situation. Just a couple of months ago France's finance minister, coming out of the G20 finance ministers meeting, said, “I think we can be inspired by the Canadian situation”. There were some people who said, “I want to be Canadian”.

I just wish all members of the House felt the same way.

Olympic Winter Games
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, there are 77 days before Vancouver's Olympic Games begin. We learned that the government has only now awarded its $9 million contract to build Canada's Olympic pavilion.

All of the provinces and territories are finished or close to finishing their pavilions, pavilions to showcase their regions to visitors, media, world leaders and potential investors, the marketing opportunity of the decade.

How can Canadians be getting the best possible Canada pavilion with only 77 days to design and build it?

Olympic Winter Games
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage.

Olympic Winter Games
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Kings—Hants, NS

There's the pavilion.

Olympic Winter Games
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Peterborough
Ontario

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, the Canada pavilion is on track to be completed for the start of the games. It will celebrate everything that Canada has to offer, everything from our heritage and our culture, from first nations to settlers, everything that this country is all about.

It will be a celebration of Canada, our athletes, our country, and Canadians will be immensely proud of it.

Olympic Winter Games
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, with the lateness of the bid process and given only two weeks to prepare a bid, people in the construction industry wondered if the government had a favoured company in mind, or if this was just pure incompetence.

Now we know the $9 million plum contract for Canada's pavilion has gone to an American company, creating American jobs. What a celebration of Canada that is.

At a time of record unemployment in Canada, will the minister tell us, were there no Canadian companies good enough to build Canada's pavilion?

Olympic Winter Games
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Peterborough
Ontario

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, one of the side benefits of hosting the Vancouver 2010 Olympics has been all the Canadian jobs that have been created in the lower mainland of British Columbia.

This government has been proud to support those 2010 Olympic Games. We have worked with Vanoc and we have worked with the province of British Columbia. This will be a celebration that all Canadians can take part in. The torch relay is going from coast to coast to coast in this country. Canadians are excited. I do not know why the member is not. I sure am.

Financial Institutions
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Glenn Thibeault Sudbury, ON

Mr. Speaker, now that the Minister of Finance has introduced his voluntary code of conduct for credit and debit cards, all that remains to be seen is whether it will have any impact and provide consumers and small businesses with a break from excessive fees.

Could the finance minister please tell Canadians, should Visa and MasterCard not voluntarily comply with this code, how many times must the code be violated for the minister to finally introduce concrete legislation and bring real relief to consumers and small business?

Financial Institutions
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Macleod
Alberta

Conservative

Ted Menzies Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, indeed, the minister did put forward a code of conduct out in the public domain for consultation, for comments back in a 60-day period. However, we have already heard from businesses. We heard from businesses before about their concerns, and that is why we put in place a code of conduct.

Let me comment on the reaction from businesses. This is from the CFIB:

These developments will create a better future for merchants and help ensure a fair and transparent credit and debit market instead of just letting large industry players call all the shots.

Olympic Winter Games
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Irene Mathyssen London—Fanshawe, ON

Mr. Speaker, this February, at the Olympic Games, the Vancouver Police Department is expecting a surge in the number of women illegally trafficked into and across this country.

Resources in training were promised by the government to ensure that these women would be identified and protected. Yet, so far, police have had no training and have been given no resources to deal with the influx of vulnerable persons. The government committed funding in the 2007 budget to combat human trafficking.

Where is this money and where are the resources needed to protect women?

Olympic Winter Games
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Niagara Falls
Ontario

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I do not know where the hon. member has been, but there are more resources, more concentration on security for the Olympic Games than this country has ever seen for any event in the history of this country. The resources are there. The determination of this country to make everyone safe is there. The hon. member should be celebrating what this country is doing and what it will do in Vancouver.

Justice
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

David Sweet Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, illicit drugs play an important role in gang violence across the country. Drug production and drug trafficking are, without a doubt, the most significant sources of illicit money for organized crime. Canadians from coast to coast support our government's legislation that targets drug offences involving organized crime gangs.

Would the Minister of Justice provide this House with an update on the status of Bill C-15?

Justice
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Niagara Falls
Ontario

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, drug dealers and drug producers must face serious consequences. This is why we brought in Bill C-15, our drug bill. It got the support of the House. It has the support of Canadians. However, it is the same old story in the Senate.

Last June I called upon the Leader of the Opposition to show some leadership by instructing his Liberal senators to get that bill passed before the summer. Instead, the other house adjourned the debate and it took a summer vacation. Now, five and a half months later, these same Liberal senators are back at it again delaying our bill.

Before these Liberals settle down for their winter vacation, let us get that bill passed. Canadians deserve better.

Status of Women
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Anita Neville Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member for Saskatoon—Wanuskewin cannot leave things well enough alone. Another release and the same outrageous claims. He attempts to defend his claims that abortion is linked to a greater risk of breast cancer and that it is part of a male agenda. It looks like the Reform Party extremists are able to show their true colours once again.

Does the Prime Minister agree with the member's claim? Is that why he refuses to denounce them?

Status of Women
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Beauport—Limoilou
Québec

Conservative

Sylvie Boucher Parliamentary Secretary for Status of Women

Mr. Speaker, our government has been clear on this subject: all members of Parliament have the right to their own opinion. What is my opinion? I am in favour of freedom of choice.

Royal Canadian Mint
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Bloc

Richard Nadeau Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Royal Canadian Mint lost $15 million in gold and silver in 2008. The RCMP and external accountants have confirmed that this was neither the result of theft nor an accounting error. According to an internal source and a private company quoted in the Globe and Mail, part of the missing 550 kilograms simply was lost in the refining process.

Since the refining process used by the Royal Canadian Mint has not changed much in the past few years, will the minister acknowledge that the Royal Canadian Mint has sent more than $15 million of gold and silver directly down the drain?

Royal Canadian Mint
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Yellowhead
Alberta

Conservative

Rob Merrifield Minister of State (Transport)

Mr. Speaker, since day one, this government has been very concerned about the unaccounted for missing gold at the Mint. That is why we brought in the RCMP to see if there was any possibility of theft.

We are convinced, as is the RCMP. It has concluded that there was no theft at the Mint. However, we are not satisfied how this was allowed to happen in the first place.

There is an external audit that has provided all of the explanations of where the unaccountable gold is, and that is in the hands of the Auditor General for validation. We will hold the Mint accountable as we get those numbers to ensure there is--

Royal Canadian Mint
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Order. The hon. member for Nickel Belt.

Museums
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, the employees of the Canadian War Museum and the Canadian Museum of Civilization have suffered enough. Ottawa's tourism industry has suffered enough. No one is winning in all this. Management's lastest proposals are miles away from the employees' demands. The employees appear to be the victims of penny pinching policies. Let us be serious. It is time to settle the dispute.

Will the government commit to appointing an arbitrator so that the parties can reach an agreement?

Museums
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Souris—Moose Mountain
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Ed Komarnicki Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, we currently agree that no one wins by this being protracted. We would encourage the parties to work as hard as they can to bring forth a settlement.

Under the law, the Minister of Labour cannot appoint an arbiter unless both parties agree. If both parties agree, an arbiter will be appointed.

Automotive Industry
Oral Questions

Noon

Conservative

Dean Allison Niagara West—Glanbrook, ON

Mr. Speaker, our government invested in the auto sector, because it is crucial to Canada's economy and in particular to Ontario. We made the decision to preserve our share of the integrated North American auto sector when it was clear it was struggling. We already are seeing signs of hope and viability in this important industry.

Could the parliamentary secretary inform the House on some of the recent developments that show our crucial auto sector is back on the road to recovery?

Automotive Industry
Oral Questions

Noon

Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont
Alberta

Conservative

Mike Lake Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for his advocacy in this important area. When the prospects for the auto sector in Canada were at their worst, our government stepped up and took action to ensure Canada maintained its share of this important global industry. Now, thanks to our early action, we are beginning to see real and positive results in the Canadian auto industry.

Recently, Chrysler announced plans to resume full production at its minivan plant in Windsor. GM has confirmed this week that it will produce the new Buick Regal in Oshawa, which could create as many as 750 jobs.

Conservative Party of Canada
Oral Questions

Noon

Liberal

Anita Neville Winnipeg South Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister now calls women defenceless. He calls them a left-wing fringe group. The member for Saskatoon—Wanuskewin attacks a woman's right to choose. Government members have attacked aboriginals, called the unemployed no-good “you-know-whats” and played off religious and cultural groups one against another.

Are all these odious attacks a part of the government's divide and conquer strategy?

Conservative Party of Canada
Oral Questions

Noon

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, absolutely not.

Agriculture and Agri-Food
Oral Questions

Noon

Bloc

France Bonsant Compton—Stanstead, QC

Mr. Speaker, in an attempt to convince Chinese authorities not to halt imports of Canadian canola afflicted with a parasite, the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food stated that restricting canola imports would be useless, because Canadian canola is a Terminator type. That is not true, however, because Terminator technology has been banned since 2000.

Can the minister tell us why he made such statements that, in addition to being false, could harm field crop producers?

Agriculture and Agri-Food
Oral Questions

Noon

Jonquière—Alma
Québec

Conservative

Jean-Pierre Blackburn Minister of National Revenue and Minister of State (Agriculture)

Mr. Speaker, we are concerned about any measure that interferes with the export of any agricultural product, including canola. We are doubly concerned when the health of the export is not at issue.

In this case, we are talking and working with Chinese authorities as well as American authorities, which have had some problems with canola, to find a solution that will be good for our country.

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Oral Questions

Noon

Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont
Alberta

Conservative

Mike Lake Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, in answer to a question earlier from the member for Hull—Aylmer, it has been brought to my attention that I may have inadvertently, in my haste to list all the good things this government has done for the aerospace sector, used the term “$200” instead of “$200 million” in new investment for the strategic aerospace and defence initiative.

Let us be clear. The amount of new investment was $200 million.

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Oral Questions

Noon

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

I am sure the House appreciates the clarification.

2009 Grey Cup
Points of Order
Oral Questions

Noon

Liberal

Ralph Goodale Wascana, SK

Mr. Speaker, given that you are in the chair of the House at this propitious moment and given the fact that the colour of the chair is green, I wonder if you will take this opportunity to declare, indeed, that green is the colour and that we wish the Rider nation every success at the Grey Cup festival in Calgary this weekend.

2009 Grey Cup
Points of Order
Oral Questions

Noon

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

I am not sure there is a Standing Order that would permit the Speaker to declare that the Saskatchewan Roughriders are Canada's team, that it is a team held near and dear to the hearts of people in Saskatchewan and that I am sure members of the House and members all across Canada will wish the Riders well this weekend. I am not sure there is a Standing Order that would permit me to say that, so I am not sure I can intervene with this.

