House of Commons Hansard #116 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was rcmp.

Topics

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Modernization Act
Government Orders

5:45 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, as my colleague before me said, Bill C-43 should go to committee, but I personally have some problems with it. The RCMP rank and file need to be given voice, not be forced to take direction from the government in the way members may or may not want to be represented.

One of the faults of one of the options in the bill is giving the commissioner of the RCMP more power and that staff relations representatives would have to report to the commissioner. I can see nothing but problems with that kind of proposal.

There were three concerns that led the Ontario superior court to find that the RCMP staff relations representative system was invalid. First, RCMP members had not had the opportunity to decide whether the SRRP was the system in which they wished to associate for labour relations purposes. In other words, they did not make a decision on that through a voting process. Second, the staff relations representative system was not sufficiently independent from RCMP management. Third, while RCMP management listened carefully to the views of staff relations representatives, it retained the ultimate decision-making authority in the SRRP consultative process.

Those are the three concerns that led to the Ontario superior court finding that the RCMP staff relations representative system was invalid. I wanted to lay those facts on the table.

After the superior court's decision, staff relationship representatives decided to comprehensively assess the labour relations needs of RCMP members and their satisfaction with the current SRRP through a quantitative study. Pollara Inc., an independent polling firm, was engaged for that assessment and 6,147 members took part in the survey. The survey has produced reliable and accurate information that can now be used to improve the SRRP to better serve the 22,000 RCMP members and address the superior court's concerns.

It also found that 65% of RCMP members who expressed an opinion were satisfied with the system and 71% of RCMP members preferred to associate in either the current SRRP or a modified version of it. I believe every member of Parliament received a copy of that Pollara report.

It is clear that the wishes of the very strong majority of the 22,000 of RCMP members were not reflected in this bill in total.

Let me be clear. Contrary to the ruling of the Ontario superior court, Bill C-43 would offer no real choice to RCMP members for how they wanted to be represented, either in a union or non-union model of representation. It is either a union or a body established by the RCMP commissioner.

Maybe there are some other alternatives that need to be considered, especially after the staff relations representatives went to their members and looked at potentially different ways of doing it. In committee that discussion can be held and if there are alternatives or other views brought forward that relate more to what the rank and file prefer, then that is the value of the bill being before committee. I hope the committee is open-minded enough to look at all the alternatives at play.

There is a feeling out there, accurate or not I am not entirely sure, that the bill could split the RCMP's existing membership into regular, civilian and special constable bodies. Some of the representatives from my province have made that very clear to me, especially those from the civilian sector of the RCMP.

As a result of this legislation, the RCMP could be treated like any other public sector union. That is one of the possibilities. That means labour groups, like PSAC, would use it as a benchmark in contract negotiations.

Finally, Bill C-43 also endangers, according to some within the RCMP, hard-fought benefits currently held by RCMP members.

There are some very strong concerns being expressed by current staff relations representatives. They are finding that the bill as currently proposed is unacceptable to a fairly strong majority of the RCMP members across the country.

The staff relations representatives informed me that they believe the RCMP is at a crossroads and faces a number of difficult challenges, especially with respect to leadership and representation. Canada's police force does not need further uncertainty and more distractions.

Members of the RCMP would certainly prefer to be focusing their energy on improving public safety rather than worrying about whether the federal government will impose a union on them.

I would also say to those RCMP members that it is critical they involve themselves in this hearing process and make their views known, because if this new system is going to work with an important police force and everything its members do nationally and internationally, and the fact that they are seen as such a model for the country, they need to involve themselves in these discussions and make their voices heard. At the end of the day, whether it is this specific legislation or improved legislation, the rank and file, certainly the majority, have to be in accommodation with this legislation.

From their perspective, Bill C-43 would create some significant problems. It is a top priority for the staff relations representatives and the membership of the RCMP. The members of the RCMP have been represented by the staff relations representatives for the past 36 years on all issues affecting members' welfare and their dignity as a force.

The current staff relations representative program is non-union representation, but in the main it has worked reasonably well. An alternative or somewhat of a take on the current system is not in this bill as it is currently written.

I would refer MPs to the RCMP magazine, Frontline Perspective, which I think has gone to most offices. In the 2010 issue, volume 4, number 2, there is a major article about Bill C-43 from representatives of the RCMP.

