House of Commons Hansard #44 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was judges.

Topics

Security of Tenure of Military Judges Act
Government Orders

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Bev Oda Durham, ON

moved that Bill C-16, An Act to amend the National Defence Act (military judges), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Security of Tenure of Military Judges Act
Government Orders

10:05 a.m.

Ajax—Pickering
Ontario

Conservative

Chris Alexander Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I stand this morning with great pleasure in support of a bill that addresses the urgent need to ensure the proper functioning of our military justice system.

I will begin by reminding all members that our debate--

Security of Tenure of Military Judges Act
Government Orders

10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order, and I do apologize to my hon. colleague. I should inform you that there have been consultations and I am hopeful that the House will give its consent to the following motion: That, notwithstanding any Standing Order or usual practices of the House, when the House begins debate on the second reading motion of Bill C-16, an Act to Amend the National Defence Act (military judges), one member from each recognized party and the member from Saanich—Gulf Islands, who shall divide her time with any of the following members, the member for Richmond—Arthabaska, the member for Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, the member for Ahuntsic, and the member for Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, may speak to the second reading motion, after which the said bill shall be deemed to have been read a second time and referred to a committee of the whole, deemed considered in committee of the whole, deemed reported without amendment, deemed concurred in at report stage and deemed read a third time and passed.

Security of Tenure of Military Judges Act
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10:05 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

Does the hon. parliamentary secretary have the unanimous consent of the House to present the motion?

Security of Tenure of Military Judges Act
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10:05 a.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Security of Tenure of Military Judges Act
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10:05 a.m.

Conservative

Chris Alexander Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise again in support of the bill that addresses the urgent need to ensure the proper functioning of our military justice system.

The bill comes to us in the context of two facts that I think all hon. members will recognize. One, a legal circumstance that places additional pressure on all of us to ensure the smooth functioning of our military justice system, one that has served Canada well for decades. We just celebrated the centenary of the Office of the Judge Advocate General without a challenge to its constitutionality. I will come back to that issue and delve into the circumstances that have led to a danger of that happening.

This is a measure that has been considered in the House three times during three previous Parliament when bills were brought forward that provided for exactly the very limited measures that are provided for in this bill. They died on the order paper, despite two days of debate in the House in the last Parliament and five days of debate in committee in the last Parliament. These issues have been thoroughly ventilated among all of us.

They have received the benefit of the views of the members opposite in committee and in the House, and our consultations to date lead us to believe that, on this narrow but important issue of the independence of military judges, there is a consensus among the parties represented in the House to move forward with alacrity and to ensure that trial by court martial in this country's military justice institutions continues to take place in full conformity with the law and the continuing modernization of our civilian, civil and military justice practices.

Ensuring the safety of Canadians requires that members of the Canadian Forces remain in a constant state of operational readiness. In this regard, the military justice system is a critical tool in allowing the chain of command to deal with matters directly related to the discipline, efficiency and morale of the military. Many hon. members on all sides of the House will know first-hand from their experience, and we all know from our observation of the excellence of our Canadian armed forces the importance of morale, the fundamental importance of justice that is swift, justice that is fair, justice that brings together a team that reinforces the cohesion of that team to the smooth operational functioning of a military.

It is not just a question of the institution's effectiveness, it is also a question of our military's ability to reflect the values that we as Canadians hold dear. Any Canadian soldier, private, sergeant or officers, whether they are in Libya or on a peacekeeping mission on the Golan Heights or anywhere else, will tell us that they can only do their job to the extent that they are representing and projecting Canada's values. Those values are built upon a system of law, a system of justice and that system must be fully reflected in the system of military justice that serves our military.

In the absence of such a system, our military men and women would not be able to focus on their top priority—protecting the interests of Canada and its people.

For that reason, the government, the Supreme Court of Canada and even the Constitution have recognized the importance of maintaining a robust military justice system. The military justice system must meet the unique needs of the Canadian Forces and must also be subject to the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The charter guarantees that a person who is charged with an offence has the right to be presumed innocent until proven guilty in accordance with the law in a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal.

It is on the issue of independence that I speak to the House today. The independence of the judiciary is a fundamental right of all Canadians, and maintaining that independence is an important responsibility of government. This means ensuring that Canadian courts, including courts martial, are free from real and perceived undue influences and interference.

Judicial independence, or the freedom to deliver a ruling based solely on fact and law, requires that the judge presiding over a trial have a certain level of job security and that his appointment be permanent.

That is the system we have in our civil courts and it is the system we must now have in our military justice system.

On June 2 of this year, the Court Martial Appeal Court made an important decision regarding the security of tenure of military judges. I am referring to the case of Regina v. Leblanc. This ruling assessed that the process by which military judges are appointed, currently on a five year renewable basis, does not satisfy the constitutional requirement for an independent judiciary. Therefore, the court has given Parliament six months, or until December 2, to pass remedial legislation to update the National Defence Act, otherwise, its provisions related to the appointment and tenure of military judges will be declared constitutionally invalid. This is not a new issue.

Since it took office, the government has been actively seeking to make amendments, similar to those I just mentioned, to the National Defence Act.

The enhancement of judicial independence is one issue that the government first attempted to address in 2006 with Bill C-7, which died on the order paper, as I mentioned at the outset. Since then, the government has attempted to amend the National Defence Act on two separate occasions: Bill C-45 in 2008 and Bill C-41 in 2010, both of which died on the order paper as a result of prorogation or the dissolution of Parliament.

Therefore, we cannot be taken to task for not having tried to resolve this issue earlier as circumstances literally did not permit us to bring these efforts, which we all have endorsed in one way or another, to fruition. Ideally, Parliament would have passed legislation that would have dealt with the issue of security of tenure in 2006, unfortunately, circumstances were such that this was not the case. Today, with a renewed sense of urgency on this issue, we come before this House with Bill C-16

In order to address the concerns identified in the Leblanc decision, the proposed amendments to the National Defence Act contained in Bill C-16 would provide military judges with security of tenure to the fixed age of 60, subject only to removal for cause based on the recommendations of an inquiry committee established under regulations. This is a procedure that reflects, in the military justice system, the type of removal proceedings that we see in our civilian justice system in extreme cases when it is applied to judges.

The government recognizes that 60 is an earlier age for retirement than most judges in the civilian justice system. However, we must remember that military judges are commissioned officers in the Canadian Forces, colonels and lieutenant colonels at the moment, and that the military must balance the need for an experienced judiciary with the need for physical fitness and deployability in all of its members. It is the principle of universality of service. For this reason, 60 is the maximum prescribed retirement age for all Canadian Forces members, and this must include military judges who are, of course, members of the Canadian Forces.

I would like to close by emphasizing that the government recognizes that the amendments proposed in this bill are technical in nature, but they constitute amendments that are necessary to ensure that the National Defence Act is consistent with the charter and that the military justice system operates in accordance with Canadian legal standards.

We are really talking about the modernization of our military justice system, the obligation we have to ensure that our system reflects developments in the civil justice system. I am not only speaking about our own observation as parliamentarians, as government, that this must take place, but observations that have been endorsed by the Supreme Court of Canada and by a recent decision by the military appeals court that this now take place specifically with regard to the issue of the independence of military judges.

Should Bill C-16 not move forward quickly the ability of military judges to hear cases will be put into question, causing uncertainty within the military justice system. By ensuring security of tenure to the fixed age of 60, Bill C-16 would make a significant contribution toward ensuring the continued independence of military judges within the military justice system.

Let us keep in mind that our military justice system has a long-standing and proud tradition in Canada. The Court Martial Appeal Court was created in 1959 by Parliament. It is a military justice system that is subject to civilian control, civilian supervision and civilian oversight. It is also subject to that oversight in that the Court Martial Appeal Court is a superior court of record with a chief justice of its own. It is composed only of superior court judges appointed by governor in council. Appeals from this court go directly to the Supreme Court of Canada, so our military justice system fits under the charter, under our Constitution, into a system of justice that is overseen ultimately under appeal by the Supreme Court of Canada.

Let us also put the bill into perspective. The full-time military judges of whom we speak and to which this new measure would apply number four in this country at the moment, three of whom are lieutenant colonels and one a colonel. They do handle a large amount of work. The bill really would apply to a relatively restricted field of the military justice system and our military as a whole.

This government recognizes that while urgent, the issue of judicial independence is but one of many aspects of our military justice system that requires updating. Performing a regular review of any legal system is necessary to ensure its continued relevance and effectiveness, which is why the government has also introduced Bill C-15, which proposes implementing many of the recommendations found in the 2003 report by the late chief justice Antonio Lamer.

Together, Bill C-15 and Bill C-16 represent a comprehensive response to the recommendations found in the Lamer report and in Regina v. Leblanc to ensure that our military justice system remains consistent with Canadian values.

I therefore call upon the House to support both of these important bills as they move forward. I also call upon those independent members of the House, some of whom were active in committee in reviewing the provisions now contained both in Bill C-15 and Bill C-16, to join us in moving the bills forward expeditiously in recognizing that the values we all share, the military we all support, deserves to see these technical but important updated measures move forward as quickly as possible.

It is one of our duties to our military. It is our duty to Canadians to move quickly forward on this. We need to ensure that our Canadian Forces are served by the best, the most modern, the most effective military justice system that we can have in this country at this time.

Security of Tenure of Military Judges Act
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10:20 a.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I will make my own speech in a few minutes, but I would just like to refer to the member's notion of the duty of the independent members of the House. I would like to ask the parliamentary secretary, why are we in this situation that he has to call upon them to do that? They just refused unanimous consent to a motion to move this through quickly, but they did so in an apparent retaliation for what the government refused yesterday.

I see the member is wearing a poppy. We made statements the other day on the occasion of Remembrance Day. It is traditional in the House. The Green Party has a representative here, even though it does not have party status. The Bloc Québécois has four members but no party status. These members wanted to have an opportunity to make a Remembrance Day statement, yet the government refused.

The House leader for the New Democrats, the official opposition, specifically asked for unanimous consent yesterday and it was refused by the parliamentary secretary and his party. That is why we are in a situation where there is not a free flow to see this go through. I think there is a general will that this be passed.

The government is the author of its own misfortune. Why would it refuse to allow the representatives of the Green Party and the Bloc to make a statement in observance of Remembrance Day?

Security of Tenure of Military Judges Act
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Chris Alexander Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is unfortunate that any member of the House would see fit, for any reason, to politicize an issue, to link an issue that really is, and I think the member for St. John's East would agree with me, technical in nature, that is urgent because of the judicial context now set for this issue.

Yes, there is give and take in the House. There is free flow of requests and agreements, sometimes request refusals. However, let us be clear, if this measure does not move forward expeditiously, and we had hoped it would do so today, and we still think expeditious progress for the bill is possible, those who will suffer are all of us in the House because our credibility in serving the military and the military justice system will be in doubt.

