House of Commons Hansard #34 of the 40th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was afghanistan.

Topics

Plans and Priorities
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Provencher
Manitoba

Conservative

Vic Toews President of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, in the ongoing, relentless efforts of our government to continue the movement of matters through this House, I have the honour to table, on behalf of my colleagues, part III of the estimates, consisting of 93 reports on plans and priorities.

These documents will be distributed to members of the standing committees to assist in their consideration of the spending authorities and sought in part II of the estimates.

Corporate Social Responsibility Strategy
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

South Shore—St. Margaret's
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Gerald Keddy Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Trade

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to table in the House the government's “Building the Canadian Advantage: A Corporate Social Responsibility Strategy for the Canadian International Extractive Sector”.

Pursuant to commitments made in the government's response in the 38th Parliament to the 14th report of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Trade, I have the honour to lay upon the table, in both official languages, on behalf of the Minister of International Trade, the government's corporate social responsibility strategy entitled, “Building the Canadian Advantage: A Corporate Social Responsibility Strategy for the Canadian International Extractive Sector”.

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Calgary East
Alberta

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 32(2) of the House of Commons, I have the pleasure to table, in both official languages, a treaty entitled, “Convention Between Canada and the Republic of Colombia for the Avoidance of Double Taxation and the Prevention of Fiscal Evasion with respect to Taxes on Income and on Capital”.

An explanatory memorandum is included with the treaty.

Pursuant to Standing Order 32(2) of the House of Commons, I also have the pleasure to table, in both official languages, treaties entitled, “The Free Trade Agreement Between Canada and the Republic of Colombia”, an “Agreement on the Environment between Canada and the Republic of Colombia”, and an “Agreement on Labour Cooperation between Canada and the Republic of Colombia”.

An explanatory memorandum is included with each treaty.

Government Response to Petitions
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

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

Canada-Colombia Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Canada-Peru Free Trade Agreement Implementation Act
Routine Proceedings

March 26th, 2009 / 10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Tobacco Act
Routine Proceedings

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Judy Wasylycia-Leis Winnipeg North, MB

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-348, An Act to amend the Tobacco Act (cigarillos, cigars and pipe tobacco).

Mr. Speaker, the bill is about the health and well-being of Canada's youth.

Parliaments of Canada have worked hard over the years to reduce smoking addiction and to curb marketing of cigarettes but big tobacco keeps finding loopholes to the Tobacco Act, trying to lure our children and youth into a lifelong addiction to cigarettes.

The latest is flavoured cigarillos sold individually or in kiddie packs in colourful and hip packages, priced at just a buck or two. The results are devastating. Cigarillo sales have skyrocketed and smoking rates among youth are going up.

The bill would change all of that. It would ban flavoured tobacco products, require cigarillos to be sold in packages of 20 instead of individually and demands tough warning labels.

Colleagues on all sides of the House support the bill. When I introduced this bill in the last Parliament, the Prime Minister made an election promise to do just that. I would say to the Conservatives that they should take this bill and make it their own.

I want to thank the Action on Tobacco Coalition and all the young people who have worked on this bill, including the Manitoba Youth for Clean Air, the Sister Teens against Nicotine and Drugs, the Northwestern Youth Action Alliance and the Eastern Ontario Youth Coalition. The bill is for them. Together we can make a difference.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Criminal Code
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Dawn Black New Westminster—Coquitlam, BC

moved for leave to introduce Bill C-349, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (body armour).

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to introduce a bill to amend the Criminal Code in relation to body armour.

The bill would make it an additional offence to use body armour during the commission or attempted commission of an indictable offence. It would also ban those convicted of violent crimes from possessing body armour.

The recent spate of gang violence in the Lower Mainland of B.C., with at least 31 shootings and 15 deaths in the past two months alone, has revealed chilling examples of notorious criminals decked out in body armour, wielding guns and ready to do battle. These are not petty thugs. They are armed and dangerous gangsters who have no regard for their own lives, the lives of police or of innocent bystanders.

I have two sons who are police officers and they have told me of the disturbing situation in which beat cops are put, facing gangsters equipped with body armour that makes them almost invulnerable to patrol officers and with armour piercing weapons that can penetrate regular issue police armour.

The bill is modest in scope and only addresses one but one important small component of the problem. Our communities are crying out for a comprehensive, anti-gang strategy. The government has promised a comprehensive strategy but so far it has failed to deliver.

I call on everyone in the House to support the bill to protect the lives of police officers and the lives of innocent bystanders.