2009 Grey Cup
Points of Order
Oral Questions

Noon

Liberal

Denis Coderre Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, there is a limit for partisanship. I believe Montreal is in order: Go Als, go.

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Oral Questions

12:05 p.m.

St. Catharines
Ontario

Conservative

Rick Dykstra Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration

Mr. Speaker, I know we have a big game this weekend, but there is a matter that took place during question period of a more serious nature.

The member for Vancouver Quadra asked her question with respect to the construction of the pavilion at the Olympic site in British Columbia. During the response to that question, the member for Kings—Hants took the liberty, and I want to give him the opportunity to stand and correct the record, of referring to the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage, the member for Peterborough, as “there's the pavilion”. That was his comment.

I know the banter and the discussion in the House sometimes gets heated up, but I think the good member for Kings—Hants would rise in his place, apologize and withdraw those remarks from question period.

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Oral Questions

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, I apologize absolutely to the member for Peterborough. What I said was inappropriate, and I certainly hope he does not take this personally. I feel very badly about it. I am sorry to the member for Peterborough.

Government Response to Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Cypress Hills—Grasslands
Saskatchewan

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to four petitions.

Keeping Canadians Safe (Protecting Borders) Act
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Interparliamentary Delegations
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Yasmin Ratansi Don Valley East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the pleasure to present to the House, in both official languages, the report from the Canadian Group of the Inter-Parliamentary Union regarding its attendance at the Conference for Chairpersons and Members of Parliamentary Bodies dealing with gender equality and a response to violence against women, December 2 to 4, 2008, Geneva, Switzerland.

Human Resources Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Dean Allison Niagara West—Glanbrook, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the seventh report of the Standing Committee on Human Resources Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities in relation to Bill C-56, An Act to amend the Employment Insurance Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts. The committee has studied the bill and has decided to report the bill back to the House with amendments.

I also wish to thank all members of committee from both sides of the House for their hard work and their spirit of co-operation in getting this bill through committee.

Canadian Mission in Afghanistan
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Bob Rae Toronto Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the third report of the Special Committee on the Canadian Mission in Afghanistan.

The committee wishes to bring to the attention of the House its belief that a breach of privilege has occurred in the context of its study on the transfer of Afghan detainees.

Notice of Motion
Ways and Means
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Prince George—Peace River
B.C.

Conservative

Jay Hill Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 83(1) I wish to table a notice of a ways and means motion to amend the Excise Tax Act. I ask that an order of the day be designated for consideration of the motion.

Fraser River Sockeye
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I present the largest petition I have seen in the House in a year.

The petitioners call for an independent judicial inquiry on the salmon crisis. Nine million sockeye salmon have disappeared during the summer's migration to the Fraser River, the lowest return in 50 years. This is a crisis similar in magnitude to the collapse of the Atlantic cod stocks, which devastated the east coast. It is dramatically affecting the way of life and the livelihood of west coast communities, first nations, recreational fishing, commercial fisheries and businesses.

It was determined that a factor in the Atlantic cod collapse was government suppression of scientific facts. The resulting closure of public fisheries and the loss of millions of dollars and hundreds of jobs in the commercial fishing industry is negatively impacting the B.C. economy with hardships and layoffs for many people directly and indirectly associated with wild salmon fishing and wilderness tourism.

It is unclear whether the Department of Fisheries and Oceans has fulfilled its obligations to effectively and responsibly manage this important resource and it is uncertain as to what meaningful action the department will undertake to ensure the long-term viability of all the salmon on the west coast.

The petitioners call upon the government to establish an independent judicial inquiry under the federal Inquiries Act that would fully explore the real facts and consult with scientists and stakeholders to determine what went wrong with this year's sockeye run.

Firearms Registry
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present three petitions from constituents. The first one is in regard to the long gun registry.

The petitioners point out that the long gun registry was originally budgeted to cost Canadians $2 million, but the price tag spiralled out of control to an estimated $2 billion a decade later. They point out that the registry has not saved one life since it was introduced.

They call upon the House of Commons to support legislation that would cancel the long gun registry and streamline the Firearms Act.

Employment Insurance
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, the second petition is in regard to medical benefits.

The petitioners point out that when a parent and caregiver of a child who has a life-threatening or serious illness like cancer must take care of the child full-time when the child falls ill and undergoes treatment like surgery, that parent or caregiver does not qualify for long-term medical EI insurance.

They call upon the House of Commons to enact specific legislation to improve additional medical EI benefits at least equal to maternity EI benefits.

Protection of Human Life
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Mark Warawa Langley, BC

Mr. Speaker, the last petition from my constituents is in regard to life.

The residents of Canada draw attention to the fact that Canada is a country which respects life and includes in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms that everyone has the right to life.

The petitioners call upon Parliament to pass legislation for the protection of human life from the time of conception until natural death.

Fraser River Sockeye
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition that is 30 pages long and is signed by hundreds of Canadians from coast to coast.

The petitioners urgently call on the government to establish an independent judicial inquiry under the federal Inquiries Act that would fully explore all the facts, consult with scientists and stakeholders, determine what went wrong with this year's sockeye run and present a public report with binding solutions within six months.

Animal Welfare
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have a petition to present to the House in support of the universal declaration on animal welfare.

The residents of Vancouver Quadra and around the Lower Mainland draw to the attention of the House that there is a scientific consensus and public acknowledgement that animals can feel pain and suffer and that all efforts should be made to prevent animal cruelty and reduce animal suffering.

The petitioners call upon Parliament to support a universal declaration on animal welfare.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Cypress Hills—Grasslands
Saskatchewan

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, a revised response to Question No. 433, originally answered on November 16, 2009 will be tabled today.

Question No. 433
Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Dan McTeague Pickering—Scarborough East, ON

With regard to the government’s handling of the Omar Khadr and Abousfian Abdelrazik cases, for each case: (b) what is the breakdown of all outside consultants hired for any purpose, including public relations, and the value of the associated contracts?

Question No. 433
Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Niagara Falls
Ontario

Conservative

Rob Nicholson Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, the response to part (b) is revised as follows: The government contracted one outside consultant to work on the Abousfian Abdelrazik file. A total fee of $1,890.00 was paid for this service.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

David Anderson Cypress Hills—Grasslands, SK

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

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Is that agreed?

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

When question period began, the hon. parliamentary secretary had five minutes remaining for questions and answers.

We will now hear from the hon. member for Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Brian Murphy Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe, NB

Mr. Speaker, I have a quick question for the member, who serves with me on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. I very much appreciated his speech.

The response to my friend from Newfoundland and Labrador was incomplete.

For better preciseness, the question was under what circumstances fingerprints and mug shots would be taken, that is, for what crimes, and whether that would apply to the arrest phase of the offence. Under what circumstances, if there is no charge, would those fingerprints and mug shots be returned?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Daniel Petit Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, through you, I will try to answer this question as quickly as possible.

The member does indeed serve with me on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights. For the benefit of all Canadians, I will say that this member and his colleagues make it possible for both sides to work together.

The new bill states that fingerprints and photographs can be taken at the time of arrest, if the person is in lawful custody. Under the old legislation, fingerprinting or photographing was not permitted if the individual had not been charged.

That is why arrest warrants often mention section 133, which states how the accused must behave when providing fingerprints and photographs.

This is new, and will help speed up the process. In areas where this is difficult, it will also make it possible to request fingerprinting and photographs immediately, instead of waiting until later, which could be a problem for both the accused and the police forces.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the contentious point of the bill seems to be the process with respect to fingerprints.

We could possibly solve the problem by making an amendment at committee stage to make certain that the police would destroy the fingerprints if no charges were laid.

As I understand it, right now it would be up to the accused to make a request that the fingerprints be destroyed. If the accused does not make the request, then those fingerprints would not be destroyed. There is nothing in legislation that requires the police to do that at this point. We cannot assume that they are going to voluntarily do it.

I think we are going to have to amend the bill to make it a requirement that if the police do not press charges, they take it upon themselves to erase or eliminate the fingerprints rather than requiring the accused to make that request.

Does the member have any comments on that point?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Daniel Petit Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague's question is very relevant. Regarding the destruction of fingerprints and photographs, under the old system, if the individual was not convicted, was acquitted or if the charges were dropped, the individual could ask the police force directly to destroy the fingerprints and photos.

That remains the process in place, because it is important that the individual who knows he is not guilty or is acquitted be able to ask that the photos and fingerprints be destroyed. This must not be left to an automatic mechanism, in order to ensure that the decision or response to his request will be applicable in the future. If there is an automatic mechanism, there is go guarantee that it will happen automatically. However, it is better if the individual who is the subject of the fingerprints and photos can submit a request directly.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:20 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to speak to Bill C-31.

As a follow up to the minister's final comments when he seemed to suggest that it has to be left up to the accused to request the destruction of the fingerprints if no charges are laid, I cannot really agree with what he is proposing. I think what will happen over time is that the accused will simply forget to do it and the police will basically build a database. We have to make it a requirement.

Perhaps we could do both. We could make it a requirement that the police do it, but also have some sort of reminder for the accused to do the same. It would be a pincer movement to make sure it is done two ways. If one does not work, the other one will.

Bill C-31 is quite large. There are 39 pages to it. It is an omnibus bill. Normally we do not like omnibus bills. History shows that omnibus bills are something that governments tend to use. I am aware of one government in Manitoba a number of years ago that was great at bringing in omnibus bills. It would put in a bunch of things we liked and it would stick in some poison pills that we did not like. It was certainly a real conundrum as to how to vote on those types of bills.

That was my first experience with omnibus bills. I am sure they have been around for many years, but certainly that was one government that used them very effectively. The Conservative government has managed to do the same. In the year I have been here I have seen them a couple of times.

The NDP justice critic informs me that in the case of making legal changes, an omnibus bill approach is a good idea. As a matter of fact, he has suggested that he would actually like to see the government do more of these things. I do not think I am going to become a convert any time soon on the idea that the government should be encouraged to bring in more omnibus bills, but evidently, and I know there are a lot of learned lawyers in the chamber, in the area of crime, the NDP justice critic thinks it is a good approach.

We are dealing with some 40 changes. I want to say at the outset that we will be supporting sending this bill to committee. There is one major issue where I can see that all of the opposition parties are going to have a problem. The government probably would have known that in advance. It is the whole issue of fingerprinting. I have been reading over some of the previous speeches on the bill and pretty much everybody has focused on the fingerprinting parts of the bill. Perhaps the committee will resolve that issue with some amendments.

There are a couple of sleeper amendments that I personally would be not too happy about. They do not seem to have drawn a lot of ire from other members at this point, but there may be members in the opposition or even in my own party who may dislike some of the other provisions of this bill and may want to make some amendments.