I want to read a couple of paragraphs from the article. I would encourage members to read the magazine article. It goes through the bill in detail. It talks about some of the good parts, some of the bad parts and some of the questionable parts of the bill.

It does show that the staff relations representatives who have written the article are into the debate in doing a critical analysis of the bill. We as members of Parliament have an obligation to take this seriously, to listen and analyze, and hopefully improve the bill as a result.

I quote from the article written by Brian Roach and Abe Townsend on page six of Frontline Perspective:

The Staff Relations Representative Program has developed through consultation with its membership a clear alternative to Bill C-43. The program forwarded this to its membership on September 29, 2010 and is noted below for your information, reference and discussion at this time.

The legislation limited the options to either a union or a body appointed by the Commissioner. This was clearly unacceptable based on the results of the recent survey of members' wishes. We have shared this document with government officials and have included it here for your feedback.

This document is not a done deal. It is simply a proposal that we would like your input on. The SRR Program believes that it reflects your views while respecting the Charter of Rights. We urge you to review this document and other associated material.

I am not going to read the whole article; I think members can do that. There is certainly mixed views on this. There is certainly mixed views within my own party and with my colleague, who will speak next. I think that is what this place is all about. It is all about debate and discussion.

To close, I have tried to outline some of the concerns that have been expressed to me by the rank and file of the RCMP and staff relations representatives. These are serious concerns.

The bottom line for me, having been a former solicitor general, is if the system is going to work, we certainly do not want all the power and authority within the commissioner's office. At the end of the day, for the system to work well, the rank and file have to be onside with how their views can be represented and brought forward, whether it is management administration within the force itself, or whether it is bringing forward issues from a policy perspective that the RCMP believes government should adopt and move forward with.

I will close with that, but again, if members want to get a very in-depth analysis of one side of the argument, I refer them to what I consider to be a very well researched, well done and quite open-minded critical analysis of Bill C-43 by the staff relations representative body of the RCMP itself.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Modernization Act
Government Orders

6 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, there are a couple of things I have noticed over the while.

First, one of the reasons morale has gone down so badly in the RCMP is the appointment of a civilian member as commissioner. I would like the member's view on whether a civilian commissioner should be given additional powers over the rank and file of the RCMP as well as senior management. It scares the living daylights out of me that this particular commissioner could have additional powers.

Second, in 2008, the member well knows that the pay council of the RCMP negotiated a 3.5% increase in salaries for 2009 and on. Unfortunately, I believe on December 21 or 23, in an email from Treasury Board to all RCMP members in the country, that pay increase was rescinded and the increase was changed to 1.5% with no consultation whatsoever. If we wonder why RCMP members want to unionize, it is to stop this nonsense happening with a dictatorial process of the government of the time.

Instead of being proactive, the government has reacted to a court decision. We firmly believe that the RCMP should be allowed to join the association or union of their choice if that is what they so desire. Other aspects of the RCMP and the civilian members can decide on their own if they wish to unionize or have an association. This would be the true democratic process.

I would like the member's comments on whether the RCMP should be allowed to determine for themselves who should represent their issues when it comes to negotiating pay and benefits with the Government of Canada.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Modernization Act
Government Orders

6 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, there were a number of questions in there. I believe it is the rank and file that should make the decision.

I want to make it very clear, and I targeted my remarks at the current staff relations representative system, that option is not in there. If members of the RCMP decide they want to go to a union, then that is their choice. If they want to go to somewhat of a take on the current system and maybe report to Treasury Board and not the commissioner, that should be their choice too, but the current bill only allows two choices, either unionize or report to the commissioner of the RCMP.

The hon. member asked should the commissioner have more power than he currently has. In my view, absolutely not. That is my personal point of view. It would be giving the commissioner too much power. If an individual has a problem within the system, somebody who is a staff relations representative has to report to the commissioner, but the commissioner is the person's boss. It makes no sense at all. No, there should be no power to the commissioner of the RCMP.

From my point of view, the Government of Canada made a terrible mistake in not appointing a commissioner from the rank and file. The next time it appoints a commissioner of the RCMP, it should be from the rank and file.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Modernization Act
Government Orders

6:05 p.m.

Liberal

Dan McTeague Pickering—Scarborough East, ON

Mr. Speaker, I know that the hon. member for Malpeque, as a former solicitor general, has a bit of experience in this area.