Every single member of the Canadian armed forces who is served by the court martial system, by the summary trial system, runs the risk of having the constitutionality of that system being called into question as early as December 2. Therefore, the urgency does transcend the give and take that we habitually engage in in the House. It should compel all members to reconsider their positions and to move toward expeditious passage of the bill.

Security of Tenure of Military Judges Act
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10:20 a.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Mr. Speaker, I was not going to touch on this issue, but the hon. member for St. John's East has raised it. It grieves me enormously to block unanimous consent on this matter. The parliamentary secretary's presentation on the facts and the value of Bill C-16 is uncontested from the Green Party's point of view. He presented it admirably.

However, it has been a source of great grief. I have heard from Green Party members across the country. They are stunned that independent members were not allowed to speak. Others have spoken from other parties to reflect on the sacrifices of those in previous wars and those currently in military action.

Patriotism is not something that is the exclusive province of one party on one side of the House. If anyone has politicized any issue inappropriately it was government members who two days in a row have refused the Bloc Québécois members in Parliament and the duly elected Green Party member of Parliament in speaking to Remembrance Day.

I think the matter of unanimous consent is usually negotiated. It is negotiated with goodwill and that goodwill was absent in this case.

Security of Tenure of Military Judges Act
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

Conservative

Chris Alexander Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would simply urge our hon. colleagues opposite, the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands, and those other independent members who made their views known at the start of today's debate, to find a different way of expressing their displeasure.

The decision rendered on June 2 by the Court Martial Appeal Court was one that declared our current military justice system invalid because of the lack of security of tenure for judges. The provisions of this ruling were suspended until December 2 to allow this House to act, to allow the Parliament to Canada to correct this situation. December 2 is coming quickly.

Those members have a position that they wanted to express. They are entitled to use the rules of this place for whatever ends they choose. However, I would appeal to them to choose a different context, to make a different piece of legislation, a different measure, the object of their disapproval or their disruption in this case. Military justice and the integrity of the justice system serving the Canada armed forces is too important.

Security of Tenure of Military Judges Act
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10:25 a.m.

Conservative

John Weston West Vancouver—Sunshine Coast—Sea to Sky Country, BC

Mr. Speaker, I greatly appreciated the hon. member's speech. It was very detailed and interesting. He has represented Canada's foreign affairs department in Afghanistan and he supports human rights everywhere in the world. I have a question for him: why is it important for members of the military and all Canadians to have an independent judiciary? He spoke about the Constitution in his speech and I would like him to speak a little bit more about the importance of an independent judiciary here.

Security of Tenure of Military Judges Act
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Chris Alexander Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his question. It is truly important for all members of this House to have a good understanding of what members of our Canadian Armed Forces experience. They are often deployed overseas, in such places as Afghanistan, where the justice system does not work well or even not at all. That was certainly the case in Kandahar in 2006 and it continues to be the case for several areas of justice in Afghanistan.

Therefore, it is vital that our armed forces take with them a reliable justice system that is consistent with our values. When they are deployed, they are governed by the military rather than the civilian justice system. Military justice in Afghanistan, Libya and other countries where our forces are deployed must be swift and fair and reflect the values of Canada's civilian justice system and its most recent developments.

Security of Tenure of Military Judges Act
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10:25 a.m.

NDP

Françoise Boivin Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, as my colleagues said earlier, it is rather difficult to listen to our hon. Conservative colleague tell us that we are politicizing an issue, when all the Conservatives have been doing from the beginning is ramming their bills down our throats. I would like to read a quote and ask him to comment. Manon Cornellier, who is a very respected columnist in Quebec, had this to say:

The Conservatives have a majority. They know that they will get their bills through and that they have the time to honour the best parliamentary traditions, that is, by acting in a thoughtful and insightful way and giving members, organizations and the public an opportunity to be heard. Ideally, this should be accompanied by a willingness to listen.

The government wants its bills, for example bills C-10 and C-19, to be passed post-haste. It is telling us that we are politicizing the debate, but in fact it is the one doing so. That is rather rich.

Security of Tenure of Military Judges Act
Government Orders

10:25 a.m.

Conservative

Chris Alexander Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, I have not read Ms. Cornellier's article. However, I can assure the hon. member for Gatineau that, in this case, we listened to her party and had some real in-depth discussions on this issue in the House during previous Parliaments and in committee. We agree. We agree on the independence of military judges.

I think, then, that our idea to introduce this bill efficiently and quickly reflects the best traditions of the House in terms of consultation and willingness to reach a consensus, two very common things in the history of this House. I can assure my colleague that in issues related to military justice, we intend to continue this tradition—

Security of Tenure of Military Judges Act
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10:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

I regret to interrupt the hon. member.

Resuming debate, the hon. member for St. John's East.

Security of Tenure of Military Judges Act
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10:30 a.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have an opportunity to speak to this legislation because it provides an opportunity to talk about how important the Charter of Rights and Freedoms is in our country. It is the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms that gives the reason for this piece of legislation to correct something which, in the current context, is contrary to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

This is something that was introduced into our law in 1983 and the effects of it, as we are seeing today, are still reverberating. The Charter of Rights and Freedoms is for all Canadian citizens, regardless of who they are, whether the person is a soldier, as in this case, or a criminal with a record as long as his arm, as they say in the vernacular, or an ordinary Canadian who happens to find himself or herself in front of the courts.

The charter has many provisions. This one is about section 11(d). Section 11(d) of the charter provides that any person who is charged with an offence has the right “to be presumed innocent until proven guilty according to law in a fair and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal”. Each and every word of that provision is important. Each and every word of that provision of the Charter of Rights and Freedoms has been tested and given judicial interpretation over the last 28 years since the charter came into effect. It is an important fundamental underpinning of our system of justice.

How did this case come about and why are we here? We are talking about whether judges in the military courts should have security of tenure. This is not for the judges. Some people say that judges want to have longer tenure, they want to have longer careers and do not want to be subject to being removed, laid off or not reappointed. It is not about that at all. According to the existing legislation, the military judges are appointed for a term of five years. They hear courts martial. Of course, under military justice life imprisonment could be given as a sentence, so under military tribunals, courts martial, these judges have a tremendous amount of authority and power under the law. The military justice system is a parallel one and in many ways is very different.

We will be getting into an argument about what that means in regard to a lot of other provisions in military justice under Bill C-15 when we get to that. This one has been taken out, and probably for good reason, because it is less controversial. We think this legislation should be passed swiftly.

It was part of Bill C-41 in the last Parliament, which we thought was going to pass. It went through committee and got right to the end. We even reached a compromise on a number of things and made some good amendments, but lo and behold, instead of bringing it into the House for third reading and passage, the government forgot about it, laid it aside, or for some reason did not bring it through. This was after the Court Martial Appeal Court of Canada had made this ruling on June 2. Everybody knew this was coming because this was the court of appeal, not the regular court martial where a similar decision had also been made.

The government was well aware of this then, and I think it has been wise to take it out separately and see if it could get co-operation to have it passed. We are prepared to co-operate. We are a very reasonable opposition. When we see something that needs to be done, it can be expedited. We even provided unanimous consent. Our part of unanimous consent was provided this morning to have this bill brought into law at least in the House of Commons today and be sent to the other place for speedy passage. We offered that consent because we are very reasonable and co-operative when it is appropriate to be.

Let me tell members what this case was about.

Mr. LeBlanc and other soldiers were tasked with guarding a CF-18 at a Canadian air force base. The aircraft was on standby for the Francophonie summit being held in Quebec City in October 2008. Corporal LeBlanc and his companion were one of two teams guarding the aircraft. He and his companion were on lookout, sitting in a truck parked by the hangar. His companion went off to use the washroom, and left Corporal LeBlanc sitting in the truck by himself. Lo and behold, when his pal left the truck to go to the washroom, he was inside the hangar and was away for about five minutes, a sergeant drove up next to Corporal LeBlanc's side of the truck. The trial judge found that Corporal LeBlanc had been reclining and had his eyes closed for at least 10 seconds. His eyes were closed for 10 seconds and as a result he was charged with negligence and not being vigilant in his duty under section 124 of the National Defence Act, negligently performing a military duty imposed on him.

That is what gave rise to this. He was brought before a court martial and he was convicted because the trial judge ruled that even though they did not have proper security of tenure, the trial judge thought they did and made his ruling anyway. It went to the court of appeal in the military tribunal. It said the issue was raised as to whether or not military judges were impartial. Military judges are very well trained. They are lawyers. They usually come from the judge advocate general's office. They are steeped in the rules of law and they are appointed as a judge, but they are appointed for five years. That five years may or may not be renewed.

If a judge is trying to decide a case, it is not about the judge, it is about the accused. Does the accused have an understanding that there is a standard of judicial independence so that the judge is not impartial as between him and the military? The judge, in the minds of the accused and everyone else, is dependent upon the military brass for his reappointment. The judges of the court martial appeal court are very well qualified. For example, Justice Létourneau, is one of the authors, along with retired Colonel Michel Drapeau, of perhaps the only significant text on military law in Canada. A new edition came out a week or two ago. He sat on that court. The court said that five-year renewable terms for military judges did not provide the necessary constitutional protection, especially considering the fact that it was considered necessary to give such protection to civilian judges exercising the same functions.

That is a simple explanation of how this case got to where it is. This legislation is designed to fix that. It was in Bill C-41 which passed second reading, went through committee and was reported back to the House but did not get passed. We agreed with that provision. In fact, it was this provision that was used as an excuse to fast-track the legislation. The government said that it was very important and it must get done not a month ago, but a year ago, even before the case on June 2, but it did not get passed.

We are here, reasonable as we are, and we are prepared to do it anyway because we know it needs to be done. It is important that this piece of legislation be passed in the context of understanding the importance of our Charter of Rights and Freedoms for all Canadians, including those in the military.

There will be more debate about that because there are many provisions in the National Defence Act and the military justice system that do not give the same protections to soldiers in the military justice system as civilians would have in civilian court. We will, of course, have further debate about that, but with respect to this provision, we agree.

This is not new. As I said, this has been debated many times. In my province of Newfoundland and Labrador, for example, there was a provision for provincial court judges. They are the ones who hear 95% of 96% of the cases. It turns out that back in the late 1980s, early 1990s, the Newfoundland the minister of justice could transfer a provincial court judge. The minister could simply say that the judge would now be transferred to Maine, for example, or anywhere else. Maybe the judge lives in Maine, is transferred to St. John's, but does not want to live there.

The minister of justice, the attorney general, had the power to transfer judges to Cornerbrook or wherever. The mere fact that could be done was not considered to be impartial as between Her Majesty The Queen and the accused. Her Majesty The Queen's representative, the minister of justice or attorney general, could actually move judges if the minister, for whatever reason, did not like their judgments or was not satisfied they were doing the job the justice minister wanted them to do in that jurisdiction.

That power was deemed unconstitutional and it had to be changed for impartiality. It is a mundane example, but it is a reality of the importance of the Charter of Rights. At the end of the day, that provides for our protection.