(Motions deemed adopted, bill read the first time and printed)

Citizenship and Immigration
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, I move that the second report of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, presented on Wednesday, February 25, be concurred in.

She said: Mr. Speaker, I was in my riding last night and there was an emergency meeting where supporters of a war resistors movement gathered in solidarity for Kimberly Rivera. These important meetings happen regularly, but last night's emergency meeting was particularly important because Kimberly, a 26-year-old mother of three and a former soldier in the United States army, was scheduled to be deported back to the United States this morning where she faces harsh punishment.

Kimberly is a veteran of the Iraq invasion. She escaped to Canada after witnessing the horrors there as a soldier. Her time spent in Iraq sobered her to the realities of life for the people of Iraq and the immorality of the whole operation. Life for her and her family here has been very difficult because her status has been in constant limbo. She is basically living out of a box. Recently, she received a deportation order and faces the prospect of being separated from her four-month-old baby and the rest of her family, including her husband, Mario, and two other children.

She faces being thrown into a military prison in the United States simply for conscientiously objecting to an illegal and immoral invasion of a sovereign country. As I mentioned before, her deportation was scheduled for this morning but at the 11th hour yesterday she received an emergency stay as the federal court re-evaluates her condition for deportation. The small victory was bittersweet as the stay only allows her to stay for a few weeks. The deportation could be reordered, at which point she will face the trauma of being separated from her family and being thrown in prison.

This kind of insecurity takes its toll on an individual and even more on a family that is simply trying to live a very peaceful life in Canada. However, even taking into account the stress and insecurity, Kimberly, for the time being, is one of the luckier ones.

Similar to Kimberly, there are many war resistors who sought refuge in Canada. Canada is known for its history of welcoming those who seek a peaceful life. Some are still fighting to stay but one has been deported by the Conservative government even though the majority of Parliament expressed its real view that war resistors stay on June 3 of last year by adopting the motion that I am reintroducing today.

Last June, the Conservative government refused the will of Parliament but it cannot continue to ignore the lives being destroyed by deporting those like Kimberly to face harsh prosecution due to their peaceful convictions.

Robin Long was not as lucky as Kimberly. He was deported last year, a month after Parliament approved a motion to not deport war resisters. He is now sitting in prison because he refused to fight in an illegal war. Last weekend I had the experience of visiting Robin in the military prison. Robin has a one-year-old son who is in Canada and e desperately misses his son.

I thought I would read into the record of the House some of the notes that he has made and explain why he decided to come into this country. Before I read his notes, I want to say that there are other war resisters in Canada, including Chuck, who has been in Canada for a few years. He was in the army for 18 years, fought in many wars and was a decorated soldier. However, when he went to Iraq, he said that he could not continue to fight there.

As I mentioned earlier, Kimberly was in Iraq but she saw how homes were being destroyed and, as a good Christian, she said that she could not do to her neighbours what she would not do to herself. She said she would not want to see her family's home being destroyed, and that morally she could not continue to fight in Iraq. She also saw children and families separated and their lives being put in harm's way. She would not want to do that to her children. She faced a moral dilemma. At the end of it, because she had a two-month break, she said she decided to keep driving north, and she came to Canada.

Citizenship and Immigration
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. Respectfully, the concurrence motion is on the second report of the Standing Committee on Citizenship and Immigration, which ostensibly deals with the issue of war resisters. Perhaps the hon. member could clarify this. It would appear that the hon. member is carrying on a discussion of a specific case totally unrelated to the subject matter of the second report. On the basis of relevance, I raise this concern.

Citizenship and Immigration
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

I will allow the hon. member for Trinity—Spadina to continue and ask that she be mindful of the motion before the House for the rest of her remarks.

Citizenship and Immigration
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, we are talking about the lives of young men and women such as Kimberly Rivera, Jeremy Hinzman, Patrick Hart, Joshua Key, all brave young soldiers. Patrick Hart, for example, had been in the army for eight years. He was in the first Iraq war and then he went back. We are talking about their lives and I cannot help but talk about their lives because what we do here and what the government chooses to do makes a big difference to their lives. They could either go to jail for months or years, or they could live peacefully in this country.

The reason why I choose to talk about their lives is because often in this House we debate points, we debate theories, we very seldom talk about what we do that has a direct impact on the lives of people who are in Canada. I have to talk about their lives, especially the life of Robin Long, who is now in jail even though he has a Canadian born son.