The whole idea of the bill is to modernize the criminal justice procedures. We want to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the criminal justice system as an integral part of the Government of Canada's commitment to ensuring the safety and security of communities across Canada.

Through continual modernization of criminal procedures, the Government of Canada is creating a justice system that can respond to changes in criminal activity and constant evolution of technology, and certainly that is a point. We are dealing with that in the computer areas, struggling with this issue in the child pornography bill that we have just sent to committee as well as in Bill C-27 that is coming up. There is this whole area of technology, the huge changes in technology, and with it the criminals seem to just simply adapt. Sort of like the viruses, they adapt to the new realities, the new environment. They actually improve on their techniques, and crime continues. So, we do have to update the law. It is a constant battle.

As a matter of fact, the entire Criminal Code is probably in for a rewrite. It is quite ancient, quite old and it certainly needs a lot of work done on it. Perhaps rather than just simply constantly working on a piecemeal basis, the member opposite, who I know is listening right now, I am sure would be agreeable to get together. We are in a minority Parliament here. Perhaps the government should announce a plan to rewrite the whole Criminal Code with a view that in two or three years, or however long it would take, at the end of the day we could come up with a new, modernized Criminal Code that would perhaps be a little more understandable to people in the country.

The government has worked closely with its provincial and territorial partners to create 40 legislative amendments.The fact of the matter is that working with the provinces is a very important part. I know that on a government-to-government basis it is oftentimes very difficult to work with the provinces, because we are dealing with 10 different points of view, and sometimes that can lead to a lot of problems. It is easier for a federal government to simply bring in its own initiatives, even for provinces. However, sometimes in a province, when we bring in an initiative, it then causes a problem, a spillover effect into the next jurisdiction.

So, as much as possible, it is very important for provinces to get together as groups or to co-operate with the federal government. That, by necessity, often results in a very slow and bogged-down process, although I have seen some big improvements, certainly in the last couple of years in Manitoba with the Manitoba justice minister Mr. Chomiak and with Gord Mackintosh actually taking a very strong position on various crime initiatives and driving the agenda through their provincial associations and actually getting results here in Ottawa. That, to me, was proof that one little province, if it is determined and wants to push a certain agenda, can actually get results, even with Ottawa.

So, I do commend the government for actively working with the provinces. I think it should continue to do that, because out of that process, we have developed quite a few good initiatives, even over the last couple of years.

The proposed amendments to the Criminal Code, the Identification of Criminals Act, the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act and the Canada Evidence Act will all help to ensure that Canada's laws continue to protect Canadians.

The flight offence is an interesting one. Basically this is a new offence that would target individuals who leave a jurisdiction in violation of the bail conditions. This would create a clear deterrent to fleeing a jurisdiction and would establish a record of such behaviour. Having access to this record would help prevent the release of an accused person who has, in the past, failed to abide by conditions to stay within a jurisdiction. As well, the onus would be placed on the accused to justify why he or she should be subsequently released on bail. In addition, more time may be made available for the arranging for the return of the accused to the originating jurisdiction for trial.

What that really means is that a certain area of the country, in this particular case British Columbia, and I have this in my notes, has, I believe, 700 people hanging out who are wanted on outstanding warrants in other parts of the country. I remember seeing on television and reading in the papers in the last couple of years how authorities had developed this program through which they were providing people with bus fares and sending them back to Ontario or wherever they came from. Now they have a program backed by the business community to return the people to the jurisdictions that they came from, but I believe they are turning them over to the police force. Before they would just put them on a bus and get them out of B.C. They could, of course, simply hide where they went to as well, but this would turn them over to authorities.

What was happening was that a lot of the warrants the police had for the people they were finding in B.C. covered a very limited area. The warrant was written out, for example, for shoplifting and it applied perhaps within a radius of 50 miles of Brockville or Belleville, but of course now the person was in B.C. The authorities looked at this warrant and found they could not do anything about it because they were outside the jurisdiction. So this is probably a very good provision. As I said, it is a new offence and hopefully it will take care of some of this because we should not be tolerating people shoplifting and doing other crimes and then just simply heading out of the province to hide, hoping they never get caught.

These amendments, as I indicated, are the result of an initiative led by British Columbia in a federal-provincial-territorial working group that was endorsed by ministers responsible for justice, in September 2008. That was just September 2008, and we are only a year down the road and already dealing with legislation. Who says that a minority government cannot work? I say that to the government members, but we also have the element of the Senate to deal with, so that is a different issue.

The next part of the bill deals with the identification of criminals. The Identification of Criminals Act does not currently authorize police officers to fingerprint or photograph individuals in lawful custody until they are charged or convicted. This often results in unnecessary delays, according to the police and the government, and can prolong an accused individual's stay at the police station.

The proposed amendments would streamline the process by adding the authority to fingerprint and photograph an individual who is in lawful custody involving an arrest but who is not yet charged. So once again, this is extremely controversial. It will perhaps be amended or deleted at committee, but at a bare minimum, it would have to be amended so that the police themselves would be required to destroy fingerprints that were taken. If doing that is not required, and it is left up to the accused, over time people are going to forget about this and it is not going to be done. If we have time at the end we will come back to this fingerprinting issue, because there are 40 parts to this bill and I am probably halfway through my allotted time at this point.

As for telewarrants, this sounds like a fairly reasonable position. The telewarrants will allow police officers to apply for search and seizure-related warrants by providing information to a justice of the peace on oath via telephone or other means of telecommunications. This is going to save the travel and wait time it would take if the officer had to apply in person. I can certainly see that in the northern parts of the country this should be a huge improvement, rather than having to drive 100 miles at 3 a.m. to get a warrant. The telewarrant system probably should be in place.

Under the current system, telewarrants are available only when it is impractical for the officer to appear in person and are available only on certain types of warrants, so once again, if the officer can drive the 100 miles, then that is what he or she is required to do. This change is going to make doing that optional, so that the officer can simply get the telewarrant instead.

The proposed amendments would eliminate the need to satisfy the impracticality requirement in cases where the telewarrant request is submitted in writing. The amendments would also expand the availability of telewarrants to public officers. These are officials who enforce federal non-Criminal Code legislation but who are not police officers.

Then there are provisions with regard to expert witness evidence. Certainly there is another provision dealing with the use of non-lawyers, and I might spend a minute or two talking about that.

When individuals are charged with summary offences, which are less serious offences that involve fewer procedural requirements, it is important that they have access to adequate representation. The proposed amendments would give each province the power to authorize programs and establish criteria outlining when an agent or non-lawyer can represent a defendant charged with a summary offence.

These amendments would allow for different approaches, depending upon the maximum term of imprisonment associated with the offence, among other things. The proposed amendments would, however, allow agents to appear on behalf of defendants to seek an adjournment of summary proceedings, regardless of the maximum term of imprisonment.

I do want to spend some time talking about the prize-fighting amendments to this bill. Under the current law, it is an offence to have any involvement in prize fighting, defined as an encounter or fight with fists or hands, except for amateur boxing, under the authority of the province. Once again, here we are dealing basically with the devolution of letting the provinces decide.

Many amateur sports, even those without monetary prizes, are technically included in the offence. The proposed amendments would expand the list of permitted exceptions to the prize-fighting offence so that the amateur combative sports such as judo and karate, currently in the Olympic program, would be allowed. The amendments would also permit a province to decide whether to expand the list of sports permitted to take place within the province and authorize specific contests.

Now we get to the issue of mixed martial arts fighting, which many members have seen take off in North America. It is a big deal and is certainly popular. I believe most provinces still ban it, but by approving this legislation, what we are doing is giving the provinces the right to approve these mixed martial arts. Senator John McCain once described mixed martial arts, which is a whirlwind mix of jiu-jitsu, judo, karate, boxing, kick-boxing and wrestling, as human cockfighting, so he obviously did not like it.

Just before I run out of time, a news report talked about Canada's love of hockey brawls. The company that promotes this fighting claimed that men between the ages of 18 and 35 have attention spans that are too short to watch 15 rounds of boxing, so mixed martial arts have bouts that usually last no more than 15 minutes, which are made for today's video culture.

Just before I finish, I just want to point out that with football players today, we are finding traumatic brain injuries. We are finding that football players are dying in greater numbers at young ages after they retire. We are finding, for example, that some wrestlers have the demented brains of 80-year-olds.

Clearly there are a lot of things we have to look at here within our existing sports, without promoting even more sporting activities like this, which could have even worse consequences.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, first I want to commend my hon. colleague from Elmwood—Transcona. Since being elected to this chamber, he has certainly become a star in his own right. I would like to congratulate him on these and many other issues.

I do want to touch on one topic. Near the beginning of his speech, he did mention sleeper amendments and some amendments that, I am assuming, may cause him some trouble or some conflict with his voting intentions. He talked about how some of these problems can be cleared up by certain amendments within the committee process.

One of those, and I think this is what he is getting at, is also causing me some concern, and that is the idea of destroying the fingerprint evidence he spoke of. In this particular situation, if someone has given evidence or his or her fingerprints and a mug shot after being charged, at that point, I am assuming they have to get rid of those on their own accord. I think that is causing him some problems. It certainly is causing me problems as well.

Is there a way in which this can be amended so this would not occur, so that over a period of time, without the input of the particular person charged, the evidence could be taken from the records?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

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

With regard to the issue, it seemed to me from reading in Hansard the other speakers' comments on this issue that an amendment will certainly have to be tabled, because the Liberal Party clearly did not like these particular provisions, and the NDP certainly does not, and neither does the Bloc critic. On that basis alone, clearly that particular clause will have to be amended.

Essentially the bill is talking about people being fingerprinted on suspicion alone, before they are charged. If the person is charged, then the fingerprints will stay. However, if the person is not charged and he or she walks out of a police station, why would the police want to keep the fingerprints of an innocent person? The question is whether or not one can trust the police to in fact dispose of those fingerprints. The suggestion from the government is that we should leave it up to the individual.

I would think that most people would be so happy to get out of the police station, the last thing they would think about doing is asking for a copy of their prints. Therefore, I think we have to make it incumbent in law that the police must follow that procedure, particularly as the government just said that we should leave it up to individual. That is not the way to proceed here.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Bloc

Serge Cardin Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, the government says it worked with its provincial and territorial partners to develop some 40 amendments to address the gaps in the legislation.

Concerning the specific issue of agents other than legal counsel, we know very well that professional codes are a matter of provincial and Quebec jurisdiction. In that context, does my colleague know how we could reconcile the fact that there would be two pieces of legislation, this bill regarding agents at the federal level, and the Quebec Professional Code, as an example? In fact, this is one of the concerns expressed by the Barreau du Québec.