This has a long and very interesting history, but it comes up again and again. It has come up here today. It came up yesterday with respect to Mr. Khadr who is in the United States. He is called a self-confessed terrorist. He is a Canadian citizen and his rights and freedoms are important, too. Yet the government took the position before the Supreme Court of Canada that we should not recognize those rights because our neighbour wanted to try him. It was the government's actions that infringed upon his rights and the Supreme Court of Canada refused to hear the case.

These are rights for all citizens. They are not designed to protect criminals. They are designed to ensure, as the charter has, that an accused person before a court, whether it be a military court, a civilian court or any other, has the right to be tried in a fair and public way according to law. The individual is presumed innocent and tried in a public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal. Each and every one of these words is extremely important and part of the fundamental underpinnings of our judicial system, the freedoms we enjoy, the freedoms we talk about when we say that we support our veterans because they have fought for our ability to build a society that has these freedoms.

Canada has a society that has developed over the many years, through trial and error in some cases, not always making progress. It seems as if we are going to take some backward steps in the next few months with Bill C-10. We will go backward and there will be another government to go forward again. It is not always the steady march of progress, as I am sure members are aware. It depends in which direction we want to go, but in this case the Charter of Rights and Freedoms has brought a great measure of protection to our citizens and a standard by which the justice system is measured.

As to Corporal Leblanc, he was dealt with because the appeal was allowed in part. However, the part which found him guilty of neglect of duty was upheld, but only on a technicality. In that case the court martial judge thought there was security of tenure until retirement or maybe that he was ready to retire and it did not matter to him. However, the principle was a factor in the case and was enough of a factor to get it to the Court Martial Appeal Court of Canada. That is a separate court of appeal. From that court of appeal, a case can go directly to the Supreme Court of Canada, so it is a very high court.

We really did not need this case to prove it because representatives of the legal system, the military justice system and the Department of National Defence and anyone who was interested in the matter, as well as Michel Drapeau who appeared before our committee the last time, talked about this as a fundamental problem.

There are other issues we can talk about in terms of military justice. Is it necessary for those judges be officers? That is an interesting point. It has been argued before the defence committee that we should have a mix of civilian and military judges in the military justice system. It is important to understand how the military works, but it is also important to not get caught up in the culture of the military to the exclusion of the importance of having a standard justice that applies equally to citizens whether they are in the military or not. We can debate that at length.

However, in the context of this situation, we believe it is important that the military justice system not be hamstrung by a system which everyone clearly recognizes fails to meet the standard of appropriate impartiality and does not meet the constitutional test.

I have had some thoughts about the requirement of retirement at age 60. If we consider the notion that it is a military justice system, then from the day one joins the military, he or she knows there is a mandatory retirement at age 60. That is part of the system. It has nothing to do with whether one is a judge or a master corporal working on base or a general. The fact that one is appointed as a military judge, he or she still has to retire at age 60 as opposed to a Supreme Court judge who retires at age 75 or at age 70, depending on which jurisdiction. Those judges have been considered to have judicial independence. In the military, 60 is young for a judge. However, in the military context it is not considered to be a mandatory form of retirement.

There are some issues about supernumeraries, but that is a detail we do not need to get into now. If there is a mandatory retirement age of 60, at least in the context of the report on the court case itself, and I do not have the whole transcript in front of me and I do not know everything that was argued, there does not appear to be a lot of other discussion about other aspects of it. The focus was on the five-year renewable term being the issue, which is what we are dealing with now. Any possible nuances on that could perhaps be argued at another time and in another case. In this case, the provision of the five-year renewable term is clearly the one that needs to be changed.

We support that change. We support fast-tracking it. We support passing it today and sending it to the other place for consideration. However, without unanimous consent, we will have a second reading debate. It will then have to go to committee. The defence committee will have to look at it. Then it would be sent back for report stage in the House. There will be a potential debate at report stage, then at third reading. It would then go to the Senate to have it dealt with and then be passed into law. It may take some time, perhaps beyond December 2. I do not know what pace the other members in the House will take in dealing with this. We are satisfied to have it passed today and to go on to the other place. It is important that we deal with constitutional matters that are clearly agreed upon.

As the member for Saanich—Gulf Islands has said, she has no problem with the legislation, but it is a question of having other issues intertwined, which unfortunately the government has seen fit to do despite the fact that it is normal courtesy in the House to recognize an important national event like Remembrance Day. Courtesy should be extended to members to be allowed to say a few words.

Those are my remarks at second reading and I would be happy to respond to any questions or comments.

Security of Tenure of Military Judges Act
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10:50 a.m.

Conservative

Ted Opitz Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, first, I have to direct a comment to the independent member who blocked unanimous consent this morning. I note he did not remain in the House and that speaks to the ethics, integrity and values—

Security of Tenure of Military Judges Act
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10:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

Order, please. I remind all hon. members that it is not the practice of the House to make direct reference to who is or is not in the chamber. With that, I will go back to the hon. member for Etobicoke Centre, if he has a question.

Security of Tenure of Military Judges Act
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Conservative

Ted Opitz Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I apologize. I did not realize that was a rule. However, no politician in the House should walk upon the backs of Canadian Forces members, because we already stand upon their shoulders, especially on a minor political irritant or argument that would hold up something that is so fundamental to fairness to all Canadian Forces soldiers.

I have a question for the hon. member for St. John's East, who I have had the pleasure of serving with on the defence committee. He is an accomplished and intelligent individual.

The backgrounder to the legislation states that:

The military justice system is designed to promote the operational effectiveness of the Canadian Forces by contributing to the maintenance of discipline, efficiency and morale.

Former Justice Lamer of the Supreme Court states:

To maintain the Armed Forces in a state of readiness, the military must be in a position to enforce internal discipline effectively and efficiently. Breaches of military discipline must be dealt with speedily and, frequently, punished more severely than would be the case if a civilian engaged in such conduct. As a result, the military has its own Code of Service Discipline to allow it to meet its particular disciplinary needs. In addition, special service tribunals, rather than the ordinary courts—

Security of Tenure of Military Judges Act
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

Order, please. The Chair has tried to signal to the member that his time to question is over. If he could quickly come to his question, that would be appreciated.

Security of Tenure of Military Judges Act
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Conservative

Ted Opitz Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, does the hon. member and his party agree that there is a need and a place for a separate military justice system?

Security of Tenure of Military Judges Act
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, first, I thank the member for Etobicoke Centre for his kind remarks and compliment of my work on the defence committee.

The statement the member read from the report of the late Mr. Justice Antonio Lamer is an important one. It is a fundamental tenet of military justice overview. There are a number of other matters as well that become evident if one reads more closely to what Justice Lamer said. There are differences between military justice and civilian justice and part of it has to do with the operational aspect.

For example, in a combat zone, we do not have the same leisure to deal with matters, particularly if they involve discipline. I think it is widely recognized around the world that military justice is different and the need for a prompt response to matters than can affect morale and operational security is extremely important.

I agree with the general principle that there needs to be a separate military justice system, but it also must be closely examined to ensure that we do not go beyond what is necessary for the sake of having an efficient military. Indeed, it has been enunciated here that the Charter of Rights and Freedoms must be considered applicable to the situation. Although, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms itself says that it can be modified if it is proven to be necessary for operational reasons. Section 1 of the charter is an exception system.

Security of Tenure of Military Judges Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, I never cease to be amazed at the talent of this institution to turn what should be short and sweet into long and painful.

I listened to the hon. member's speech and I listened to the speech of the hon. member before him. There is not a word with which any of us disagree, yet we have now used virtually an hour's worth of time to talk about something on which we all agree.

My comment and question is that I have neither comment nor question. I urge hon. members to do the same.

Security of Tenure of Military Judges Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Mr. Speaker, I would tend to agree with him. In fact, I believe we offered unanimous consent, along with the hon. member, so this could be put into law immediately, but since unanimous consent was refused, I thought it important on the eve of Remembrance Day week that we talk about that important principle for which our veterans fight, and fought, and for which some laid down their lives, and that is the freedoms we enjoy.

This is about those fundamental freedoms--not only the fundamental freedoms of all Canadians, but in this case the fundamental rights and freedoms as they apply to our soldiers themselves.

I beg the indulgence of my former colleague on the defence committee to allow us to have this discussion and to talk about how important it is that we recognize that this is one of the freedoms contained in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms that people are fighting for. As I was going to point out to my previous colleague, the Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees the rights and freedoms that it sets out, subject only to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society. That is what we are trying to achieve in this country.

Security of Tenure of Military Judges Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

David Christopherson Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank the member for St. John's East for his comments and I certainly agree with all the compliments going his way in terms of the work he does. We are very proud of the member.

I want to clarify again with the member two things. Number one, ordinarily the public has the right to expect that the official opposition will hold the government's feet to the fire in terms of being accountable, yet here we see the opposition just lying down and letting things happen.

Second, the government members are forever saying that the official opposition, the NDP, does not support the military and does not support our troops. They say that all the time. We hear a couple of them howling now.

Would the hon. member take an opportunity to concisely explain why the official opposition is doing what it is doing today, and how the official opposition feels about our citizens in uniform?

Security of Tenure of Military Judges Act
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Jack Harris St. John's East, NL

Looking at the clock, Mr. Speaker, I do not think it gives me enough time to deal with the important questions raised by my colleague, the new defence critic, who so far, and it has only been a week or so, is doing a great job in his new role.

As the official opposition, NDP members have two roles. One is to hold the government to account, but we are also Her Majesty's Loyal Opposition, so it is about our taking a responsible position when we have legislation like this, legislation that is concise and to the point about ensuring that our soldiers have the same fundamental rights as everybody else.

We are ready to co-operate. We are ready to give voice to that. We are ready to see this put into law as quickly as possible.

The people opposite like to propagandize every chance they get by, uttering rhetorical flourishes such as “The NDP hates the military” or “The NDP does not support our troops”. All of the things they say all the time are hogwash, as I think even the hon. members who say it know, but we sometimes need to remind Canadians of that; there are more of them than there are of us for the time being, so we need to speak louder.

Security of Tenure of Military Judges Act
Government Orders

11 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

The time for questions and comments has expired, just in time for statements by members.

Veterans
Statements by Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Royal Galipeau Ottawa—Orléans, ON

Mr. Speaker, in memory of my father and my uncles, Raymond, Laurent and Rodolphe, who all served this country,

in honour of the volunteers of the Royal Canadian Legion, Don Johns, Bud Dion, Jeannine and Raymond St-Louis, Frank Stacey, and all the volunteers who offer poppies this week, this is In Flanders Fields, by John McCrae:

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below...

We are the Dead.
Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders Fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands, we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields...

Remembrance
Statements by Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Mark Adler York Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, tonight I will be celebrating Russian Unity Day with the Canadian-speaking Russian community and thanking them for their dedication to Canada.

In celebrating our cultural diversity, we are all reminded of the countless blessings we enjoy in this country, and this is a time to remember those who are protecting our freedoms.