I have followed this case for some time. In fact, I have had several bills doing what the government apparently is not prepared to do, and well before the MacDonnell case.

Very specific to this point about the power of the commissioner, would the hon. member enlighten this House as to whether or not what the government proposes falls short of the test in MacDonnell, which of course requires that there be an offset at the very least to the power of the commissioner? That offset would be a form of collective bargaining or the right for individuals, rank and file members of the RCMP, to have more than what they have currently, which amounts to a management-run union.

I am wondering if the hon. member could give us his opinion as to whether or not the test, the demand and the requirement of 18 months would probably fail as a result of the government monkeying around with legislation and wording.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Modernization Act
Government Orders

6:05 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I could not agree with the member more. I am not sure of the number of bills the member has put forward, but probably there is no other member in the House who has put as much effort into putting legislation forward that would deal with some of the problems that members of the RCMP felt were occurring to them. The member had the courage, did the research and did the drafting to put that into legislation.

The government took parts of that. For whatever reason it did not take the whole package, and some critical areas were missing. That is, as the member said, the kind of off ramp where it would not be a management-run union. It would allow the rank and file a ways and means of having their say without fear from management, but being able to represent themselves as rank and file members, expressing their points of view, expressing their complaints into a system without fear of retaliation as a result.

Those very important aspects of the member's work were left out as the government took what it desired and drafted this piece of legislation that is called Bill C-43.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Modernization Act
Government Orders

6:05 p.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I also look forward to my colleague's speech. I think it was former Bill C-427 by the member for Pickering—Scarborough East.

I have a question for the hon. member for Malpeque, the legend from Malpeque, as we call him. When it comes to this legislation, I find it, in many regards, highly restrictive, which he has already touched on. However, could he bear down on some of the details of just how restrictive this is? One of them is the civilian staff being dictated to about its membership and about the way it is to be organized.

We always hope that when progressive legislation is brought forward in this place, especially when it comes to the rights to collective bargaining, we like to raise the bar to better representation than a group had before. This one, however, lowers the bar in many respects according to the member's speech.

The article that he pointed out is a good illustration. If he could comment on that, plus just how restrictive it is and what key amendments should be made here.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Modernization Act
Government Orders

6:05 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, the member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor made it perfectly clear when he said that the bill was very restrictive. One of the concerns that I expressed in my remarks had to do with how it could divide people within the force who feel they are all part of the same system. They could basically defy or separate in terms of their representation, from special constables to civilian members to regular members. These people all work together in one way or another. It is a total system.

Yes, there are some people on the highways and some people in criminal investigation but those people have to be connected throughout the system to do their job appropriately. The bill has the potential of dividing them into silos, which is the last thing we want to see. We see enough of that in this particular city between departments. The bill is worrisome in that regard.

The bottom line is that the bill does not allow the third alternative, which the current representative program is trying to put forward, and that is a dilemma. There needs to be that alternative so that the rank and file can make decisions on the system they want under appropriate choices.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Modernization Act
Government Orders

6:10 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure to rise today in this debate regarding the RCMP.

Although I do thank the government for bringing forward some form of legislation, the unfortunate part is that it is reactionary and not very proactive. In fact, if it were not for the courts, it would not have done this at all. It is unfortunate when a group of Canadian heroes, the RCMP and their associates, need to take an issue of association and unionization to the courts to get a fair hearing.

We know that the RCMP members, or gendarmes in Quebec, have asked for many years for the right to form a union or an association of their choice to deal with their pay and benefits when it comes to their management or with the government of the day.

Let us just go into a little history of the RCMP. It is probably one of Canada's most recognized institutions and, unlike my Liberal colleague from Winnipeg who spoke earlier, it is not a red coat. It is a red serge. Redcoats, of course, are British, and the Americans know all too well what the redcoats mean. However, it is the red serge in Canada and it is an honoured tradition for the men and women of the RCMP to wear the red serge. I have lived in British Columbia, Yukon and now Nova Scotia and I have had the chance to travel through Canada and I have yet to meet an officer who is not proud to wear the stetson and the red serge.

Their families are also part of the uniform. As members know, just like our military, they also have to deal with a tremendous amount of stress when a member of their family, either a man or a woman, goes out and does his or her job for Canada on the domestic side, as well as the many RCMP officers who are serving overseas. Many of them are in Afghanistan right now training the Afghan police force on how to run a functional police service in that country. They are also in Haiti and other countries around the world.