I would like to hear my colleague's thoughts on this overlap in jurisdictions.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, this is certainly one area that will have to be dealt with at committee. The member will have to try to build a consensus with the other two opposition parties to get some sort of amendment done. There is always tension between provincial and federal jurisdiction. The member certainly knows that in the area of securities commissions, I have always argued that we should keep the securities commissions in the provincial realm, and not necessarily just because of provincial rights—although that is an issue—but because of the fact there is really no guarantee that a national system will work any better than the provincial systems. It depends on the people running the systems.

However, with regard to the hon. member's question, we have to get the bill to committee. We support getting the bill to committee. I assume the Bloc does too. Let us get it to committee and start dealing with these issues on a case-by-case basis and see if we can come up with some amendments that could work.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

NDP

Claude Gravelle Nickel Belt, ON

Mr. Speaker, I agree with the member from the Liberal Party who called the member for Elmwood—Transcona a star in the House. I would like to ask the star from Elmwood—Transcona a question on telewarrants.

Telewarrants allow police officers to apply for search and seizure-related warrants by providing information to a justice of the peace by oath via telephone or other means of telecommunication. The amendment would also expand the availability of telewarrants to public officers. They are officials who enforce federal non-Criminal Code legislation, but are not police officers.

That is a bit of a concern to me. I would like the star member to give me his thoughts on this.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I really do not think we are going to have a problem with the telewarrant process. I say this because we simply have to update the Criminal Code and processes and procedures to our current standards, because the law is changing and, certainly, the criminals are changing too.

It makes no sense to drive a car 100 miles and to burn up all of that gas and time to appear before an officer to get a warrant, when it can simply be done by way of a telewarrant. Once again, there is nothing in this bill, outside of the concerns on the fingerprinting issue that we are dealing with, that is causing a lot of ripples here. On that basis, the NDP caucus and critic are in favour of voting for this bill at second reading and sending it to committee.

Hopefully we can iron out in committee whatever problems we perceive there to be. I am not going to prejudge the committee, because once a bunch of lawyers get together in a room, they will find problems that no one else could ever have thought of.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Bloc

Serge Cardin Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, I want to begin by pointing out that I am not a lawyer, but as people so often say, ignorance of the law is no excuse. Anyone who has observed the debates that have been taking place here, particularly for some time now, on the subject of order, justice and the law can see why so many lawyers get into politics. It is obvious. However, we sometimes need good accountants too—that was my previous profession—to help the government with its finances. That is an important thing to do.

In lawyer speak, it was “on or about” May 15, 2009, that the Minister of Justice introduced Bill C-31 for first reading in the House of Commons. The enactment amends the Criminal Code, the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act and the Identification of Criminals Act and makes a consequential amendment to the Canada Evidence Act.

There are a lot of things to talk about here. The bill contains nearly 40 amendments. I am going to run through a number of points, then come back to talk about some of them in greater detail. This bill deals with the telewarrant system, as some of my colleagues mentioned earlier. It proposes a mandatory 10-day adjournment when requirements for notice have not been fulfilled. It sets out criteria for determining when a representative can represent a defendant charged with a summary conviction offence. It authorizes fingerprinting and photographing and any other identification measure for persons who are in lawful custody but have not yet been charged. We will have to come back to that point.

It expands the jurisdiction of Canadian courts to include bribery offences committed by Canadians outside Canada. The bill creates an offence of leaving the jurisdiction in violation of bail conditions. It permits the list of permitted exceptions to the prize fighting offence to be expanded. It also updates Canada's pari-mutuel betting provisions. It updates the provisions on interceptions of private communications in exceptional circumstances. It reclassifies six non-violent offences as hybrid offences. This is another case where, sometimes, even though everyone is supposed to know the law, there can be some problems in how it is interpreted. That is what we are trying to clarify, of course. The bill also deletes provisions of the Criminal Code that are no longer valid, corrects or clarifies wording in various provisions and makes minor updates to other provisions.

That was a quick rundown of what this bill addresses, updates or amends. We do hope this will improve the situation. As I was saying earlier, when I asked my colleague a question, the government claims to have collaborated with its provincial and territorial partners to develop these legislative amendments in order to deal with the gaps in the legislation.

However, we, in the Bloc Québécois, intend to hear testimony from one or more representatives from Quebec to determine how much collaboration there in fact was and whether the conclusions are satisfactory to Quebec. Needless to say—but I will say it again nonetheless—the Bloc Québécois is here, in this House, primarily to defend the interests of Quebec and to promote its sovereignty in every jurisdiction of a sovereign government.

I will now to talk about the Bloc's position on Bill C-31. This bill makes a number of amendments, which I just listed. Although some of the amendments are interesting, namely on providing greater access to telewarrants or on bribery offences committed outside Canada, other amendments cause us some concern.

I am thinking, for instance, about the attempt to regulate in a roundabout way the legal profession, which falls within Quebec's jurisdiction, particularly by allowing the application of identification processes to detained individuals who have not yet been charged.

In the face of a bill that contains some good and some bad, the Bloc Québécois will maintain its approach. We will review the bill carefully and in good faith in committee, put forward amendments as required and, then, determine whether or not to support the bill in its final form.

An analysis of the bill makes it evident that several substantive and technical changes are being made to the Criminal Code.

Let us take a moment to get into a few specific aspects.

Regarding telewarrants, clause 2 of the bill introduces the telewarrant procedure for the purpose of seizing weapons. The procedure is outlined for issuing telewarrants whether the application is made by a means of telecommunication that produces a writing or not.

The use of telewarrants is also introduced with respect to offences in connection with to disorderly houses, gaming and betting, special minerals and production orders.

With respect to another aspect, namely fleeing to another province, clause 5 of the bill creates a distinct offence for persons who are at large on an undertaking or recognizance and flee outside their province of residence.

Then, there is the 10-day adjournment, which was explained in greater detail earlier. Clause 30 of the bill amends the current rules on the requirement for one party to notify the other of its intent to call an expert witness. Subclause 2 of the provision amending subsections 653.3(4) and 653.3(5) of the Criminal Code sets at 10 days the minimum period of adjournment ordered by the court whenever the prescribed notice has not been given. This time period may be reduced by consent of the parties.

Coming back to agents other than counsel, clauses 31, 32 and 33 of the bill amend the rules on the ability of an agent other than counsel to appear, examine and cross-examine witnesses for and on behalf of the defendant.

The proposed amendments would give each province the power to establish criteria outlining when an agent, or non-lawyer, can represent a defendant charged with a summary offence, a less serious offence that involves fewer procedural requirements. These amendments would allow different approaches depending on the maximum term of imprisonment associated with the offence, among other things. The proposed amendments would, however, allow agents to appear on behalf of defendants to seek an adjournment of summary proceedings, regardless of the maximum term of imprisonment.

As I said earlier, the provinces and Quebec are responsible for regulating professions. Furthermore, Quebec and the provinces also have jurisdiction over professional regulations for lawyers, as part of the administration of justice in the provinces and in Quebec. This is something, as I mentioned before, that the Barreau du Québec is concerned about.

According to the Department of Justice, under current law, it is an offence to have any involvement in prize fighting, defined as an “encounter or fight with fists or hands”, except for amateur boxing under authority of the province.

Many amateur sporting events, even those without monetary prizes, are technically included in this offence. The proposed amendments would expand the list of permitted exceptions to the prize-fighting offence so that amateur combative sports such as judo and karate, which are now Olympic events, would be allowed. The amendments would also permit a province to decide whether to expand the list of sports permitted to take place within that province and authorize specific contests.

Another thing the Barreau du Québec is worried about is the identification of individuals who have not been charged. Clause 39 of the bill amends paragraph 2(1)(a) of the Identification of Criminals Act, which authorizes the fingerprinting and photographing of persons who are in lawful custody but who have not yet been charged or convicted of a specific offence, which means that such information regarding someone who has been detained but not charged would be on file.

The Identification of Criminals Act stipulates that law enforcement officials can take photographs, fingerprints and measurements of only certain categories of individuals. Those categories are set out in subsection 2(1) of the act:

The following persons may be fingerprinted or photographed or subjected to such other measurements, processes and operations having the object of identifying persons as are approved by order of the Governor in Council:

(a) any person who is in lawful custody charged with or convicted of

(i) an indictable offence, other than an offence that is designated as a contravention under the Contraventions Act in respect of which the Attorney General, within the meaning of that Act, has made an election under section 50 of that Act, or

(ii) an offence under the Security of Information Act;

I would like say something here as an aside. There is a principle that ignorance of the law is no excuse. However, when we read excerpts of legislation, we realize they can be rather difficult to understand. It takes some careful reflection. That is in fact what we want the committee to do, when it receives the bill.

The Bloc Québécois has full confidence in its representatives on the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights, both the member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin and the member for Vaudreuil-Soulanges. We fully trust them to interpret things that often sound like mumbo jumbo to us.

I will continue reading the list of people specified in the act:

(b) any person who has been apprehended under the Extradition Act;

(c) any person alleged to have committed an indictable offence, other than an offence that is designated as a contravention under the Contraventions Act in respect of which the Attorney General, within the meaning of that Act, has made an election under section 50 of that Act...

I will skip a short passage, because I fear I will not get to a very important part, regarding the concerns expressed by the Barreau du Québec.

Clause 39 of Bill C-31 aims to amend this situation by replacing subsection 2(1)(a) of the Identification of Criminals Act with the following:

any person who is in lawful custody after being arrested for [that is the part being added], charged with or convicted of

I will not read out the offences as I did earlier.

In short, with this bill, which primarily addresses this sphere of activity, the government is trying to circumvent the requirement for a person to be charged or convicted by bringing in a far less restrictive criterion stating that the person need only be arrested. As such, identifying information may be taken from a person arrested for an offence other than an offence designated as a contravention before that person is even charged with anything.

I would like to discuss the main issues, which are the concerns expressed by the Barreau du Québec. The Barreau du Québec's criminal law committee reviewed Bill C-31 and submitted its observations and comments on, among other things, telewarrants. To sum up, it said that this system would completely reform and modernize the criminal law process in Canada, which is what the government wants to achieve. However, even though the Barreau du Québec supports the introduction of this measure, it is concerned about how the government is going about it. For example, it believes that it would have been better to amend the section of the Criminal Code that deals with issuing search warrants to state that telewarrant rules apply in all cases, rather than making piecemeal changes.

I will now talk about agents other than lawyers. The Barreau says that regulating professions is a provincial responsibility. In addition, regulating the legal profession is also part of the provinces' responsibility for the administration of justice at the provincial level. The Barreau du Québec states that under the Act respecting the Barreau du Québec, pleading or acting for others before any tribunal is the exclusive prerogative of the practising advocate. There is already a jurisdictional problem here, and the Barreau is afraid that the proposal, as written, will create confusion as to the meaning of “agent” and could give rise to prosecutions for practising law illegally.