With Remembrance Day on the horizon and Veterans' Week starting tomorrow, Canadians are remembering our past and honouring those who have served and are currently serving in uniform.

We also cannot forget the sacrifices made or the lives lost in war, which is why I stand in support of our government to create a National Holocaust Memorial. As the Minister of State (Democratic Reform) recently said:

The National Holocaust Monument will serve as a symbol of Canadian value and diversity as much as it will be a memorial for the millions of victims and families destroyed.

As the first child of a Holocaust survivor to be elected as a member of this Parliament, this monument is very meaningful to me personally and to my family. Furthermore, from November 1 to November 11, the annual Holocaust Education Week is an effort to educate all Canadians about the Holocaust.

I call on all members of this House to support these important events and initiatives.

Monsignor Percy Johnson Catholic High School
Statements by Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to celebrate Monsignor Percy Johnson Catholic High School in Etobicoke North, its principal Susan Souter, teachers Joe Paczuski and Marcella Porretta, and their students.

Ms. Porretta is described as an exemplary leader and an inspiration to the students, tireless in her dedication to fostering community and compassion among youth, and a saint of education and community.

Ms. Porretta formed a Me to We chapter of 130 students who give up weekends to volunteer in the community and who have fundraised over $20,000 for schools in Sierra Leone and Ecuador.

I had the honour of attending their community harvest brunch, and was humbled, overwhelmed and forever touched by the generosity and kindness of the Me to We club and their teachers.

I celebrate them all and look forward to attending their next event.

New Democratic Party of Canada
Statements by Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Peterborough, ON

Mr. Speaker, there was disunity in the NDP ranks again yesterday as the NDP leadership hopeful and member for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou distanced himself from the NDP's stance towards a hypothetical sovereign Quebec.

While the NDP is contradicting itself on hypothetical constitutional matters, our Conservative government remains focused on the top priority of Quebeckers and all Canadians, jobs and economic growth. This is yet another worrying example of the NDP and its priorities and policies.

Now that the NDP has set a precedent by punishing two of their MPs who refused to follow the orders of their leader on the Conservative government's bid to end the wasteful and ineffective long gun registry, will the MP for Abitibi—Baie-James—Nunavik—Eeyou suffer the same fate? There seems to be a real democratic deficit over there. The NPD is not allowing MPs to vote their conscience.

City of Rimouski
Statements by Members

11:05 a.m.

NDP

Guy Caron Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, a recent study by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business—the CFIB—entitled “Communities in Boom” ranks Rimouski in 11th place among Canadian cities and second in Quebec when it comes to entrepreneurial vision.

There is no denying that small and medium-sized businesses are what drive the economic development of the Lower St. Lawrence and, as the vice-president and chief economist of the CFIB said, “...independent businesses and start-ups are vital sources of energy on which communities grow and flourish”.

In a press release, the mayor of Rimouski, Éric Forest, highlighted the hard work of Chantal Pilon and the Société de promotion économique de Rimouski. She and her team work with entrepreneurs every day to promote the economic and social well-being of their community.

Positive results can be achieved when we work hard and work together. That is why I would like to increase our efforts to promote unity among the socio-economic players in my riding, so that the other communities in my region can experience the same optimism, confidence and success. May they keep up the good work.

Asbestos
Statements by Members

11:05 a.m.

NDP

François Lapointe Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, on Wednesday, a number of Conservative MPs took the moral high ground and chose not to vote against the NDP motion, and I commend them for that today. The hon. members for Sarnia—Lambton, Ottawa—Orléans, Lethbridge, Edmonton—Leduc and London West chose not to spread disease among thousands of workers, not to prevent the creation of an assistance plan for the asbestos regions and not to tarnish the reputation of the House or of Canada.

The same cannot be said about the vast majority of Conservative caucus members, who turned a deaf ear to the colleges of physicians, which insisted that protecting health must come before political interests.

It is time for this government to face the facts and change its position on asbestos.

Remembrance Day
Statements by Members

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Harold Albrecht Kitchener—Conestoga, ON

Mr. Speaker, in the next number of days Canadians will pause to remember. Lest we forget.

I rise today to honour Canada's veterans and salute those who help us remember.

Cambridge artist Dave Sopha wanted our soldiers' sacrifice in Afghanistan to be remembered. After two and a half years and 6,500 hours of work, the portraits of honour was completed in May of this year. One hundred and fifty-seven of our soldiers will each be remembered larger than life in intimate detail on a 40-foot by 10-foot mural.

Thanks to the support of Kin Canada, hundreds of thousands of Canadians have taken the time to view and to remember. We will remember them as individual heroes with families, thanks to Dave Sopha's creation.

I ask all Canadians to join me in celebrating Dave Sopha and the tens of thousands of veterans, volunteers and sponsors who organize remembrance events in communities across Canada.

Lest we forget.

Innovative Wood Construction Awards
Statements by Members

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Greg Rickford Kenora, ON

Mr. Speaker, last night was a very special night for northwestern Ontario at the Ontario Wood WORKS! gala for innovative wood construction.

FedNor sponsored Wood WORKS! recognizes excellence in the cutting-edge use of wood products in commercial and community projects designed and made in Ontario. Plenty of great projects were recognized all across Ontario, and I congratulate them all, but in the end it was the great Kenora riding's time to shine, taking home not one, not two, but three awards: the Institutional Wood Design Award under $10 million for the Lake of the Woods Discovery Centre, the Northern Ontario Excellence Award for the Sioux Lookout Meno Ya Win Health Centre, and the best overall architect award to Nelson Architecture of Kenora.

Forestry is a critical part of northwestern Ontario's past, present and future. We are just plain good with wood.

I want to thank the Wood WORKS! program for helping to raise the profile of our wood design and production excellence. Northwestern Ontario wood works, and our achievements last night are further examples of what is so great about the great Kenora riding.

Prime Minister's Award for Teaching Excellence
Statements by Members

11:05 a.m.

NDP

Dan Harris Scarborough Southwest, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am very honoured to stand again to say how proud I am that two teachers in my riding of Scarborough Southwest are recipients of this year's prestigious Prime Minister's Award for Teaching Excellence.

The second teacher I would like to recognize is Al Baigent, a teacher at Neil McNeil Catholic Secondary School.

The award-winning leadership program that Mr. Baigent has developed is an asset to his students, their families and our community as a whole. Students in his program are developing critical leadership skills that prepare them for the future.

In addition to his incredible work in the classroom, Mr. Baigent is also very involved in extracurricular sports activities, organizing local cross-country running events as well as helping to coordinate province-wide track meets. Mr. Baigent also leads many school trips locally and abroad and shares his expertise with new and interested teachers. Our community is truly privileged to have such a passionate, creative and dedicated teacher working in our schools.

I want to extend my sincere congratulations to Mr. Baigent on receiving this year's Prime Minister's Award for Teaching Excellence and thank him for the commitment he demonstrates on a daily basis to the students at Neil McNeil.

Polish Independence Day
Statements by Members

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Ted Opitz Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, Polish Independence Day will be celebrated on November 11 by Poles around the world.

Ninety-three years have passed since Poland regained its independence as a free and democratic state. All Polish people are rightly proud of this achievement and have guarded that hard-fought independence throughout the 20th century.

Two years after its re-establishment in 1920, the fledgling Polish state faced its greatest challenge when the Soviet Red Army invaded Poland. Against all odds, the Polish military repelled the Red Army, thereby saving western Europe from a Communist fate. This resolute commitment to freedom has always defined the Polish spirit.

This year's commemoration marks the end of another era in the history of Poland's fight for the cause of freedom with the passing of Brigadier-General Tadeusz Sawicz, who had lived in Canada since 1957 and was the last known Polish veteran of the Battle of Britain.

A week from now, when we commemorate Remembrance Day and Poland celebrates its Independence Day, let us remember the invaluable contributions of those soldiers who fought for their freedom and ours.

Abitibi-Témiscamingue International Film Festival
Statements by Members

11:10 a.m.

NDP

Christine Moore Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, the 30th international film festival in Abitibi-Témiscamingue closed yesterday evening. This festival proves that culture is alive and well in the remote regions. Every year, this festival showcases outstanding animated, short and feature films and everything in between .

I would like to point out that two hon. members from this House contributed to these films. We can hear the hon. member for Timmins—James Bay singing and providing commentary in the documentary by Richard Desjardins and Robert Monderie called Trou Story or The Hole Story which paints a picture of the mining industry in Canada. The hon. member for Manicouagan plays a role in the fictional feature film Mesnak, the first such film directed by a member of the first nations, namely Yves Sioui Durand, who does a fine job paying tribute to first nations peoples. This year, the Grand Prix Hydro-Québec went to director Philippe Falardeau for his film Monsieur Lazhar.

In closing, I would like to congratulate the three co-founders of the festival, Mr. Matte, Mr. Dallaire and Mr. Parent, on receiving the Quebec National Assembly medal. Congratulations, gentlemen, on your accomplishments.

Immigration
Statements by Members

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Paul Calandra Oak Ridges—Markham, ON

Mr. Speaker, yesterday our Conservative government announced that it is planning to welcome more federal skilled workers in 2012. In fact, it plans to welcome over 55,000 federal skilled workers in 2012, up from 47,000 last year.

I am also proud to inform the House that, after the previous Liberal government left us with a massive backlog of applications and very long wait times, our government took actions that are showing great results.

Despite opposition from both the NDP and the Liberals, our government has cut the backlog left by the Liberals in half, which is two years earlier than expected. Now skilled workers are waiting only months, not years, to have their files processed.

Our Conservative government's number one priority remains the economy. We recognize the importance of immigration to our economy and we value the contributions of skilled immigrants who add to our international competitiveness in the global economy. Our government remains committed to attracting the best and brightest to our country.

Michel Bilodeau
Statements by Members

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, today I wish to pay tribute to the success of a passionate man who has put his heart and soul into the collective well-being of our children. His career is winding down, at least for now. Michel Bilodeau will be retiring this week, after five years at the helm of CHEO, the Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario. This marks the end of a 34-year career in the health care sector. Earlier in his career, he was the CEO of health services at the Sisters of Charity of Ottawa. In recognition of his work, he was named personality of the week by the newspaper Le Droit.

A fellow of the Canadian College of Health Leaders, Michel has always been very involved in Canada's health care sector, including sitting on boards for a number of organizations, including the Ontario Hospital Association and the Ontario Council of Teaching Hospitals.

I wish you, Michel, and your wife Jocelyne a wonderful retirement that is just busy enough. Thank you for everything, Michel. We hope you enjoy both your retirement and a few good bottles of wine.

Veterans
Statements by Members

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

Randy Hoback Prince Albert, SK

Mr. Speaker, in 1939 the world was again at war. Canada again answered the call. From the Battle of the Atlantic, to the Pacific theatre, to Juno Beach, and of course the liberation of the Netherlands, we fought above our weight.