The reality is that it is a fundamental right for workers, in this case police officers, to form a union or an association of their choice. It is not the government's right to dictate what that union or association should be. For this bill to put handcuffs on what the RCMP may do in the future is really unfortunate and, to be quite honest, scandalous. To give a civilian commissioner any more powers than he or she already has will not go anywhere.

It was a sad day in this country when the Conservatives picked Mr. Elliott to be the Commissioner of the RCMP. Can members imagine for one second if they were to appoint a civilian as the CDS of the military? There would be an uproar in this country over that. What the Conservatives have said to those rank and file RCMP officers is, “If your goal is to one day be the top dog in the RCMP, forget about it, because we will appoint our friends, whomever we wish to get in there”.

For years we heard from Liberals and Conservatives, when it came to RCMP investigations, that the RCMP was an independent body and that it will investigate on its own what it wishes to do. However, the minute Mr. Elliott was appointed as Commissioner of the RCMP, the tentacles of the PCO and the PMO were right into the RCMP. With the recent resignation and denial of many of the senior officers of the RCMP, there is no question that the hands of the Prime Minister and the hands of the PCO are all over that, which is most unfortunate.

I attended a Depot ceremony in Regina recently at its national mourning and there had to be at least 1,000 people there. The tension could be cut with a knife between the assistant commissioners of the RCMP and Mr. Elliott. It was a beautiful day and we were all there on a beautiful sunny morning but we could feel the ice out there and that should not have to be.

The members of the RCMP should have tremendous respect for their commissioner and they would have that respect if that commissioner were one of their own. I would hope that the next commissioner comes from the rank and file of the RCMP, exactly the way it should be.

On this legislation, it is again up to the individual RCMP members and its membership to determine what is best for them. If they wish to have an association, if they wish to have a union or whatever it is they wish to do, that should be up to them, independent of government, independent of politics and independent of the commissioner. The commissioner should have absolutely nothing to say about this. It should be free and independent. I am hoping those changes at the committee stage will happen.

When it comes to the civilian members, the bill is so poorly drafted that the civilian members of the RCMP feel they are trapped. They do not understand why they may be dragged into something that they do not wish to have.

If the government had consulted with these members, which it did not, it would understand quite clearly that the civilian members of the RCMP, independent of the men and women who serve as RCMP members, should have the right, if they wish, to form an association or a union of their type or keep the status quo. That is up to them to determine. It is not up to the commissioner, it is not up to us as politicians and it is especially not up to the government to determine that for them.

Unfortunately, because I know the government's heart is not in this, which is why it is such a poorly drafted bill, a reactionary to a court decision, I suspect quite strongly that the government will drag it out through committee, drag it out through the summer and, if it comes back for third reading, it will send back to that other place where those Conservative sycophants we call senators will probably delay it until the next election, and, if we have an election, it will die. I suspect that is the Conservatives' goal at the end of the day. We have seen what these senators have done to good legislation before. When we have a government that says that it would never ever appoint Conservative senators, that it would never ever appoint its friends to the other place and it ends up appointing over 35 of them, we can understand where this is going to go.

Unfortunately, a lot of this debate and discussion will probably be all for naught because we will probably have an election within the year and this bill will probably die an unfortunate natural death.

What does this say to the morale of the men and women who serve our valoured RCMP? What we are basically saying is that the government has recognized that there is a court decision and that the government has brought forward legislation.

However, if the government really wanted to, it could work with the opposition to come up with something that works, is fair, is balanced and is truly representative of what the members of the RCMP wish to have. Then we could get this through committee fairly quickly, on to the Senate and, hopefully, although I do not think it will happen, get this through the Senate so we can say to the men and women of the RCMP, the civilian members and others that we truly respect what they wish to do, which is to have fair and collective bargaining with the management of the RCMP and the government of the day.

I remember 2008 all too well when the current government negotiated for months with the pay council of the RCMP, an independent body to negotiate pay and benefits for the RCMP. It agreed, after months of talking, to 3.5%. What happened just before Christmas 2008? An email was sent by the Treasury Board rolling back and rescinding the 3.5% to 1.5%, no ifs, ands or buts, that was it.