The Barreau du Québec also has serious concerns about identification. It is worried about the possibility of keeping a record on someone who is in custody but has not yet been charged. The Barreau considers this an extraordinary power that is currently used only in cases of terrorism. It is also concerned about the real risk that fingerprints taken under such circumstances could be used for purposes other than the ones for which they were intended. The legislative proposal broadens the use of other identification processes, but does not control the use of digital fingerprints before charges are laid and does not set rules for keeping and destroying such information. With regard to genetic fingerprints, I would remind the House that a mechanism for automatically destroying identifying material on innocent people has been introduced.

The Barreau considers that keeping a record on someone has consequences and that that is why such treatment is currently reserved for individuals who have been charged or convicted. Of course, the Barreau du Québec has concerns.

Although the Bloc Québécois sees good things in this bill and is in favour of some of the amendments, it also sees some more biased elements. We will be sure to work with the committee to amend and clarify the bill as needed so that Quebeckers are better protected against crime, but also against the Conservative government.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member knows that there is a new offence being put in this Bill C-31.

The new offence is called “leaving the jurisdiction”. It has been created to target people who leave the jurisdiction in violation of bail conditions. I guess the problem is fairly big in B.C. with several hundred people hanging out in Vancouver. When they are approached by police officers, they find a huge number. I actually had the statistics, but I cannot find them right now. Of these 700 people had outstanding warrants in other provinces. Because the warrants are written up in such a way that they only cover a certain radius from where the crime occurred, they are unable to be sent back.

I would like to know, what does the member think of that particular idea, and has that been a problem in his riding in Quebec over the last number of years?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:05 p.m.

Bloc

Serge Cardin Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, what better than to describe the concern expressed by the Barreau du Québec on this point, namely flight to another province?

Clause 5 of the bill creates a specific offence for the situation in which a person released on an undertaking or recognizance leaves the boundaries of their province.

The Barreau du Québec wonders about the need to handle this breach of condition so specifically. The Barreau believes that the purpose of this clause is to resolve certain problems involving preserving and communicating information. The Barreau points out that this provision makes the Criminal Code unnecessarily cumbersome and that other existing measures could achieve the desired objectives. The possibility of having this information held at the Centre de renseignements policiers du Québec and at the Canadian Police Information Centre would allow for immediate access to it. These are the concerns expressed by the Barreau. This also shows the Barreau's position on the matter. The Bloc Québécois defends the interests of Quebec and often also defends the positions of the Barreau du Québec.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I would like to follow up on the member's comments regarding the issue of people who are accused being fingerprinted before they are actually charged, and how the Bloc proposes we should deal with that whole issue at committee, whether or not we should be eliminating the provision completely or whether we should be making an amendment to require the police to erase the fingerprints if the person is not charged. Or, if in addition to that, we should somehow build in some requirement that the accused has a responsibility to ask for their fingerprints back.

I wonder what the member's ideas are as to how this particular subject should proceed at the committee stage.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

Bloc

Serge Cardin Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, if a person is simply arrested and if their fingerprints or photograph are taken and they are never found guilty of any offence, I do not see why that information should be kept. We wonder what purpose that could serve.

However, as I was saying earlier, I am not a lawyer and I am no expert. I think that in light of the discussions we will have in committee, with the colleagues I named earlier in whom the Bloc has a great deal of trust, we can clarify things.

That being said, as far as fingerprints and photographs are concerned, in cases where a person is arrested and then, for some reason, the charges are dropped or the person is found not guilty, I do not see why all that information would still be kept on record somewhere.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:10 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to add a few comments to this very important debate on Bill C-31. It is a rare omnibus bill before the House.

My colleague and our justice critic, the member for Windsor—Tecumseh, spoke on this matter and praised the government for finally bringing forward an omnibus bill dealing with a number of serious issues that ought not to be presented on an individual basis but, in fact, presented for collective consideration.

He has made the point on numerous other occasions that some of the bills introduced by the Conservative government should have been part of an omnibus bill and that it did not make sense to use the time of the House to bring forward very individual, specific pieces to this big puzzle that we are all trying to grapple with, which is how to best crack down on crime in this country and do so responsibly.

We stand in the House so often and hear Conservative members across the way accusing members on this side of the House of being soft on crime every time we dare question or debate a particular item. I hope they are learning from today's debate, both on Bill C-58 and now on Bill C-31, that the New Democratic Party gives very serious consideration to each bill that is before us. We analyze them thoroughly and make constructive suggestions.

On the basis of our analysis, we then choose whether to support a bill or not. If the positives outweigh any negatives and if we cannot get the perfect bill, we usually hold our noses and support the government of the day. In this case, we have said that this is a good bill. It addresses many important issues, but there is one area that has been identified by New Democrat members and also by members of the Bloc that needs to be reconsidered. It has to do with fingerprinting.

We are hoping that, by raising these concerns today in a very serious way with substantial backing and evidence, the government will consider our proposition and ensure that we can deal with this matter at committee.

In the past, members have given their support for the competition about the most wisest MP among us. Members in the House have collectively shown that they agree that the member for Windsor—Tecumseh is the most wise and knowledgeable among us. In fact, he has come to the House on numerous occasions with very wise suggestions and other members have listened to him many times.

Today has to be one of those times. He makes the very important point that we in the House should not be supporting legislation that allows for the taking of fingerprints before a person is charged. I want to quote from his speech. He said:

The taking of fingerprints and this point of not being allowed to take fingerprints unless our police are going to charge an accused person goes way back. It has been in the Criminal Code for more than half a century, since shortly after we had the technology of fingerprinting. It goes way back into the last century.

I think the amendment that we will be proposing at committee needs to be taken very seriously. I am sure that the Bloc will be doing the same. In fact, we hope that will be considered on an expeditious basis because none of us want to see this bill held up. We know that it deals with numerous important issues like providing greater access to the telewarrant process for peace officers. It provides for a mandatory 10-day adjournment where notice provisions have not been followed.

It empowers each province to authorize programs and establish criteria outlining when an agent or a non-lawyer can represent a defendant. It expands the jurisdiction of Canadian courts to include bribery offences committed by Canadians outside Canada. It creates an offence of leaving the jurisdiction in violation of bail conditions. It permits a province to expand the list of permitted exceptions to the prize fighting offence. It updates the legislative language of parimutuel betting provisions.

It updates the provisions on interceptions of private communications in exceptional circumstances. It reclassifies six non-violent offences as hybrid offences. Finally, it deletes provisions of the Criminal Code that are no longer valid or correct, and clarifies wording in various provisions and makes minor updates to others.

That is a long list of important issues. We support 99.9% of this list. We want to see the bill passed to committee and implemented quickly.

We would like the government to seriously recognize the wisdom of my colleague from Windsor—Tecumseh and others in the House for making an amendment on fingerprinting.

In the few minutes that I have remaining I want to talk just generally about the issue of crime and the approach that needs to be taken.

Too often, as I said earlier, we are accused of not giving prompt and swift attention to every procedure and every program presented to us by the Conservative government. Our biggest concern has to do with the fact that the government continues to take a narrow approach to the issue of crime and justice in our society today.

There is nothing wrong with putting dangerous offenders in jail and making sure they serve proper time. There is nothing wrong with making sure that we actually do everything possible to cut down on gang behaviour, drug dealing, the sex trade, and child pornography, which we just dealt with this morning, every issue that is offensive to our sense of what should and ought to be part of any kind of a civil society. Too little time in this place is spent on the root causes of crime.

I want to commend to all members in the House a study that was done in Winnipeg by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives entitled “If You Want to Change Violence in the 'Hood, You Have to Change the 'Hood: Violence and Street Gangs in Winnipeg's Inner City”. It was written by Elizabeth Comack, Lawrence Deane, Larry Morrissette and Jim Silver. What they say in one very brief phrase is that we must look at the root causes of crime as well as have the harsh consequences in place for those who commit the crime. All of the gang members who spoke to these researchers said repeatedly that we need to look at what caused them to get into a life of crime in the first place.

If we can start to look at the lack of inclusion, the poverty, the insecurity, the despair, the previous sexual violence that had been committed, and the root causes of crime, then we will have made a real difference.

I look forward to the government's approach on this very difficult and serious issue.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Is the House ready for the question?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

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

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly, the bill stands referred to a legislative committee.

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time and referred to a committee)

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Carleton—Mississippi Mills, ON

Mr. Speaker, I ask that you see the clock at 1:30 p.m.

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Is that agreed?

Criminal Code
Government Orders

1:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed from June 12 consideration of the motion that Bill C-393, An Act to amend the Patent Act (drugs for international humanitarian purposes) and to make a consequential amendment to another Act, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Patent Act
Private Members' Business

1:20 p.m.

Liberal

Bernard Patry Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in this House today to add my remarks with respect to Bill C-393.

I will try to make myself as clear as possible. I firmly believe that a nation as well off as Canada has to do everything in its power to facilitate access to and distribution of medicines in countries that are suffering terribly from the crippling impact of diseases like HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis.

That is why a Liberal government—needless to say—introduced legislation to establish Canada's access to medicines regime, otherwise known as CAMR.

That piece of legislation was passed unanimously by Parliament because it reflected our Canadian values, and the compassion Canadians have for those less fortunate in particular.

As we know, Rwanda was the first and only country to test CAMR by importing HIV/AIDS drugs from the Canadian generic drug manufacturer APOTEX.

We also know that three separate pharmaceutical companies holding the appropriate Canadian patents answered the call and authorized APOTEX to manufacture and deliver the requested product without having to pay any royalties. Incidentally, I should point out that these three companies recently reiterated their offer, again, royalty free.

After receiving the authorization, it took Apotex about one year to manufacture and ship the product and an additional year to ship the remaining amount permitted under the licence.

The fact that it was the only application of CAMR in Canada, and that no other country with a similar system has ever provided generic drugs to developing countries, leads us to the following question: why is CAMR not used more?

Unfortunately, rather than carrying out an in-depth analysis of the problem, some have concluded that the problem was that the legislation, although well intentioned, had shortcomings and that amending it would make it easier to apply. This resulted in Bill C-393, which puts forward the solution of a single licence system.

If we look at the facts surrounding the shipment of generic drugs to Rwanda, we see that the patent-holding pharmaceutical companies reacted very quickly when they were contacted. From beginning to end, the mandatory licensing process took 68 days.

I am pointing this out because it is extremely important to establish whether the licensing process caused the undue delay in shipping the drugs to their destination.

From what I have just outlined, it does not seem that the CAMR legislation, in its current form, is the cause. It seems that the problem lies elsewhere.

Why did it take one year to send the first shipment if the CAMR legislation was not at issue? It is important that we be fully aware of this fact given that we are attempting to determine the true causes of the problem.