Over a million Canadians and Newfoundlanders left to serve our country and more than 45,000 did not return, a truly remarkable sacrifice for a young nation with a population of only 11 million people.

These courageous men and women brought honour and respect to our country. It is our duty to preserve the legacy they handed to us and to ensure that their selfless dedication is never forgotten.

This Veterans' Week we will honour the generations of Canadians who bravely served this country and those who wear the Canadian uniform with pride today. Lest we forget.

Helicopter Crash
Statements by Members

11:15 a.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, Wednesday's helicopter crash south of Kapuskasing, near Clear Lake, which took the lives of three northern Ontario residents, will echo through the communities along the Highway 11 corridor and North Bay for a long time.

What should have been just another day at work for the pilot, Greg Sawyer of North Bay and his two passengers, Tembec employees Dan Simis of Val Rita and Chad McQuade of Kapuskasing, ended in the worst way possible: they were killed in the prime of their lives. A tragedy like this affects the victims' families, friends, colleagues and employers, and hits these tightly woven communities in northern Ontario hard.

This reminds us just how precious life is and that nothing should be taken for granted. I ask the members of this House to join me, my provincial counterpart Gilles Bison, the mayor of Kapuskasing and the people of Tembec in offering our deepest sympathies and sincere condolences to the families, friends and colleagues of these men.

Veterans
Statements by Members

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

Lois Brown Newmarket—Aurora, ON

Mr. Speaker, Nellie McClung once said, “People must know the past to understand the present and to face the future”.

As we approach Veterans' Week, I would like to take a moment to reflect on the important role of women in Canada's proud military tradition.

As members of the armed forces, whether serving in air, on land or on sea or as civilians providing support roles, the contribution of women to Canada's military history has been as diverse as the women themselves.

They kept the home fires burning, nursed injured soldiers and served in conflicts around the world. They have fought and died to defend and protect Canadian values. No matter what challenges and dangers they faced, Canadian women answered the call.

We will remember them.

Employment
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, New Democrats have been pointing out daily that the Conservatives have no jobs plan. With the devastating job loss numbers announced today, maybe now the government will finally listen. Unemployment is once again on the rise. Canada lost 72,000 jobs in October alone, most of them from the high-value-added manufacturing sector.

When will the Conservatives change their course of action and make job creation the priority? Where is the plan?

Employment
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, job creation and economic growth have been and will continue to be our number one priority as a government.

We are pleased with the 600,000 jobs that have been created since the bottom of the recession in July 2009, but we deeply sympathize with anyone who lost their job this past month. As we have said all along, Canada is not immune from the global economic turbulence in the United States and Europe, but the House can be assured that this government will maintain its focus on jobs and economic growth.

Employment
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, just like its jobs plan, that answer does not cut it.

The 72,000 Canadians who lost their jobs last month know that the government has abandoned them. There are almost 300,000 more unemployed Canadians today than in July 2008, and that was just before the recession that the government could not even see coming.

What is the Conservatives' message for those out-of-work Canadians and their families? Is it, “Just wait for the next corporate tax cuts and all will be well”? It has not worked and it will not work. People need to go back to work now.

Employment
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, job creation and economic growth are the centrepiece of the next phase of Canada's economic action plan.

Right now before the House, we have an important measure to help protect and create jobs such as the hiring credit for small business. What we need is for the New Democratic Party to stand up and support that initiative, to support small business, to support the economic engine of our economy.

We will remain focused on job creation. When will the NDP stand up and support that initiative to help our small businesses?

Employment
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

NDP

Guy Caron Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Conservative numbers are clearly bogus. The government can play with statistics as much as it wants in order to mask its failure, but the reality is that the unemployment rate rose in October: 72,000 full-time jobs were lost.

Can the Conservatives stop pretending? The government's economic inaction plan is not creating jobs; it is creating victims. What will the government do about the 72,000 full-time jobs that were lost? Will it replace them with 18,000 part-time jobs and declare a victory?

Employment
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, our priority is job creation and economic growth. We will continue to work on our economic action plan. We have created 600,000 jobs in the past two years, but we will continue to work harder to grow the economy and create jobs. That is the real priority for Canadians and for our government.

Canada Revenue Agency
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

NDP

Guy Caron Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, the number of troubling revelations about the Canada Revenue Agency is growing. We are talking about an extortion scheme and bribes paid by entrepreneurs in exchange for substantial tax reductions. The RCMP's investigation into this corruption, which was focusing on the Montreal office, has now been expanded to include other Quebec offices.

Can the government confirm the news and tell us what measures it has taken to tighten controls at the Canada Revenue Agency?

Canada Revenue Agency
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo
B.C.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, the government appreciates that these are very serious allegations. An RCMP investigation into this matter is ongoing, and CRA officials are co-operating fully. Many of these allegations date back more than a decade, and some of these cases are currently making their way through the courts.

The integrity of our tax system is very important to all Canadians and we will take all steps necessary to ensure it is protected.

Canada Revenue Agency
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

NDP

Guy Caron Rimouski-Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, the corruption investigation started in the Montreal office and now has spread. Other Quebec offices are under investigation. The growing scope of this investigation is raising questions about the state of the CRA as a whole. Canadians expect this agency to operate with impeccable integrity.

Conservatives need to clear the air about these troubling corruption allegations. Can the government tell us if it has asked for an investigation all across Canada? What is it doing to restore the confidence of Canadians?

Canada Revenue Agency
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo
B.C.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Revenue

Mr. Speaker, we absolutely agree that the integrity of our tax system is important to all Canadians. Our government will take any steps necessary to ensure it is protected. An RCMP investigation into these matters is ongoing, and CRA officials are co-operating fully.

Auditor General
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is becoming increasingly clear that the Conservatives, by toying with the process and appointing an anglophone auditor general, have violated one of our country's basic values. When the job posting states that proficiency in French and English is an essential hiring condition for the position of Auditor General, it does not meant that bilingualism is an asset qualification; it is an immutable condition. It is part of the qualifications. If the candidate is not bilingual, then the candidate should not be offered the job.

Will the Prime Minister recognize that the government erred in its flawed process and that the only thing left to do is to start from square one and appoint a bilingual auditor general?

Auditor General
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, we chose the best candidate who applied for the position of Auditor General. This candidate is highly qualified. He will do a good job.

What is increasingly clear is that the Liberal Party wants to use this issue to divide Canadians. This individual has committed to learning our second language, and we should be very proud of that fact.

Auditor General
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, this tainted process is now affecting the Office of the Auditor General of Canada. I have just learned that Michel Dorais, who is one of the independent members of the audit committee and has been a senior public servant for over 30 years, has just resigned, stating that he cannot “continue to serve...while accepting that the incoming auditor general does not meet an essential requirement for the position.” Michel Dorais has spent his entire career fighting for bilingualism in the public service.

What are the Conservatives waiting for to show respect for all Canadians and for Michel Dorais as a bilingual individual?

Auditor General
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, this government strongly supports the official languages of this great country. We are pleased that the best candidate for the job has agreed to learn French.

What is interesting is the double standard of the Liberal Party. When the last Liberal prime minister, Paul Martin, appointed a unilingual anglophone as his finance minister, was that member standing to complain? No. He was standing right behind that decision. If it is good enough for a minister of finance to be unilingually English, why is it not good enough for the best candidate to be appointed as Auditor General and who has committed to learning French?

Auditor General
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, we do not want an auditor general for the government; we want an auditor general for Parliament and for all Canadians.

Now we learn that one of the two independent members of the AG internal audit committee, a distinguished ex-deputy minister of over 30 years, Michel Dorais, submitted his resignation this morning. Why? It is because for him bilingualism was no longer an issue of convenience or communication but a question of competency.

I have his letter in my hand. Let us have no more excuses. What must be done is to make the Prime Minister come to his senses and launch a new selection process. Canadians want that. What will he do about it?

Auditor General
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, we have a new Auditor General, someone who embraces our official languages, someone who has committed to learning French, which is tremendously important.

Eighty per cent of Canadians do not have bilingual qualifications. There is a role for them. This individual has committed to learning French, but, again, this is one rule for the public service and another rule for the Liberal Party. The Liberal Party was quite happy to have a unilingual anglophone who did not speak French, despite serving in Parliament for 30 years, and yet it puts another rule on everyone else. Is there one rule for the Liberal Party and another rule for Canadians?

Ethics
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Mathieu Ravignat Pontiac, QC

Mr. Speaker, Michael Chamas, who is currently facing international drug trafficking charges, attended a Conservative fundraising event in 2008. The former foreign affairs minister and current Minister of State for Small Business and Tourism introduced this person, saying that what the party needed was support from people like him who believe in themselves, because in the end, they are the ones who will create wealth and jobs and really make something of themselves.

Will the Minister of State for Small Business and Tourism admit that his comments were completely inappropriate coming from a minister?

Ethics
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Beauce
Québec

Conservative

Maxime Bernier Minister of State (Small Business and Tourism)

Mr. Speaker, as I have publicly stated many times, the first and only time I met that individual was at a public event. That person asked to have a photo taken with me, and I agreed. I have not seen that person since.

Ethics
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Mathieu Ravignat Pontiac, QC

Mr. Speaker, Mr. Chamas donated $5,000 in cash to the Papineau Conservative Party riding association. He even gave the former foreign affairs minister a gift-wrapped parcel. The minister's assistant wrote that the RCMP had called to say that everyone present at that event had been placed under close surveillance.

Can the Minister of State for Small Business and Tourism tell us why he was there?

Ethics
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I am not sure questions about donations for political parties by private individuals count as administration of government, but I do see the government House leader rising to answer.

Ethics
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, I will simply say that we respect all aspects of the Elections Act and all those that relate to political financing.

Ethics
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Malcolm Allen Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, when it comes to meeting with shady businessmen, Canadians expect more from cabinet ministers and expect good judgment from all of us in the House today.

However, the Minister of State for Small Business and Tourism was at a meeting with an accused gunrunner and where he saw cash-stuffed envelopes were being passed around.

Will the minister of state stop stonewalling and please tell Canadians what his role was in this fiasco?

Ethics
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, it is quite clear that if anybody has any information suggesting that any law has been broken, they should bring that forward; otherwise, they should resist the temptation to simply make smears, such as the opposition member wishes to do right now.

Ethics
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Malcolm Allen Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, we see corruption at the CRA, a cabinet minister carousing with accused gun smugglers and stonewalling on their G8 slush fund. It has not been a good week for Conservatives. In fact, as one newspaper editorial put it this week, “Is the Prime Minister getting a queasy feeling? He should be. This isn't pretty”. How true.

On Wednesday, the Muskoka minister failed to answer questions at committee and flailed around while he was there. However, he did promise one thing. He promised to send an evaluation of his pork-barrel projects.

Will the minister table those documents today?

Ethics
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, the President of the Treasury Board attended committee, as I did and as three deputy ministers did, and answered all questions that members had on this issue.

The Auditor General has confirmed that all money was spent appropriately. Every dollar has been accounted for, and all the money that was spent was on public infrastructure.