There is absolutely no aspect of discussion for the members in the pay council to go back to the Treasury Board and say “Whoa. We negotiated this is in fairness and in good faith and you turned around and arbitrarily destroyed it”. That is what the current government did.

One minute it talks about law and order and says that it is the party of crime fighters and everything, and yet the men and women who, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, maintain that law and order are treated with complete disregard and disdain by that government over there. It is really unfortunate. It is no wonder that morale is down?

Another aspect is that RCMP members have been asking for years for a veterans' independent program, very similar to that which veterans get. Right now, as we know, World War II veterans or Korean War veterans with a disability, or a spouse of a veteran with have a disability, can apply for a veterans' independence program that allows them to stay in their house even longer. The government would provide services for groundskeeping and housekeeping services. For those who receive the service, it is a tremendous benefit for them. RCMP members have been asking for years for the exact same benefit and for years they have been denied over and over again.

When we talk about heroes in the military and the armed forces, we should talk about RCMP members in the exact same breath. Many of them have served overseas, and many of them do the same type of work within Canada's borders.

Imagine what goes through the mind of an RCMP officer when he or she has to extract three children from a car accident on Highway 401 at 3 o'clock on a Sunday morning. Years later when these officers are looking for help, we should be able to provide them the assistance they need. One of the ways we could help them would be through the veterans independence program, to ensure they are treated with respect and dignity when they get older and retire.

We will support sending this bill to committee and hopefully we will be able to convince the government and the other opposition parties that the RCMP members themselves should be able to dictate exactly who will represent them and who will not. The days of the government telling the RCMP members in any way, shape or form what they should be doing or what they cannot do have to end, because that simply is not right.

I have heard from members of the Liberal Party, the Bloc Québécois and Conservative members why they think this bill should go to committee.

We are hopeful that rank and file RCMP members right across the country will have the opportunity, through either the Internet or personal visits, to talk to members of Parliament and tell us why they think this legislation needs to be changed, why it needs to be more representative of the men and women of the RCMP. I hope the committee will travel across the country to big and small cities, to wherever the RCMP is located.

While I am on my feet, I want to personally congratulate several members of the RCMP who have done yeomen's work for the RCMP over the years.

Mr. Jim Hill of Fletchers Lake, Nova Scotia, has given 30 years of service to the RCMP but unfortunately had to be medically released. This individual did tremendous work for his country and for the red serge throughout his career.

Another individual I would like to thank is Mr. Murray Brown. After 37 years, Mr. Brown will be retiring from the RCMP at the end of this year. He is now in staff relations with the RCMP and has done a tremendous job of educating members of Parliament and senators, literally anyone who will listen to him, about the value of the RCMP and the problems that members and their families go through, everything from insurance programs to pension clawbacks, to VIP, to PTSD, everything. Mr. Brown has been absolutely fantastic in what he has been able to do. In fact, he was instrumental in getting to most members of Parliament and senators the magazine that my colleague from Malpeque talked about.

Another big thanks to Mr. Abe Townsend, formerly of Nova Scotia and now living in Ontario. He works very hard in staff relations for the RCMP.

It is very important that members of the RCMP have an unbiased and unprejudiced opportunity to present their concerns and issues directly to senior management without fear of retribution. We have already heard about what happens to senior management in the RCMP when they raise their concerns about a particular commissioner. Their head gets cut off and they are removed or retire suspiciously early. That has to stop.

I firmly believe, and I am sure that every member of Parliament in this House believes, that the RCMP is one of the most trusted and valued institutions in Canada. It has had some bumps along the way, but the reality is that the RCMP is one of the institutions that makes this country great. I for one, and I am sure others, am very proud to know that there are many members in every community across the country who are doing a fantastic job for all of us.

At the end of the day, all members of Parliament have to respect the men and women of the RCMP and allow them, either through legislation or whatever, the opportunity to determine for themselves what is best when it comes to either forming a union or an association or whatever it is they would like to do. If we get to that point and truly respect the men and women of the RCMP, that will be a great day in Canada .

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Modernization Act
Government Orders

6:25 p.m.

Fort McMurray—Athabasca
Alberta

Conservative

Brian Jean Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I certainly like this member and his ability to talk until everybody else is asleep, which is definitely a skill that I do not have and I wish I did. He can talk and talk and he is very effective at it.