Much has been made of the issue of intellectual property rights. Some claim that the pharmaceutical companies are hiding behind our international obligations under the WTO agreement on trade-related intellectual property rights, known by the acronym TRIPS, in order to hold back the flow of generic drugs.

Recognizing intellectual property rights is crucial for the future discovery of drugs that will save lives. If we do not protect intellectual property rights, we will deprive ourselves of key research, not only in the pharmaceutical sector but in all sectors driven by research. This will have extremely negative consequences for Canada.

Dozens of new drugs to treat HIV, malaria and similar illnesses are currently being tested. Related research is absolutely critical and is being carried out by patent drug manufacturers.

In testimony he gave on October 20 before the Senate Committee on Banking, Trade and Commerce about a similar bill, Bill S-232, a lawyer for the pharmaceutical industry said that the amendments proposed in Bills S-232 and C-393 are not in keeping with Canada's international trade obligations regarding intellectual property.

Are we going to ignore that conclusion? That said, let us focus on some of the known causes of the current problem.

More than 90% of the 319 drugs on the list of essential drugs for developing countries are not patented. Less than 10% are patented. It is important to understand that.

A recent study of 65 countries by Dr. Amir Attaran, a biologist and lawyer with the University of Ottawa, found that the main barrier to access to drugs in developing countries is not the granting of a single patent licence, but poverty. Yes poverty, always poverty.

Let us look at some other realities.

If we look at the necessary drugs that reach developing countries, we see that most of them come from countries like India, China and South Africa. Why not Canada? Certainly not because of the CAMR. It is because these drugs are available for less than what Canadian generic drug manufacturers charge, which is higher because of our higher labour costs.

This is certainly one of the reasons why developing countries do not turn to Canada for drugs under the CAMR. They have cheaper options.

The challenge at present is not the supply of drugs. The supply is there. But how are we going to deal with the very real challenge posed by the fact that recipient countries lack the infrastructure to make a proper diagnosis and to deliver, distribute, administer and store drugs?

We need to turn to organizations such as Health Partners International Canada, which have extensive experience in the field in managing the distribution of drugs in developing countries that have very little infrastructure.

I firmly believe that we can work productively with these organizations to get drugs to where they are needed. I also believe that this is a much better way to achieve our objectives than what Bill C-393 offers.

According to Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General, “Health systems are the tap root for better health. All the donated drugs in the world will not do any good without an infrastructure for their delivery.”

This bill offers no solutions to the problem of drug distribution infrastructure. It should have proposed the following measures: the creation of partnerships between the private sector and NGOs, which have a lot of experience in this area, to ensure effective drug distribution; and accountability and transparency of the access to medicines regime and distribution. This bill leaves out some important requirements in this area, which could make it easier for drugs to be diverted to recipients other than the developing nations they are meant for.

Health Partners International Canada has also recommended that the government take all reasonable measures to ensure that drugs from Canadian suppliers are not diverted from their intended recipients.

The problem of counterfeit and poor quality drugs will only get worse if Canada's Access to Medicines Regime is amended as set out in Bill C-393.

Therefore I call upon my colleagues in the House to clearly focus on the problems before us and send developing countries the drugs they desperately need, but also help those countries improve their infrastructure.

This bill makes no mention of the many different aspects of poverty, but rather talks about one licence. Instead of being a disposable, limited-time measure, agreeing to one licence would eliminate the voluntary licence step in agreements on trade-related aspects of intellectual property rights, or TRIPS, within the WTO.

I believe that intellectual property rights are essential in our society, and this bill offers no guarantee that those rights will be protected. In conclusion, I cannot support Bill C-393.

Patent Act
Private Members' Business

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Glenn Thibeault Sudbury, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am extremely proud to stand today to support the legislation brought forward by my colleague from Winnipeg North.

Bill C-393 would, as the bill's summary states, amend the Patent Act and the Food and Drugs Act to make it easier to manufacture and export pharmaceutical products to address public health problems afflicting many developing and least developed countries, especially those resulting from HIV-AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other epidemics.

This is an extremely worthwhile bill and I would encourage all members of Parliament, regardless of their party, to come together to ensure that the bill passes into law.

Every day, 14,000 people around the world die from preventable diseases. Eight thousand people die each day from HIV-AIDS because they lack access to antiretroviral drugs. Half of the 2.3 million children with HIV in the developing world will not live to see their second birthdays. Morally, this is simply unacceptable.

These deaths destroy families and communities, undermine economic growth and leave thousands of children orphaned. According to the World Health Organization, two billion people cannot get or cannot afford drugs that could have a massive impact on their standards of living.

Research by Polaris shows that 93% of Canadians think it is important to help people in developing countries who need medicines to treat or prevent diseases such as HIV-AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. The same study shows that a majority of Canadians do not believe the federal government is doing enough to help developing countries by making medication to treat these diseases more affordable. The intention of this bill is to correct this.

The current Canada's Access to Medicines Regime, introduced in 2004, which I remind the House was supported by all parties, was a good start. Competition from generic manufacturers has allowed the price of AIDS medications to fall by 95% in some developing nations, but this legislation only allows generic drugs to be sold to countries explicitly named in the legislation. Companies producing generic drugs must also apply for a special licence for each order of drugs for each country they will supply.

In fact, the total number of licences issued to Canadian companies that produce generic drugs is one. That is right. In five years, only one Canadian company has managed to jump all the hurdles to get Canadian access to the medicine regime's licence, and it has done so just once.

This shipment was sent out in two parts to Rwanda in September 2008 and then again September 2009. That company has come out and said that it will not go through the process again unless it is reformed significantly. There is simply too much red tape. Although the final stage of approval only takes two weeks, this ignores the months of negotiations required to get to the point of submitting an application. Now is the time to improve upon this regime.

The changes proposed in Bill C-393 would mean that companies producing generic drugs would need to obtain just one licence for each medicine they intended to produce. This licence would allow the company to produce multiple orders for as many eligible developing countries as needed, without the need to apply for a new licence for each drug order.

I understand some people are worried that changes to the current regime would undermine Canadian pharmaceutical companies and that this in turn would mean they would stop their research and developmental activities, but this is not the case. This bill would not alter the current provisions, which means brand name companies still receive royalties on the drugs they have patented and brand name companies are still able to compete against generic brands in developing nations.

The bill would also not alter the anti-diversion measures that ensure that generic drugs are distinguished from branded drugs so they cannot be sold elsewhere. In fact, Bill C-393 is completely in line with intellectual property rights, both here in Canada and at the World Trade Organization.

In 2003, the World Trade Organization explicitly stated that developed countries should have more flexible policies to promote access to drugs for people in developing states. These changes will cost the taxpayer nothing and will actually stimulate the Canadian pharmaceutical industry. As companies in Canada ship more orders to developing nations, they will be able to sustain jobs and increase exports from Canada.

Even though this bill is first and foremost a humanitarian issue, there are clearly good economic reasons to reform Canada's access to medicines regime. Implementing this bill is a win-win situation. Developing nations will gain access to much needed drugs and Canadian companies can continue to grow.

I would also like to point out that these changes will not eliminate the review of the safety and quality of the drugs that will be available to developing nations. Drugs will still need to be reviewed by Health Canada, the importing country's government, or by the World Health Organization. The bill will only avoid the duplication of the review processes, meaning that drugs can get to the people who need them and get there faster.

In the one case where drugs were shipped under Canada's access to medicines regime, the company manufacturing the drug spent seven months undergoing a Health Canada review, only for that review to be repeated and duplicated at the World Health Organization. That adds a significant delay to getting the drugs approved. By streamlining the process, we can eliminate any duplication and make sure that these drugs get to the people who need them as quickly as possible.

Some people have suggested that voluntary programs, that is, programs where brand name pharmaceutical companies voluntarily ship drugs to developing countries, mean that no new legislation is required. These voluntary programs are laudable and we should congratulate the companies that have undertaken these efforts, but I do not believe they offer a credible alternative to this legislation.

Put simply, far too few drugs are produced and shipped through these programs to help everyone in the developing world who needs access to them. This legislation would increase the amount of drugs available to people living in developing states and it would also mean that generic brand drugs can reach the countries where they are most needed.

I would like to remind the House that next year, when Canada hosts both the G8 and G20 meetings, we have a real opportunity to shape the global agenda in many areas, including how to deal with the aftermath of the global economic slowdown and how to cope with climate change. These are the things that we can talk about. The best way to shape this agenda is to enact domestic legislation such as this bill, which shows that Canada is ready to lead by example. However, we have to act now.

We have a moral duty to do the right thing and I urge all parliamentarians to support Bill C-393.

Patent Act
Private Members' Business

1:40 p.m.

Edmonton—Mill Woods—Beaumont
Alberta

Conservative

Mike Lake Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Industry

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to address Bill C-393, which aims to modify certain fundamental aspects of Canada's access to medicines regime.

In 2004 members of Parliament and senators from all parties unanimously supported legislation introduced by the Liberal government of the day to establish this regime by amending the Patent Act and the Food and Drugs Act.

Canada's access to medicines regime's stated purpose is to improve access to lower cost Canadian-made generic versions of patented drugs and medical devices to address public health problems in developing countries. It was designed to achieve this humanitarian objective while respecting Canada's international trade obligations and maintaining the integrity of Canada's patent system.

The public health problems that gave rise to Canada's access to medicines regime in 2004 continue to exist today. This government remains committed to supporting this initiative.

I, and I am sure other members of the House, view it as a key component of Canada's long-term comprehensive approach to addressing serious public health problems that affect many developing and least developed countries, such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other epidemics.

In addition to Canada's access to medicines regime, this approach includes significant contributions from the Government of Canada to other global mechanisms and alliances, which have come into existence in recent years and have become leading instruments for procuring lower cost drugs to respond to the needs of developing and least developed countries.

For example, the government has contributed more than $500 million to the global fund to fight AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria. It has also pledged another $450 million to the fund over the next three years. In addition, the government is working with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to fund the development of HIV/AIDS vaccination.

While the government's commitment to addressing public health problems in the developing world and to Canada's access to medicines regime is unwavering, there are concerns with Bill C-393's proposed modifications to the regime's legislative framework.

This is because the bill, if passed by Parliament, would result in the elimination of many of the key operational elements of Canada's access to medicines regime in order to adopt a very broad, one-licence approach that could have serious negative implications for continued pharmaceutical investment and growth in Canada.

In addition, many of the bill's proposed legislative changes may not be in keeping with the spirit of the World Trade Organization decision on which Canada's access to medicines regime is based. Canada's access to medicines regime was the result of years of intensive international negotiations by Canada and other developed and developing country members of the World Trade Organization to find a means to export needed medicines from countries with pharmaceutical manufacturing capacity to countries with little or no such capacity.