Ethics
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Jamie Nicholls Vaudreuil-Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, on Wednesday, not only was the President of the Treasury Board asked to hand over the FedNor evaluation done by Tom Dodds, but he was also asked to give Parliament the project applications that went directly through his constituency office, to which the President of the Treasury Board responded, “Sure.”

The person who controls our country's spending must keep his promises. When will we see these documents?

Ethics
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, the President of the Treasury Board spent two hours answering all the members' questions in committee and also answered them here in this House. He responded to all the requests of the Auditor General and to each request for documents that she made.

The government works very hard to ensure that every dollar goes towards public projects, projects for municipalities and provincial infrastructure projects and every dollar went to those needs.

Ethics
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Jamie Nicholls Vaudreuil-Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, the President of the Treasury Board's testimony left us with more questions than answers. As if by magic, of the 242 projects proposed, only 33 remained. Who in the government assessed the relevance of these projects? Why did no department document the process?

Canadians have a right to know, and this government has a duty to be transparent. When will we finally get the truth?

Ethics
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Ottawa West—Nepean
Ontario

Conservative

John Baird Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, before committee, all the questions were given responses.

With respect to the 32 projects that received funding, all of them were evaluated by public servants of Infrastructure Canada who deemed that every one of those projects were eligible under the criteria established before the program. Each one of those 32 projects had a contribution agreement that was prepared by the public service and signed off by the relevant authorities.

The reality is that the President of the Treasury Board answered every question at committee. I regret that the New Democratic Party is not prepared to accept answers for those questions.

Atomic Energy of Canada Limited
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

NDP

François Lapointe Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the government quietly revealed that it will spend more than $800 million on AECL this year alone.

Many people may say that massive overspending on the nuclear crown corporation is par for the course for the government, but what is different this time is that it has already sold most of the business to a private company.

Why is the minister hanging taxpayers out to dry while subsidizing privatized nuclear power?

Atomic Energy of Canada Limited
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Cypress Hills—Grasslands
Saskatchewan

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, the reason that we have sold this to a strong private sector partner is precisely for that reason. We agree that AECL is costing taxpayers too much money, and that is why we moved ahead.

Actually, if the NDP had its way, there would not be a nuclear job in this country. It would cost Canadians 30,000 jobs.

We are moving ahead, protecting taxpayers and protecting industry at the same time.

Atomic Energy of Canada Limited
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

NDP

François Lapointe Montmagny—L'Islet—Kamouraska—Rivière-du-Loup, QC

Mr. Speaker, the government has botched the sale of Atomic Energy of Canada Limited. Furthermore, it was not transparent about the process, and we are now seeing the results. We have learned that the sale of the CANDU reactor division has cost $280 million and that the return on investment was only $15 million. That is a net loss of $265 million for Canadians, who had already paid $21 billion to support Atomic Energy of Canada Limited ever since it was created.

Starting in 2012, will this government stop running Canada's energy resources at a loss?

Atomic Energy of Canada Limited
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Cypress Hills—Grasslands
Saskatchewan

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, our government is taking a responsible approach. We are protecting taxpayers' interests while ensuring the future of the nuclear industry in Canada.

My colleague mentioned that there are 2,000 jobs in Mississauga alone that are connected to the nuclear industry. We are proud to protect those jobs. The NDP keeps talking about jobs for Canadians. We are protecting those jobs.

In this transition, I need to point out that the costs are actually lower than they were initially estimated to be. We have saved hundreds of Canadian jobs through doing that.

As the member mentioned, the costs associated with this divestiture are well known to the public.

Canadian Wheat Board
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, late last night, the heavy hand of the state came smashing down to destroy a great Canadian institution. It was a sham, it was a travesty and it would surely offend the sensibilities of anybody who would call themselves a democrat.

All that is left now is to pay for the minister's ideological zeal to kneecap the Canadian Wheat Board. With no money for social programs, no money for affordable housing and no money for the environment, where will the government find $500 million to live out the fantasy of that minister's obsession to destroy the Canadian Wheat Board?

Canadian Wheat Board
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Cypress Hills—Grasslands
Saskatchewan

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, is it just me or is there a bit of irony in the fact that the member opposite wants to legalize marijuana but criminalize grain?

I also need to point out that we did meet last night, and one of the amendments that the NDP wanted to bring forward, which the Liberals supported, would actually have jailed farmers again. We were not prepared to go there.

Farmers woke up this morning thrilled to finally hear that Bill C-18 has been returned to the House. We will soon have a debate at report stage and third reading. Farmers only have a few more sleeps until they have freedom.

Auditor General
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, my question is quite straightforward. Why did the Conservative government not follow the example set by its own leader, the current Prime Minister, in its choice of a nominee for the next auditor general? Why did it not respect the criteria published in the Canada Gazette and recommend a nominee proficient in Canada's two official languages, a requirement it set at the start of the process?

Auditor General
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Parry Sound—Muskoka
Ontario

Conservative

Tony Clement President of the Treasury Board and Minister for the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario

Mr. Speaker, as I am sure the hon. member is well aware, there is no language requirement in the Auditor General Act, which is the act that governs the Auditor General.

Regardless of that, we did search out bilingual candidates. However, at the end of the day, when looking at all of the different merits of the candidates, we chose the person who was the most meritorious, which is what one must do in a position like this. We stand by that appointment.

Mr. Ferguson has already promised to learn French and wants to learn French. The hon. member should give him the benefit of the doubt.

Auditor General
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, a few days ago I asked the government if it realized that it was opening Pandora's box by failing to observe its own selection criteria for the next Auditor General. This morning, we caught a glimpse of the first repercussions of their stubbornness: the Commissioner of Official Languages, the President of the Public Service Commission of Canada, all opposition parties and a Conservative senator are opposed and now a member of the Auditor General's internal audit committee has resigned.

Is it not time to stop this stubbornness?

Auditor General
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Parry Sound—Muskoka
Ontario

Conservative

Tony Clement President of the Treasury Board and Minister for the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario

Mr. Speaker, I have already said that we picked the most qualified candidate, a candidate who wants to learn French and who will do so. He is a candidate who can do the job on behalf of Canadians. We support this candidate, and the Liberals should support him as well.

The Economy
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, over 71,000 Canadians lost their full-time jobs just last month. We now have 600,000 fewer full-time jobs than in August of 2008.

Doug Porter of BMO said that “losses of this magnitude are extremely rare, aside from recessionary periods”.

Scotiabank said, “The magnitude and breadth of the decline is disconcerting here”.

This is a jobless recovery and a human recession. When will the Conservatives invest in a real plan to create jobs and help Canadians get back to work?

The Economy
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Saint Boniface
Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, again, we sympathize with all Canadians who lost their jobs. However, I have to note that Canada is in a very good position when we compare it to other countries across the world. In fact, we have been saying for over a year that we are not immune to outside pressures like what is going on in Europe at this point.

The IMF and the OECD said that we would be the fastest-growing G7 economy in the next couple of years. A Reuters poll of 350 economists also said very recently, “Canada should see some of the strongest rates of growth compared with its G7 peers this year and next”.

Auditor General
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Alexandrine Latendresse Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, the government has once again shown its contempt for Canadian francophones by choosing an auditor general who does not meet the job criteria in the government's own posting.

When the hon. member for Acadie—Bathurst asked the Conservatives about the contract awarded to the headhunting firm, they simply did not answer the question, as usual.

This morning we learned that the taxpayers spent $150,000 on finding someone who does not have all the necessary qualifications. How do the Conservatives justify this waste?

Auditor General
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Parry Sound—Muskoka
Ontario

Conservative

Tony Clement President of the Treasury Board and Minister for the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario

Mr. Speaker, as I have already said, we looked for the most qualified candidate who has the right skills for this position. The candidate went through a very rigorous process and said in this House and in the Senate that it is important to learn French, that he wants to learn French and that he is going to learn French.

Auditor General
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Alexandrine Latendresse Louis-Saint-Laurent, QC

Mr. Speaker, even the good friend of the Prime Minister's former director of communications—yes, he who was able to speak both official languages—Conservative Senator Housakos, is against the appointment of this Auditor General. There is no end to the problems with this appointment process: the headhunters did not post the job posting in French; $150,000 was wasted; and the Commissioner of Official Languages is going to investigate the matter. Confusion reigns in the Conservative ranks because the process was flawed.

The Auditor General has promised to learn French within a year. What are francophones supposed to do in the meantime?

Auditor General
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Parry Sound—Muskoka
Ontario

Conservative

Tony Clement President of the Treasury Board and Minister for the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario

Mr. Speaker, as we have said, he has already started to learn French. He has the support of Sheila Fraser, the former Auditor General.

The interim Liberal leader in the province of New Brunswick supports this appointment as well, as someone who is in the opposition but still supports the appointment. He knows Mr. Ferguson very well. He has worked with him. Mr. Ferguson has the qualifications to be an excellent candidate for Auditor General. I encourage the hon. member to think the same way as reasonable people do.

Firearms Registry
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Djaouida Sellah Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, Quebec's National Assembly unanimously agreed that the government should keep the gun registry data. The government is accountable to the chiefs of police who use it thousands of times a day, to victims of crime and to Quebec taxpayers, who have already paid for this registry.

Why is this government refusing to side with victims and give this data to the provinces?

Firearms Registry
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Portage—Lisgar
Manitoba

Conservative

Candice Bergen Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, the data contained in the long gun registry are incomplete. The data are flawed and are increasingly more flawed and incomplete. We have committed to Canadians that we will end the long gun registry, and that means destroying the data.

I am disappointed in the NDP for penalizing its MPs from the Thunder Bay area for supporting their constituents and voting to end the long gun registry. I hope that will change as the bill goes forward.

Firearms Registry
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Pierre Jacob Brome—Missisquoi, QC

Mr. Speaker, that is not an acceptable answer for the victims of the shooting at the École Polytechnique or for victims of other shootings. The gun registry is essential to public safety. The provinces and chiefs of police have said it over and over. They use the registry every day, yet this government is willing to get rid of the data in the registry for no good reason.

Will the government reverse its reckless decision so that we can avoid another shooting like the one at the École Polytechnique?

Firearms Registry
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Portage—Lisgar
Manitoba

Conservative

Candice Bergen Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, on this side of the House we are very proud to have 11 active police officers and former police officers in our party. We listen to police officers. That is why we have given provisions, for example in Bill C-10, that would actually help fight violent crime and gun crime. We want to focus on ensuring guns do not get into the wrong hands and that those kinds of tragedies that happened in Montreal will not happen again. The long gun registry does nothing to keep guns out of people's hands.

The Economy
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Rick Norlock Northumberland—Quinte West, ON

Mr. Speaker, today we are reminded of how fragile the global economic recovery is and how that will impact Canada. Even though it is from outside our borders, we recognize the ongoing economic weakness in the United States and the very real economic consequences caused by European governments that ran massive deficits that will all be a challenge for Canada.