I have to talk about Patrick Hart because he lives in my riding. He has been in Iraq. He described in graphic detail what was happening in Iraq. He has a son who attends a school in my riding whose friends and classmates are my constituents' children. Patrick volunteered to fundraise for the Epilepsy Association of Canada and his wife works in the Lula Lounge which is a very famous Queen Street pub in my area where a lot of my constituents go.

Their lives are very much connected to the lives of ordinary Canadians. A poll showed at least 65% of ordinary Canadians said that we must let the war resisters stay, they are our neighbours. If we then asked other Canadians, some of them will tell us that they came to Canada during the Vietnam War and made Canada their home.

Last night I was at another meeting talking about waterfront revitalization. One middle-aged man, very well dressed and doing very well, probably a lawyer from the way he was talking at the meeting, came to me privately afterwards and thanked me for the work that I was doing for the war resisters. He came to Canada from the U.S. when he was asked to go to Vietnam and he did not go to that war. He told me he was so happy that he is a Canadian and he has been in Canada since the early seventies.

Yes, I am talking about the lives of quite a few of these war resisters. I have to because what we do here has an impact on their lives.

Kimberly Rivera and her four month-old daughter came to Parliament Hill. She drove five hours each way, so 10 hours yesterday, to tell us what kind of life she is having in Canada, how she loves this country. I was very pleased to see that my colleagues from both the Liberal Party and the Bloc Québécois were with us at the press conference yesterday morning. Imagine a young baby, four months old, being torn away from her mother and not being able to continue living with her mother because her mother is cruelly thrown in jail and can no longer continue to breastfeed her baby. Make no mistake about it, once a mother is in jail she cannot take care of her children and Kimberly Rivera has three children.

Many war resisters work in Canada. Corey Glass, for example, has a very good job in Canada. If we were to have a program that allowed them to stay, it would have a dramatic impact on their lives.

I want to remind members of Parliament that in the early 1970s, after a great debate that lasted for over a year, the government, finally made the wise decision to allow at least 50,000 Americans to stay in Canada. They were the ones who would not fight in Vietnam.

It is an identical parallel situation right now because what is happening in Iraq is very similar. Canada chose not to fight the war in Iraq. It chose not to fight the war in Vietnam. We really should allow war resisters to remain in Canada.

Also, I want to remind members that this was debated in the immigration committee in the last Parliament. It was debated again during this session and the discussions were very similar. We need to remember that it is not a very difficult decision, even on humanitarian grounds, to allow war resisters to stay.

I want to put the words of Robin Long on the record in the few minutes I have left. He stated:

In 2004, when Jeremy Hinzman applied for refugee status in Canada, the federal government stepped in at his refugee hearing and said that evidence challenging the legality of the war in Iraq cannot be used in his case.

The U.N. Handbook for Refugees and the Nuremburg Principals say: “a soldier of an army that is involved in an illegal war of aggression has a higher international duty to refuse service. They also have the right to seek refugee protection in any country that is signatory to the Geneva Convention”.

By refusing to allow him, and by precedent all other claimants, the right to use the argument that the war was illegal, the decision closed the door on that legal avenue for refugee protection.

The invasion of Iraq was clearly an illegal act of aggression. The U.S. was not under attack or the imminent threat of attack from the nation of Iraq. The action was also not approved by the U.N. Security Council.

By taking this stance, the Conservative government is condoning the invasion and continuing occupation of Iraq.

Is this what Canadians want? A majority of Americans want it to end and have also realized it to be a mistake. Canadians have long known it to be wrong. Why is the minority Conservative government still holding onto the idea and still deporting war resisters?

Why are they separating families and being complicit in the incarceration of morally strong young men and women? What message is this sending?

Parliament voted to let war resisters remain. In June of 2008 Canada’s Parliament voted on a non-binding resolution to allow war resisters and their families permanent resident status. The vote passed. In agreement with the vote, a poll of Canadian opinion showed overwhelming support for the resolution.

But in defiance of Parliament and the will of the people, the Conservative minority government led by [the] Prime Minister and Immigration Minister ignored the bill. The government stated that all refugee claimants are give a fair chance to plead their case at the Refugee Board, and special treatment to these Iraq resisters wasn’t fair to the other claimants. The government has also stated in the past that we are not legitimate claimants because we are from the U.S. which they say has a fair and transparent justice system and we wouldn’t be singled out for being political.

That is not the case. Robin Long went on to state:

On July 14th, 2008 in my final attempt to stay in Canada, where my son and community are, [the] Federal Judge...stated that I didn't prove I would be treated harshly by the U.S. military for being a political outspoken opponent to the war in Iraq and the Bush administration policy.