In August 2003 this process concluded when all of the World Trade Organization members reached a landmark decision. They agreed to waive two of the patent obligations in the World Trade Organization's Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights in order to improve access to the patented drugs and medical devices needed to address public health problems in developing and least developed countries, such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other epidemics.

Canada's access to medicines regime was developed to implement this decision domestically. Canada's regime is one of nine regimes in existence that have implemented the World Trade Organization decision, but it is the only one to have successfully authorized an export of needed drugs to a developing countries. This important event occurred on September 24, 2008, when the Canadian drug manufacturer Apotex Inc. sent approximately seven million tablets of an HIV/AIDS therapy to Rwanda.

In 2007 the government completed a statutory review of the regime. As part of that process, it reviewed all public input on Canada's access to medicines regime. That input included extensive written submissions received in response to a 2006 consultation paper on the regime. It included expert testimony heard at hearings by the House of Commons Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology in April 2007, as well as input from developing countries in a workshop organized by non-governmental organizations.

In December 2007 the Minister of Industry tabled in Parliament a report on the results of the statutory review. The report concluded that insufficient evidence had accumulated to warrant making changes to the regime at that juncture. This conclusion remains valid today, since the case for making legislative or regulatory changes to Canada's access to medicines regime has still not been made.

The fact that Canada is the only country to date to see drugs shipped to a country in need under its access to medicines regime demonstrates that our system does work. However, for Canada's access to medicines regime to be used again, another country in need must inform the World Trade Organization of its intent to import lower cost versions of patented pharmaceutical products under the terms of the August 2003 decision.

The government continues to encourage developing and least developed countries to use the system and it hopes that such a notification happens. In the meantime, however, the government will continue to support Canada's access to medicines while fighting diseases and helping improve public health conditions in the developing world through other initiatives in its long-term comprehensive strategy on access to medicines.

Before I conclude, I would like to thank those who have advocated so tirelessly on this issue. In particular, I would like to acknowledge the hard work of the grandmothers to grandmothers campaign, which has continued to raise awareness and mobilize support for this bill.

Although we may disagree on the effects of the proposed modifications in Bill C-393 on the legislative framework of Canada's access to medicines regime, we can certainly agree on the need to address public health in the developing world. The grandmothers have shown true commitment to this cause and I believe their efforts deserve recognition.

With that said, the reasons I have outlined here today prevent me from voting in favour of this bill.

Patent Act
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Joyce Murray Vancouver Quadra, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to speak in support of Bill C-393 today. The bill would amend a bill passed in 2004, which was known at the time as the “Jean Chrétien pledge to Africa act”. I would like the listeners to keep in mind that objective.

The original bill created what is now known as Canada's Access to Medicines Regime. The stated purpose of this law was to help get more affordable generic medicines to patients in developing countries for public health needs, including HIV-AIDS, tuberculosis and other epidemic diseases, a very worthy objective, indeed.

This legislation was brought in by a Liberal government and, as the member opposite has just noted, was passed with unanimous support from all political parties in May, 2004, reflecting Canadians' beliefs and the empathy that Canadians feel for those who are in need.

I want to get on record as saying that this is a humanitarian, non-partisan issue that relates to the health and safety of those less fortunate in developing countries.

A country as lucky as Canada has the responsibility to do everything in its power to facilitate the access and distribution of medicines to those countries that are suffering from the devastating effects of diseases such as HIV.

On a personal level, I immigrated to Canada from South Africa at a young age. I went back in the 2000s and met people who were struggling with this terrible affliction. I am very concerned about compassionate assistance to help the AIDS epidemic.

The amendments in Bill C-393 are supported by a wide variety of organizations, including the Canadian Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign, which is an organization of women working to support the courageous South African grannies who are looking after those children who have been orphaned by the AIDS scourge.

Another point of context is that these amendments to the Canada's Access to Medicines Regime come at a time when the Conservative Government of the day has reduced by half the number of the poorest African countries that are being supported by CIDA on its priority list. With these cuts, alternative means of support for these countries is badly needed.

There are problems with the current Canada's Access to Medicines Regime. Despite the fact that the member opposite just celebrated CAMR, and I appreciate his positive statements about this Liberal initiative, it is not a successful regime. It is not working. In fact, in more than four years, only one country, Rwanda, and one Canadian generic manufacturer has used the regime for a single shipment of a single AIDS drug. That is not my definition of success.

Issuing one licence to export only one drug to only one country in almost five years since the law has passed tells us that there is something missing and something else is needed. It is not the expeditious solution for which parliamentarians and WTO members were looking.

The fact is no developing countries, other than Rwanda, have come forward or shown any interest to utilize CAMR in order to get much needed medicines for their citizens. Nor has any country sought to use laws comparable to this that have been passed in other countries. Therefore, this tells us that this law needs to be fixed.

A comprehensive access to medicines regime is needed more than ever. According to a joint UN program on HIV, more than 2.3 million children under the age of 15 are infected with AIDS, most of whom are living in developing countries. Without treatment, an estimated one-third of infants infected with HIV will die before reaching the age of one and half will die before reaching the age of two.

If the need for medicines is so critical, which clearly it is, what is preventing these developing countries from coming forward to utilize the Canada's Access to Medicines Regime? Simply put, the regime puts up unnecessary barriers and red tape.

The major concern I have heard in regard to the existing legislation is that the processes and requirements in place may be unnecessarily complex. As a result, they are dissuading the developing countries and generic pharmaceutical companies from stepping forward, utilizing the legislation and bringing forward the solutions for which everyone is looking.

There are many other difficulties to overcome following the delivery of medication to a developing country. We know that at times there are inadequately developed infrastructure, untrained medical staff, unregulated distribution of the drug and disorganized administration. These are all legitimate challenges on the ground.

However, in terms of this legislation, the question in Canada is actually simply. How can we make Canada's Access to Medicine Regime as simple, straightforward and risk-free as possible for the developing countries, for the generic pharmaceutical companies to use, while maintaining fairness for brand name drug providers? This amendment does that.

I will just speak a bit more about the barriers the existing legislation presents.

Under the current regime, the process for a generic drug manufacturer in Canada to get a compulsory licence to supply developing countries does not reflect the very procedures the developing countries typically go through when procuring medicines.

As the regime stands now, the law contains over 100 clauses that are required to be met. Clearly, that is shown to be a barrier. There are simply too many hurdles that developing countries have to jump over before they can place and receive an order. In thinking about the bill, it is important that we remember that in these developing countries the doctors, nurses and volunteers, and not the lawyers, are ordering these drugs.

Criticism levied against these proposed reforms mainly focus on how they will negatively impact the patented pharmaceutical industry, but the fact is their drugs are simply too expensive to be purchased at their current price and they have not taken the action necessary to get affordable medicines to developing countries.

Nothing in these amendments nor in CAMR itself prevents brand name pharmaceutical companies from competing to supply their patented products to developing countries and under these amendments, royalties would still be based on the sales of the generic product and would flow to the pharmaceutical company.

What is being proposed in Bill C-393? I will take a moment to read into the record parts of a letter I received from a group in my riding of Vancouver Quadra. It is from the UBC Medical Undergraduate Society, signed by Mattias Berg, the president. He speaks about Bill C-393, proposing a simplified one-licence solution. He says:

This approach, widely recommended by multiple humanitarian organizations including Médecins Sans Frontières...would cut through most of the red tape that prevents CAMR from being used to its full potential.

He goes on to add:

As concerned Canadians and future physicians, we are asking you to please support this bill and help save the lives of millions of children and patients in the developing world.

A compulsory licence will require that the generic manufacturer pay a royalty to the company that holds that patent and royalties would still be based on the sales of the generic product to the developing country, as in the existing CAMR formula. If the legislation is reformed, Canada's largest generic pharmaceutical company has committed publicly that it will make a desperately needed three-in-one AIDS drug that is suited for children in developing countries. This is all about that.

As we know, very few children in these countries have access to medicines to combat HIV, and they suffer unnecessarily. This is a human tragedy which we are trying to address. By streamlining the access to medicines regime, we would not create any additional costs to Canadian taxpayers. In fact, it requires the government to spend no additional funds.

Nobody claims that Canada's access to medicine regime, either in its existing form or in an amended version, would provide a complete solution. Barriers to accessing medicines in the developing world will continue. However, Canadians right across the country want to say that they are doing our part to help fight sickness and poverty around the world. It is part of our humanness to want to help.

This amended legislation is a policy tool that has the potential to put into action the desire of Canadians to help those less fortunate and help facilitate developing countries to gain access to affordable and timely treatment. For both compassionate and pragmatic reasons, the bill deserves Parliament's support and I hope the members will provide it.

Patent Act
Private Members' Business

1:55 p.m.

NDP

Jim Maloway Elmwood—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I commend the previous speaker for an absolutely excellent speech on the bill at hand. I thought I heard another speech from one of her colleagues that was quite a bit different. Her colleague indicated that he would not support the bill. That is the way I heard it anyway. However, I am very pleased that not only did the member make an excellent speech, but she dealt square on with the whole issue at hand.

She outlined how the legislation originally was to be a legacy to Jean Chrétien. The legislation passed unanimously in May 2004. Its goal was humanitarian. It was non-partisan. It was supported by all members of the House, yet in five years all we have to show for this is one shipment of an AIDS drug by one company to one country. After half a decade, that is unbelievable.

It reminds me of the great intentions of the United States government to deal with Hurricane Katrina. It supposedly had a whole plan in place. At the end of the day, we saw a disaster that was compounded by the efforts of the government to help solve the disaster. Among many other things, people were living in trailers that turned out to be toxic. It was a total disaster. That was a case with a country that had huge resources and supposedly a plan.

Here we have a lack of resources, but at least we had the intention to do something good for people who were suffering. Members have brought out statistics on how quickly people are dying in Africa as a result of disease. The question is this. How could this have gone so wrong in such a short period of time and what will we do as a group, as a collective, to try to solve this issue?

We will not solve it and we will not make progress when we have speakers defending big pharma, the drug companies and the patent system. They say that they cannot get involved in this because it would offend drug companies in their ridings and that the drugs they produce are not available yet for generic companies to produce. Therefore, they are going to vote against this because they are concerned about jobs in their ridings.

Sadly, that is what this may turn out to be at the end of the day and that is really a sad commentary on the whole country in some ways.

I understand the intellectual property argument. Manitoba had huge fights in the seventies over the whole issue of whether generic drug companies should even be allowed to survive. The big guys wanted to get them out of business and argued that it was totally unfair. Then a government somewhere along the line, whether Liberal or Conservative, gave the drug companies a 20 year patent protection. I am uncertain, but I believe it was the Mulroney government.

Nevertheless, I do remember that argument at the time. There was a lot of reaction to it in Manitoba because Manitoba does not have a lot of big pharmaceutical companies but it does have generic companies that are trying to produce drugs at a reasonable cost. They are the ones who would be stepping up to the plate to help in a situation like this.