While the NDP, disappointingly, wants to engage in reckless, free-wheeling deficit spending, the type hurting Europe now, this government has a responsible plan. Could the parliamentary secretary talk about our responsible plan for the economy and jobs?

The Economy
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Saint Boniface
Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, while Canada's economy has created nearly 600,000 net new jobs since July 2009, we do sympathize with Canadians who have recently lost their jobs.

As we have said all along, we are not immune to the global economic turbulence being felt by our largest trading partners, Europe and the United States. As witnessed by events this week in Greece, the global economic recovery remains very fragile.

That is why we are working to implement the next phase of Canada's economic action plan with measures to help protect and create jobs, such as the hiring credit for small businesses. While the NDP is voting against all of those measures and the economy, our Conservative government will continue to do what is necessary and responsible to protect Canadians—

The Economy
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Abitibi—Témiscamingue.

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Christine Moore Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, the list of problems with the catastrophic F-35 program just keeps on growing. The safety of our pilots is compromised, costs are skyrocketing, the planes do not meet our needs and they cost so much that we cannot buy as many as we need.

My question is simple. How can a plane that is slower than the one it is replacing, that could injure or even kill our pilots, and that we cannot communicate with in the Canadian north actually be the best for our troops?

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Vaughan
Ontario

Conservative

Julian Fantino Associate Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, the extensive and rigorous competition has taken place. Two airplanes squared off, and the F-35 won the competition. That is the best aircraft for our men and women well into the future and to ensure that our sovereignty is maintained in the future, as well.

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

NDP

David Christopherson Hamilton Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, the procurement tailspin continues.

Now we learn our pilots will not even be able to learn how to fly the F-35s in Canada. According to DND documents, pilot training will have to be moved from Cold Lake, Alberta to a facility in Florida run by Lockheed Martin.

The government is throwing billions at a plane that cannot fly here for pilots who cannot train here. Why is the government buying planes that take training jobs out of Canadian cities? Why is it abandoning Cold Lake?

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Vaughan
Ontario

Conservative

Julian Fantino Associate Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, the member should know that in order to get traction, he should have his facts straight.

Long-term training on the F-35s will take place in Canada, just as currently is done with the CF-18s. It is reasonable that Canadians will do initial training with those from whom we purchase the aircraft, which has always been the case.

We will ensure that our men and women in uniform have the best equipment and the best training to do their job safely and effectively.

Ship Recycling
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, Marine Atlantic sold two ferries on the condition that they would be broken down ethically. Instead, these boats wound up in Alang, India, which is one of the most dangerous shipyards in the world. It is known for its environmental and human rights violations. Last year around 27 workers were killed in the shipyard alone.

We are shipping dangerous asbestos overseas, and we are disposing of our waste with no regard for human safety. My question is, how could the government let this happen?

Ship Recycling
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Nepean—Carleton
Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, our government is committed to supporting Marine Atlantic.

We are investing $500 million to help Marine Atlantic renew its fleet and shore facilities. As a crown corporation, Marine Atlantic is arm's-length from the Government of Canada and is responsible for the management of its own operations.

The disposal of the MV Joseph and Clara Smallwood and MV Caribou was an operational decision made by Marine Atlantic.

Ship Recycling
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Megan Leslie Halifax, NS

Mr. Speaker, why are we sending our ships to be destroyed in such a hazardous environment when we have some of the world's finest shipyards here in Canada?

The government is literally shipping our jobs overseas, and has no regard for human safety and the environment. We know that the Alang shipyard employs children. We know it breaks up the ships on the beach. These ships are probably filled with asbestos.

This is not the kind of Canada we want. Why is the government letting good jobs leave Canada to be completed in one of the world's deadliest shipyards?

Ship Recycling
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Nepean—Carleton
Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I do not know why the hon. member wants the Government of Canada, politicians, to interfere in the daily operational decisions of Marine Atlantic, which is an arm's-length crown corporation. I do not know if she wants to politicize what should be an arm's-length group.

The disposal of the MV Joseph and Clara Smallwood and the MV Caribou was an operational decision made by Marine Atlantic.

Our government is committed to supporting Marine Atlantic. We are committed to renewing its fleet and its shore facilities. We ask that the NDP finally come around to supporting us in our work on that.

Canadian Wheat Board
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food.

We know that for years the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources has run a campaign of hate against the Canadian Wheat Board, the very board he took a solemn oath to uphold. That is one thing, but why does the minister himself betray the facts, even misinform committee? He stated before committee, “They've”, meaning the board, “always said 'now is not a good time. The directors don't really want to hear from you'.”

I have had three invitations from the board over three years. Why does the minister not tell the facts?

Canadian Wheat Board
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Cypress Hills—Grasslands
Saskatchewan

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, I was very disappointed earlier this month. The minister was going to Russia. He had been asked to attend a board meeting. I think the board knew he was going to be away when it sent the invitation. He responded by saying that his parliamentary secretary would be very glad to attend the board meeting. I was very disappointed because the board said it did not want to meet with me.

We have finally come forward with Bill C-18. This legislation would deliver on our government's long-standing commitment to give western Canadian farmers the marketing freedom they so richly deserve.

Public Safety
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, regarding the long delays for security checks processed through what we call the vulnerable sector check, I appreciate the extra screening to protect the most vulnerable, but the system is now way overburdened.

The manager of this RCMP service said that in the last year alone, the requests went from 2,500 to 40,000. A constituent of mine applied last February 24 and only received her clearance last week. Members will get the idea just how serious this issue is.

There are many people who are unable to get jobs. Many people are unable to volunteer. Will the government now commit to hire more staff at this RCMP essential service?

Public Safety
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Portage—Lisgar
Manitoba

Conservative

Candice Bergen Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, we do appreciate and value the work that volunteers do as well as the necessity for people who are getting employment to have their security checks done quickly. We have introduced measures that will assist the RCMP in doing that. We encourage the RCMP to continue to work together with its provincial and municipal counterparts effectively and quickly to get the security checks done for individuals.

Financial Institutions
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Glenn Thibeault Sudbury, ON

Mr. Speaker, last week TD Bank became the second major Canadian bank to quit using the independent banking ombudsman, and we have heard nothing from the government. The ombudsman is there to stand up for the everyday consumer against the big banks. It protects families when banks make errors in dealing with their accounts.

If the government is not standing up for everyday consumers, then who is?

Financial Institutions
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Saint Boniface
Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, currently all banks are required to have consumer complaints procedures in place and have a third-party dispute-handling body. However, there is a variation in procedures used, and this is a concern for us and consumers.

To better protect consumers, we are forcing banks to belong to government-approved independent third-party bodies. We are establishing uniform regulatory standards for internal complaints procedures. We are giving the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada the authority to monitor and enforce compliance. We have passed legislation for this and are now finalizing regulations.

Unfortunately, the NDP voted against all of it.

Financial Institutions
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Glenn Thibeault Sudbury, ON

Mr. Speaker, there is a lot of talk there, but not much of an answer, especially for families who are tired of being treated unfairly by the big banks.

By doing nothing, the government is giving the banks a get-out-of-jail-free card on consumer protection. Overseas, our finance minister sings the virtues of Canada's strong banking regulations, while he lets them slide here at home.

Why will the government not stand up for Canadian families instead of giving the big banks a free pass?

Financial Institutions
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Saint Boniface
Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, as I just said, it is important that the NDP actually support measures that help to protect Canadian families in this area.

While I am on my feet, let me remind Canadians about how the NDP feels about jobs and the economy. It is pushing a $10 billion tax hike on employers that would kill Canadian jobs, a massive CPP payroll tax hike that would kill jobs, an anti-trade agenda that would limit Canada's exports and kill jobs. Why is the NDP voting against a job-creating measure like the hiring credit for small businesses?

The NDP needs to explain its anti-job, anti-trade, anti-Canada agenda.

Veterans
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Ted Opitz Etobicoke Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, as Veterans' Week approaches, Canadians from across the country wear poppies as a symbol of remembrance. Poppies are our commitment to never forget the sacrifices made by our men and women in uniform. Yesterday, Canadians were shocked, dismayed, and I am sure angered by the news of the theft of a poppy donation box.

Could the Minister of Veterans Affairs please comment on these disturbing reports?

Veterans
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Lévis—Bellechasse
Québec

Conservative

Steven Blaney Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member for Etobicoke Centre for this question and also for his work for veterans and their families.

I want to commend the Royal Canadian Legion for its efforts in raising money through the poppy fund. This money, raised during the campaign, helps to provide additional care for our veterans and their families. The recent theft of the poppy box is appalling to all Canadians. I want those responsible to know that not only should they be ashamed of their actions, but they should discover the actions of Canada's true heroes.

It is our duty as Canadians to show respect and honour the sacrifices of those who served and those who continue to serve our country. We lost two only last week. As Veterans' Week begins, let us say that we will--

Veterans
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Etobicoke North.

The Environment
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, while the Minister of the Environment might feel he does not owe Canadians an apology for dismantling environmental monitoring programs, he certainly owes them an explanation. The minister continues to repeat his talking points about the ozone data centre's world-class services, but fails to answer the questions he is asked.

Will he finally come clean and tell us what is being cut from the ozone program, and why?

The Environment
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Thornhill
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Kent Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, once again, I thank my colleague for her question, but it is the same answer. Environment Canada will continue to monitor ozone. The World Ozone and Ultraviolet Radiation Data Centre will continue to provide world-class ozone services.

Again, I make no apologies for finding the most cost-effective ways for the government to protect Canada's environment.

The Environment
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Carol Hughes Algoma—Manitoulin—Kapuskasing, ON

Mr. Speaker, since March 31, Environment Canada has turned off the tap on funding to the Lake Superior binational program. Not only is this program designed to restore degraded areas and protect this unique headwater from pollution and urbanization, but it is also part of long-standing commitments between Canada and the U.S. to protect and restore our Great Lakes.

Why is the government threatening Canada-U.S. relations by pulling the plug on this critical environmental initiative? When will it turn the tap back on?

The Environment
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Thornhill
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Kent Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, every assumption in that question is absolutely false. We are in the midst of negotiating a renewed Great Lakes water quality agreement. I would advise the member that if she wishes to know more about our plans, to contact me at the department.

Canadian Forces
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Dave Van Kesteren Chatham-Kent—Essex, ON

Mr. Speaker, earlier this year Canada responded rapidly and strongly after the UN Security Council passed a resolution to protect civilians who were being attacked by the Gadhafi regime in Libya. In less than 24 hours CF-18s were airborne from 3 Wing Bagotville en route to their operating base in Trapani, Italy, along with strategic air-to-air refueling support from 8 Wing Trenton's Polaris aircraft. Canada also sent a frigate to patrol the central Mediterranean.

Could the associate minister of national defence please inform the House when our heroes are coming home?

Canadian Forces
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Vaughan
Ontario

Conservative

Julian Fantino Associate Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I thank the hon. member for this very important question and his steadfast support for our brave men and women.