Robin Long continued to tell us, even in jail, that the trial he received was not fair in his mind. He said that the only evidence used against him was the newspaper clippings and a CBC tape in Canada where he talked about his experience and why he would not go to Iraq. In these newspaper clippings he talked about his inability or his colleagues' inability to find any weapons of mass destruction. That was the only evidence that was used against Robin Long in his trial.

He also said that he was given 15 months, which is much harsher than a lot of the other soldiers. He gave the example of a person called Belmor Ramos who was sentenced to only seven months after being convicted of conspiracy to commit murder in the case of four Iraqi men. In 2007 he stood guard while others blindfolded and shot in the head four unidentified Iraqi men and afterwards dumped the bodies in a Baghdad canal. During his court martial Belmor Ramos admitted his guilt, stating, “I wanted them dead. I had no legal justification to do this”. That man got seven months, whereas Mr. Robin Long, who refused to participate in the killing, got 15 months. Where is the justice? The system is just not fair and impartial. Robin Long asked, “Can it really be transparent when you don't know why you are being sentenced for speaking out?”

What we have are some very brave young men and women who want to make Canada their home. Parliament has debated this issue several times. I hope for the lives of people like Joshua Key, Jeremy Hintzman and Kimberly Rivera that we allow these war resisters to stay in Canada. We are not talking of a great number. There are some who have been in Canada for four to five years. Even on humanitarian grounds there is no reason to deport them. Many have Canadian born children. I hope that the government will open its heart for a change and listen to the stories of these young men and women and allow them to stay in Canada. I believe they make excellent Canadian citizens.

Citizenship and Immigration
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:30 a.m.

Edmonton Centre
Alberta

Conservative

Laurie Hawn Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, the member said that Vietnam and Iraq are identical. They are not identical at all. In Vietnam it was a conscripted army and in Iraq it is a volunteer army.

The member talked about Iraq. She should maybe look at what Iraq is like today. Iraq is actually in pretty good shape.

What is really outrageous is that we are taking three hours away from discussing the criminal justice agenda, justice issues that would make life safer for Canadians. The NDP is taking three hours out of that to talk about criminals from another country.

First of all, we are very pleased to welcome to Canada those who seek a peaceful life, but not criminals avoiding a lawful process in another country; another country, by the way, that shares the same values as Canada, shares the same sense of responsibility to people around the world. Why is the member presupposing judgment in the United States for these criminals if they were to return to the United States?

The member has put a lot of faith in President Obama. The NDP members seem to be enthused about the arrival of President Obama on the scene. Why is she not putting faith in President Obama to deal with these people in a humane and reasonable manner?

Citizenship and Immigration
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Olivia Chow Trinity—Spadina, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to correct a statement. The hon. member said that during the Vietnam war the people who came to Canada were all conscripted. That is not true. Some of them were, but there is a good number who fought in Vietnam voluntarily and then refused to continue fighting. Some volunteered and then decided, after seeing what other soldiers were going through, not to go at all. Of the 50,000 people who came to Canada, a good percentage of them were in fact not conscripted.

Also, we cannot presuppose that these young men and women are criminals. I talked about Sergeant Patrick Hart, who has been in the army for eight years. He is a decorated solider. To say that these people are criminals is presupposing that they have committed a crime. Can we say to a person who has refused to kill another human being that he or she has committed a crime? I do not consider that to be a crime, especially in a war that is not sanctioned by the United Nations and a war in which Canada refused to participate. I am quite proud that Canada did not send soldiers to Iraq, and as such, they did not have to go through the kind of experiences that many of these war resisters have had to experience.

We need to listen to their words. Joshua Key, for example, said that he saw a young girl being shot in the back of the head. After that experience, even though he had been there for over a year, he could not continue that kind of tour of duty and he left.

I hope that my colleague takes the time to read the account of these soldiers who are in the Iraq war and understand that some of them have been subject to a stop-loss extension, which means that they had to go back for a second, third or fourth tour of duty and they did not want to do so. There is nothing voluntary about that. They are conscripted to go back many times against their will. That is why they are here.

Citizenship and Immigration
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

10:35 a.m.

Liberal

Paul Szabo Mississauga South, ON

Mr. Speaker, this is an issue which is important for the House to consider. More important, when matters such as this one come before the House and we have the conclusion and the recommendation of the committee but none of the substantive argument, it makes it very difficult for the House to understand the compelling reasons that a particular position ought to be taken.

I would ask the member, rather than her interpretation, to give the House an indication of the substantive arguments that were made by witnesses before the committee as to why we ought not to move forward as recommended by the committee.