My difficulty is that this particular member and the NDP never walk the walk. They talk the talk, and this gentleman is particularly good at that, but he never walks the walk.

That is something that I would like him to do this time. Just like in the veterans affairs committee, talk is cheap, quite frankly, and he may talk yes, but he never votes yes. That is the difficulty. He never stands up behind our men and women in uniform, whether it be our military or the RCMP.

In fact, a few minutes ago I asked one of his colleagues, another NDP member, how many civilian members he actually talked to, how many he surveyed on what they wanted, to find out whether he had a good study and some good background on what he is suggesting today. I did not hear a response from that NDP member. I am hoping that this NDP member will be able to tell me how many civilian members he actually talked to first-hand.

If memory serves me correctly, he voted against increasing depot investment for the RCMP. He voted against paying RCMP members when they were being trained.

Why now is he standing and saying yes, yes, yes? Is he going to vote yes, or is he going to vote no? Is he going to stand behind the men and women in uniform, or is he going to again not do so? That is what I want to know.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Modernization Act
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6:25 p.m.

NDP

Peter Stoffer Sackville—Eastern Shore, NS

To the civilian question, Mr. Speaker, nine is the answer. I have spoken to nine civilians in my riding.

Secondly, it is so good of the Conservatives. They bring forward a budget that has 1,000 spending items. They take two items out of the budget and say, “These are good but you voted against it; you voted against the entire budget”.

The reality is that what my hon. colleague, the hon. member for Fort McMurray—Athabasca, is asking me to do is to vote confidence in him and his Conservative government.

I can assure the House that it will be a very, very sad day in this country when I vote confidence in the Conservative Government of Canada.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Modernization Act
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6:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

The next time the bill is before the House, the hon. member for Sackville—Eastern Shore will have seven minutes remaining for questions and comments.

[For continuation of proceedings see Part B]

[Continuation of proceedings from part A]

Situation in Haiti
Emergency Debate

December 13th, 2010 / 6:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

The House will now proceed to the consideration of a motion to adjourn the House for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter requiring urgent consideration, namely the situation in Haiti.

Situation in Haiti
Emergency Debate

6:25 p.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Bourassa, QC

moved:

That this House do now adjourn.

Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to thank you for allowing us to hold this debate, which, in my opinion, is extremely relevant. A number of hon. members will have the opportunity to discuss the future of Haiti in a non-partisan manner. I would also like to say that I will be sharing my time with my colleague from Winnipeg South Centre, who will speak about the situation of women in Haiti in particular.

This is an extremely important and non-partisan issue. In view of the meeting this morning between the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Mexico's Secretary of Foreign Affairs, this debate will allow us to shed some light on this issue.

Why must this debate be held today? I would like to quote Dany Laferrière, who said, “You are really dead when there is no one left on this earth who remembers your name.” We must not forget the Haitians. We must examine the situation. We must encourage and support them. The purpose of this debate is to send a message to our friends in Haiti to let them know that Canada is a player, that Canada wants to help them and that Canada will support them. But are we doing enough? Tonight's debate will help us to gain a better understanding of what is happening.

We must bear in mind that because of the earthquake on January 12, 2010, which killed over 250,000 people, there are more than 1.5 million homeless people in the country. The cholera epidemic has affected hundreds of thousands of people and, sadly, has already caused 2,200 deaths. According to UN medical experts, that number could double.

We need transparency and we need to know where the money is going. We must ask ourselves what is causing the current impasse. We have to remember that an election took place recently. The first round was on November 28, 2010. On December 7, the provisional electoral council announced the results. This sent shock waves through the country, because the people strongly suspected electoral fraud. People feel they have been tricked, and that the vote in no way reflects the current situation or the election results.

Today I would like to talk about several things, including possible solutions. I think this can be a positive, constructive debate. We will talk about the election and we must consider various scenarios. We would also like to discuss the possibility of having a special envoy specifically for Haiti, as we do for other countries. Of course we will talk about the cholera outbreak and what we can do to stop it. It seems that NGOs are experiencing some difficulties. Is there enough humanitarian aid? Is it being used wisely? We need to examine the possibility of sending a special force, the disaster assistance response team or DART—although, as we know, the Haitian government must request it—which could play a leading role in this health and humanitarian crisis.