We have other really good examples, such as Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. I do not know how many people know Warren Buffett. He owns half of the companies in the United States, everything from 10% of Gillette and 10% of Coca-Cola, and Dairy Queen and Fruit of the Loom and so on. Warren Buffett is the second-richest man in the world and he is worth around $50 billion or close to it, slightly less than Bill Gates.

Rather than doing what some single billionaires do, this multi-billionaire decided that his kids did not need this kind of money so he gave it to Bill and Melinda Gates' trust in which they put an equal amount. They would give out the money on his behalf. The desire of both Gates and Buffett is to send the money to Africa to be used for the AIDS cause.

Warren Buffett lives in Omaha. I had the good fortune to drive through Omaha on the way to a legislators' conference in August. We decided to find Warren Buffett's house. People in Omaha know where he is. They see him around. He even hands out candies to kids at Halloween. His house has no number on it, but it was not hard to find. I did knock on his door, but he did not happen to be at home.

My point is that Warren Buffett is a fairly selfless individual. Certainly in business he has taken his knocks over the years. I could spend hours talking about the things that Warren Buffett has done in business. This man recognizes that he is not going to live forever, and he has given money to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to be used in Africa. I am not saying we have to go to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation for a donation, but it is something that might have to be considered.

Another idea has come up, and I do not know how practical it is but articles have been written on it. The British are in charge of trying to eradicate the poppy in Afghanistan. Besides trying to spray it and kill it, they are trying to put in other crops. Some people have suggested that the opium crop from the poppies should be used in areas of the world that need the drug as a painkiller.

The majority of people in Africa are not used to the same sort of medical treatment that we are here in Canada. When we have a procedure done in the hospital, we are given good pain medication. People in Africa do not even have the basics. In a way we would be killing two birds with one stone if we could somehow take that crop that is going to be poisoned and sprayed and torn out of the ground and actually harvest it and use it for good in Africa. There may be some problems associated with that idea. We have to find ways to solve these problems. It is a wonderful idea.

The member of our caucus is tireless in her efforts not only in this area, but in everything she does. I actually sat with her in the Manitoba legislature some 20 years back.

We need to get something done about this. We need to straighten out this problem--

Patent Act
Private Members' Business

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Order. I will stop the member there. We will go to the member for Burlington. I will just remind him that he will only have about eight or nine minutes in his slot before we will have to put the question.

Patent Act
Private Members' Business

2:05 p.m.

Conservative

Mike Wallace Burlington, ON

Mr. Speaker, if you give me a notice that I have a minute left, I will wrap it up.

It is my honour to stand here with this opportunity to address Bill C-393, which seeks to make substantial operational changes to the legislative framework for Canada's access to medicines regime under the Patent Act and under the Food and Drugs Act.

While I and I am sure other hon. members in the House are committed to improving access to medicines in the developing world via Canada's access to medicines regime and other initiatives, I have some strong reservations about Bill C-393 and its proposed revisions.

However, let me begin today with some background on Canada's access to medicines regime. The stated purpose of the regime is to increase access to lower-cost, Canadian-made generic versions of patented pharmaceutical products needed to address public health problems in developing and least-developed countries. The development of Canada's access to medicines regime was a landmark event as there was no other international precedent at the time.

Thus, in crafting the regime, the government focused on three important objectives: first, to increase access to patented drugs and medical devices in the developing world; second, to continue to respect Canada's international trade obligations; and third, to maintain the integrity of our domestic patent system for pharmaceuticals.

In 2004, the then-Liberal government introduced legislation to establish the regime by amending the Patent Act and the Food and Drugs Act. Shortly thereafter, Bill C-9 received royal assent with the unanimous support of all parties on both sides of the House and the Senate.

I will now turn to discuss some of the problematic elements of Bill C-393 that propose to alter the scope of eligible drugs for export under the regime, and the health and safety review that these pharmaceutical products go under.

First, I am concerned that Bill C-393 seeks to eliminate the list of pre-approved products for export in Canada's access to medicines regime. While some critics of the regime allege that the list makes CAMR too rigid and inflexible, it does serve an important and practical purpose. Specifically, the list of pre-approved products for export minimizes the discretionary elements of the regime and, as a result, expedites the decision making process. It also provides prospective users with the assurance that, assuming all other statutory requirements are met, an application for authorization under the regime will be used by the commissioner of patents.

Second, I am concerned about the proposed changes in the drug review process in Bill C-393. If passed, these changes would significantly alter the level of domestic oversight regarding the safety and quality of the products exported under CAMR. This is because Bill C-393 suggests, among other things, to make the existing mandatory Health Canada review optional.

Further, it suggests allowing the export of eligible products under Canada's access to medicines regime to be made on the basis of a review by a foreign regulatory authority. Such an abeyance of Health Canada's review would not be permitted for drugs and medical devices destined for the Canadian market.

In addition, during the statutory review of the regime in 2007, developing countries and generic drug manufacturers expressed strong approval of the very drug review that Bill C-393 seeks to remove. These potential users of CAMR went on record as saying that Health Canada's review was a useful mechanism for ensuring that products sent to the developing world under this system were safe and of high quality.

Some critics of Canada's access to medicines regime state that the Health Canada drug review is unnecessary and allege that it duplicates the World Health Organization's pre-qualification process for listing pharmaceutical products that are eventually purchased by international aid agencies and developing and least-developed countries without appropriate regulatory capacities. However, I do not agree with them.

Health Canada has a long-lasting and excellent relationship with the World Health Organization in this regard, both in undertaking reviews for the international organization's pre-qualification program, and in working with the World Health Organization and other initiatives to build regulatory health and safety capacity in developing and least developed countries.

Furthermore, since Health Canada's reviews are accepted by the World Health Organization for an alternate listing process, Canada's domestic drug reviews are not duplicated. The alternate listing process, which is an abbreviated process for listing drugs to the pre-qualified program, is available for drugs reviewed by Health Canada, the United States Food and Drug Administration and the European Medicines Agency.

I would like to conclude by reiterating that while the government remains committed to Canada's access to medicines regime and a broader, long-term approach to fighting public health diseases in the developing world, it opposes Bill C-393 and its proposed changes to the regime.

In my opinion, several of the changes to the Patent Act and the Food and Drugs Act raise concerns about the potential impact on the effective operation of CAMR. Many of these changes also do not support the humanitarian objective of improving access to safe medicines for the developing world.

Finally, there is little evidence that Bill C-393's proposed amendments will make a meaningful difference in the volume and frequency of exports under Canada's access to medicines regime.

To date, Canada's compulsory licensing and export regime is the only one of its kind worldwide to have successfully authorized and exported drugs to a country in need.

For all of these reasons, I urge hon. members in the House not to support Bill C-393. I do want to say in closing, however, that I do appreciate the efforts of the member for Winnipeg North in this matter. I have had a number of meetings in my riding with citizens who are deeply concerned that this regime is not working, but this bill does not meet their needs, based on our review of how it has been laid out. However, I do appreciate the member bringing this to the attention of the House of Commons.

Patent Act
Private Members' Business

2:15 p.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from the Conservative Party is right. This is the only one of its kind in the world. Canada's access to medicine regime, CAMR, was an innovative, pioneering move five years ago. It still is today, but it is not working and it needs to be overhauled. It needs to be fixed. We need to keep our commitment to the world to ensure drugs get to people who need them in developing nations.

For all of the arguments we have heard in opposition today and in the past, there are strong rebuttals. There are all kinds of arguments that have been made in this House and the other place. I am here to urge members to let this bill go to committee so that we can spend the time rebutting those arguments or hearing concerns and making any necessary amendments.

I am not saying this bill is perfect. I am saying it is absolutely essential. We cannot miss this opportunity. We owe it to too many people here in this country and around the world to fail at this point.

Two years ago we had an opportunity to fix CAMR and we did not. We failed at that point. We dare not fail today. We dare not let the world be disappointed by our inaction because we did not have the courage at least to hear the arguments at committee, make the case and improve this legislation. We owe it to those who need our medicines. We owe it to those whose lives have to be saved.

I owe so much to the grandmothers across this nation for the work they have done on this issue. I want to acknowledge their work. I want to thank Sharon Swanson from the Lanark County Grannies who is with us today. I want to thank Peggy Edwards, Kathleen Wallace-Deering, Gillian Sandeman, Elizabeth Rennie, Andrea Beal and Marilyn Coolen from the Ottawa group. I want to thank from Winnipeg the group Grans 'N' More, especially Linda Watson, Enid Butler, Charlotte Caron, Barb Fletcher, Shelley Coombes, Nancy Cosway, Jean Sorko, Jean Altemeyer and many others.

Finally, I want to say that we are doing this for people who need our support. In the last minute of debate, I want to quote Stephen Lewis, who is a pioneer in this area and who helped form the Grandmothers to Grandmothers Campaign. I want to quote from an article in the Globe and Mail of Saturday, October 22, 2005:

The 40 million people infected worldwide--26 million in Africa. The millions, mainly young women, without access to treatment because the world won't pay for it....

His voice drops again to a whisper: “And they're all young women, they're all in the 20s and 30s. You go into a hospice, 25 beds, 23 of them filled by women in their 20s. You can't get the drugs to them in time. You know they're going to die in a matter of months”.

In talking about the children, he said:

You go into a little community centre for kids...and I remember this...you have a whole group of kids sitting in a little room. They look as though they're 4 or 5, they're all stunted, and they're really 8, 9, 10 years old, all HIV-positive, and there are no drugs. And you know these kids are measuring their lives in minutes. And you just wonder...why is this? How long can it happen? How long does it have to go on incrementally?

It's just so bad. It's so awful.

Let us not fail these children, these women, the people in other parts of the world who need our help. Let this bill go to committee.

The vote on the bill will be on Wednesday. We do not have enough support for it. All of the Bloc and all of the NDP members are committed to supporting it. We only have a third of the Liberals and a handful of Conservatives. That is not enough to move this bill forward. We need each and every member to think about this and at least allow for a positive vote on Wednesday so we can study this matter further. We must ensure that this country stands up to its promise in the world and is true to the commitment it has made to people everywhere.

Patent Act
Private Members' Business

2:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

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

Patent Act
Private Members' Business

2:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

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Private Members' Business

2:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

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

Patent Act
Private Members' Business

2:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Patent Act
Private Members' Business

2:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

All those opposed will please say nay.

Patent Act
Private Members' Business

2:20 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Patent Act
Private Members' Business

2:20 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

In my opinion the yeas have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the division stands deferred until Wednesday, December 2, 2009, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

It being 2:22 p.m., this House stands adjourned until next Monday at 11 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 2:22 p.m.)