I am extremely concerned. My interest in Haiti dates back over 25 years, and I have visited the country many times. My duties in a previous government allowed me to experience the Haitian reality first hand. Haiti has been through considerable turmoil and still today, they seem to be caught in a never-ending nightmare.

The Canadian government, no matter the political persuasion, has always invested in Haiti through CIDA. Haiti has always received the most aid or has been one of the highest priorities for Canada. Unfortunately, in light of recent events, we believe that a storm is brewing. If we do nothing, if we do not take preventive action, chaos will most definitely ensue. We must not act out of fear. However, senators in that country—they were subsequently set straight, thank goodness—said that if it would take a civil war, then so be it. That is totally unacceptable.

I salute the work of the international community, which called for order. However, many things need to be taken into consideration. With regard to the elections, there are three scenarios. The first would be to allow the process to proceed and have a recount. The Minister of Foreign Affairs talked about this today.

All ambassadors accredited to Haiti signed a press release indicating that the process must be given a chance and that there should be a recount, and that the possibilities should then be examined. That was reiterated today.

Unfortunately, when we listen to the candidates leading the presidential race, we realize that it may not necessarily happen. Mirlande Manigat was the first to refuse to participate in the recount. Michel Martelli has also refused to participate. The other 12 presidential candidates, despite their poor results, unanimously declared that they would not accept a recount.

In my opinion, the role of the international community is to provide assistance. We are not there to dictate anything. We are there to provide guidance. We must provide technical assistance, and we must also encourage people and empower them. What is problematic is that the trust of the people and the candidates in the current government is dwindling.

We have to consider an interesting alternative. Since the first round of elections was held on November 28 and the runoff elections are to be held on January 16, the episcopal group and civil society are suggesting that the runoff election on January 16 become the first round with a simple majority.

There is a word in Creole that sounds exactly like a word in French and that is the word “magouille”. The word “magouille” means exactly the same thing in French and in Creole: a shady deal. People do not trust the system because they wonder how a ballot box can be recounted when that box was stuffed in the first place. An alternative should be considered such that candidates will all run again, the difference being that the first past the post will be elected president. The same would apply to the legislative elections.

There is another option and that is to cancel the vote. To me, there is a problem with cancelling a vote and starting over. In 2004 there was a provisional government, a government of technocrats. Things started off well, but certain problems needed to be taken into consideration and I do not think it is adequate.

I truly believe that we have to give the process a chance. Our role is not to dictate a result. We are not there to pick a candidate and say this is our champion. This is not the case. Our role is to make sure we will respect the process. It is about democracy. We want to help the people cast their votes and make sure that the way it goes, the way the votes are calculated, will be accurate. This is the trust link that we have to build among the Haitian people.

Frankly, if the people who are supposed to accept the recount process are not willing to do so, I think we should go for another option.

A special envoy would allow us to develop political and diplomatic ties.

Since all of my colleagues will be speaking later, I will close by saying that the Creole language is quite descriptive and says exactly what it means. In Creole they say, “Yon chen gen kat Patti Men, li p'ap ka pran yon sèl chemen.” That means that a dog might have four legs, but it can only go down one path.

That is probably what we should do as politicians. There may be many possibilities, but we can only go down one path and that is the path of freedom, hope and respect for the people. Let us help the people of Haiti restore this pearl of the Antilles to its glory days. Ensem ensem nou fo Kin Ben Pa lagué.

Situation in Haiti
Emergency Debate

6:35 p.m.

Calgary East
Alberta

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs and to the Minister of International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, as the hon. member has rightly pointed out, Haiti is a priority for Canada. Canada has always stood up for the people of Haiti. When the earthquake took place, Canada stood up. The Minister of Foreign Affairs and the minister responsible for CIDA worked very hard.

We, including NGOs from all over the country, have contributed a tremendous amount of money. We have invested heavily there. I agree with the hon. member that there are fault lines gradually coming. The elections he talked about, these are the fault lines. As members will note when the minister speaks and everybody else speaks, we are heavily engaged in trying to close those fault lines. We will work together in this aspect to ensure that.

I just want to remind my colleague on the other side, when he talks about the special envoy, that a former Governor General, the Hon. Michaëlle Jean, has been appointed by the UN Secretary General as a special envoy to look at the case of Haiti. I think Canada has very much stood out at the front, and I am sure we will be working with him over the course of tonight as we discuss this important issue.