Our military heroes are returning home this week after a successful mission. Our personnel helped to enforce a no-fly zone and an arms embargo. Because of their hard work, the world is a better and safer place.

Today, I will be in Bagotville with the Chief of the Defence Staff to welcome home our CF-18 pilots. Military heroes are also returning to CFB Trenton later tonight and CFB Greenwood tomorrow.

Bravo Zulu to all our brave men and women for a job well done.

Infrastructure
Oral Questions

Noon

NDP

Philip Toone Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

Mr. Speaker, this government is once again demonstrating that it does not have any sort of plan to create jobs, particularly in the regions. Transport Canada refuses to repair the Chandler and Carleton wharves in my riding, despite the fact that their repair would attract 200 jobs. The department does not even want to pay for a study to assess the actual state of the wharves.

Why is this government prepared to sacrifice 200 jobs and the economy of the Gaspé?

Infrastructure
Oral Questions

Noon

Nepean—Carleton
Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, I find it interesting that the hon. member would ask such a question. Our government has invested in all sorts of infrastructure and created jobs across the country. It is part of our economic action plan. The NDP opposed all these measures. Now we have entered the second phase of our economic action plan, and the NDP is, once again, opposing these efforts. It is shameful.

Quebec Nation
Oral Questions

Noon

Bloc

André Bellavance Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, 30 years—to the day—after the “night of long knives”, contempt for Quebec is as strong as ever in Ottawa. Appointing a unilingual Supreme Court justice and a unilingual Auditor General, destroying the data from the firearms registry, imposing a regressive, extremely costly justice model, and to top it all off, reducing Quebec's political weight all prove that recognizing the Quebec nation was nothing but smoke and mirrors.

Will the government admit that it is building Canada at the expense of Quebeckers and that Quebec sovereignty alone can put an end to this contempt?

Quebec Nation
Oral Questions

Noon

Beauce
Québec

Conservative

Maxime Bernier Minister of State (Small Business and Tourism)

Mr. Speaker, absolutely not. I am a Quebecker and a Canadian, and proud to be both. Quebec can flourish within this country. That being said, I would remind my Bloc Québécois colleagues that Quebec represents 23% of the Canadian population and has 23% of the seats in the House of Commons. That is what it means to show fairness and respect to Quebeckers.

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Oral Questions

Noon

Parry Sound—Muskoka
Ontario

Conservative

Tony Clement President of the Treasury Board and Minister for the Federal Economic Development Initiative for Northern Ontario

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. During question period today there was some mention from the Liberal Party of a gentleman by the name of Michel Dorais. Further to this topic of discussion, I would like to inform the House that Michel Dorais donated in 2009 to former Liberal leader Michael Ignatieff.

I certainly make no allegations of the partisan leanings of the individual; I simply find that the House should be informed of these facts. I table these documents.

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Oral Questions

Noon

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Are the documents in question in both official languages?

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Oral Questions

Noon

Conservative

Tony Clement Parry Sound—Muskoka, ON

Mr. Speaker, yes, they are in both official languages.

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Oral Questions

Noon

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise on the same point of order. I find it highly irregular. I appreciate that the government spares no cost in terms of tax dollars in researching the background of individuals. It was a legitimate question in regard to the actions of the government. The amount of disrespect that the minister put has cast a shadow--

Oral Questions
Points of Order
Oral Questions

Noon

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Order. Tabling of documents. The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs.

Eeyou Marine Region Land Claims Agreement
Routine Proceedings

Noon

Kenora
Ontario

Conservative

Greg Rickford Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the Eeyou Marine Region Land Claims Agreement.

Government Response to Petitions
Routine Proceedings

Noon

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 response to four petitions.

Eeyou Marine Region Land Claims Agreement Act
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, there have been consultations and I would ask for unanimous consent for the following motion:

That the bill on notice entitled “An Act to give effect to the Agreement between the Crees of Eeyou Istchee and Her Majesty the Queen in right of Canada concerning the Eeyou Marine Region” be permitted to be introduced today.

Eeyou Marine Region Land Claims Agreement Act
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Does the hon. Leader of the Government in the House of Commons have the unanimous consent of the House to move the motion?

Eeyou Marine Region Land Claims Agreement Act
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Eeyou Marine Region Land Claims Agreement Act
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Eeyou Marine Region Land Claims Agreement Act
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed

Eeyou Marine Region Land Claims Agreement Act
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

(Motion agreed to.)

Eeyou Marine Region Land Claims Agreement Act
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Finance
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Saint Boniface
Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the second report of the Standing Committee on Finance in relation to Bill C-13, an act to implement certain provisions of the 2011 budget as updated on June 6, 2011 and other measures.

The committee has studied the bill and has decided to report the bill back to the House without amendments.

Bill C-18
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Blaine Calkins Wetaskiwin, AB

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the first report of the legislative committee on Bill C-18, an act to reorganize the Canadian Wheat Board and to make consequential and related amendments to certain Acts.

Bill C-18
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I want to be clear that the bill that the committee is reporting on is the bill where the Conservative government violated farmers' rights by not allowing a vote under the current legislation before the House. Is this also the committee that failed to hold hearings in western Canada and give farmers a say?

Bill C-18
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Order, please. I can confirm to the House that this is Bill C-18 and it is from the legislative committee that was struck for Bill C-18.

Eeyou Marine Region Land Claims Agreement Act
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Van Loan Leader of the Government in the House of Commons

Mr. Speaker, with regard to the bill introduced earlier today, I wish to seek unanimous consent for the following motion:

That, notwithstanding any standing order or usual practices of this House, Bill C-22, An Act to give effect to the Agreement between the Crees of Eeyou Istchee and Her Majesty the Queen in right of Canada concerning the Eeyou Marine Region shall be deemed to have been read a second time and referred to a Committee of the Whole, deemed considered in Committee of the Whole, deemed reported without amendment, deemed concurred in at the report stage and deemed read a third time and passed.

Eeyou Marine Region Land Claims Agreement Act
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Does the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons have the unanimous consent of the House to propose the motion?

Eeyou Marine Region Land Claims Agreement Act
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Eeyou Marine Region Land Claims Agreement Act
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

The House has heard the terms of the motion. Is it the pleasure of the House to adopt the motion?

Eeyou Marine Region Land Claims Agreement Act
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Eeyou Marine Region Land Claims Agreement Act
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

(Motion agreed to, bill read the second time, considered in committee of the whole, reported without amendment, concurred in, read the third time and passed)

Mining Industry
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

NDP

Pat Martin Winnipeg Centre, MB

Mr. Speaker, I have today a petition to present from literally thousands of Canadians across Canada.

The petitioners point out that they are appalled by reports that Canadian mining and oil and gas companies are involved in human rights and environmental violations around the world. In particular, they are embarrassed at the Canadian government's lack of action against such violations in eastern Congo, leading to the use of the term “the iron fist of Canada” to describe the Canadian government's support of activities harmful to Congolese communities.

Therefore, the petitioners request that the House the Commons legislate the standards for Canadian mining companies operating outside of Canada to be the same as the standards they must reach operating inside of Canada. This would include, but not be limited to, making participation in corporate social responsibility review process, allowing the corporate social responsibility review to produce legally binding judgments to include the violation of human rights and other harm to communities as part of any legally binding accountability mechanism and to revitalize the spirit and the principle of Bill C-300 of the last Parliament to hold Canadian extractive companies to the standards of decency Canadians expect of their government—

Mining Industry
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Order, please. I remind the hon. member and all hon. members that the practice for petitions is to not read the petitions and to simply give a succinct summary thereof.

The hon. member for Etobicoke North on a petition.

Multiple Sclerosis
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Etobicoke North, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition regarding chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency, or CCSVI. Over 15,000 procedures have now been performed in over 60 countries. In May 2010, my colleague from St. Paul's and I brought the fight for clinical trials and the registry for CCSVI to Parliament. Almost a year later, in March 2011, the government announced a registry, although it would not start until July 2012. In June 2011, at last the government announced clinical trials.

I want to be very clear. All we have right now is announcements. What we need is action. Canadians with MS cannot afford to wait.

The petitioners call for the Minister of Health to consult experts actively engaged in diagnosis and treatment of CCSVI to undertake phase 3 clinical trials on an urgent basis with a large patient participation in multiple centres across Canada and to require follow-up care.

Training at Flight Schools
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Djaouida Sellah Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to present a petition signed by 2,000 of my constituents. These signatures were collected by Longueuil's Comité anti-pollution des avions. The petition is calling for a ban on training flights over residential areas. The petition is just one indication of the importance of this issue, which affects Saint-Bruno as much as it does Saint-Hubert.

I intend to demonstrate goodwill and work with all those affected to find a solution for the well-being of my constituents.

International Aid
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

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

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour of presenting this petition. It is the first one of its kind that I have presented. It is a petition to the Government of Canada highlighting Canada becoming a global leader in aid effectiveness.

In 2009, $4.73 billion went into aid, but some of my constituents want the Government of Canada to be more proactive on transparency, creativity and accountability, doing things such as calling on the G8 to standardize tracking and reporting major international commitments. They also call for an innovation fund worth $200 million per year and new and riskier approaches to development so that there would be proactive element to this, as well as being very transparent. Certainly CIDA projects have been completely transparent in the last few years.

I want to congratulate the petitioners in the towns of Grand Falls—Windsor, Twillingate and Summerford for sending me this petition.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, the following question will be answered today: No. 143.

Question No. 143
Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

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

With regard to the Service Canada Employment Insurance (EI) modernization plan: (a) what are the itemized costs incurred for operating the EI Processing Unit in Gander, Newfoundland and Labrador (NL); (b) what are the itemized costs incurred for operating the EI Processing Unit in St. John’s, NL; (c) what are the itemized costs for transferring the EI Processing Unit from Gander to St. John’s including, but not limited to, severance pay, relocation allowances, building costs for the new facility (Pippy Place); (d) what are the itemized costs for transferring the EI Processing Unit from Grand Falls-Windsor to St. John’s; (e) how many employees are working in each EI Processing Unit in NL, including the units in (i) Gander, (ii) Grand Falls-Windsor, (iii) St. John’s; (f) what are the itemized cost savings realized by consolidating all NL EI Processing sites in St. John’s; (g) what criteria were used in deciding that St. John’s is the most appropriate and cost-effective location for an EI Processing Centre in NL, as opposed to Gander; and (h) what is the estimated time frame for the closing of the EI Processing Units in Gander and Grand Falls-Windsor?

Question No. 143
Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Haldimand—Norfolk
Ontario

Conservative

Diane Finley Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development

Mr. Speaker, with regard to (a), the costs are as follows: salary, $1,607,417; non-salary, $207,352.

With regard to (b), the estimated expenditures for the EI processing unit in St. John’s are as follows: salary, $3,046,616; non-salary, $636,604.

With regard to (c), itemized costs related to the consolidation of EI processing sites are not yet available. Service Canada is working with regions to determine relocation, accommodation and other associated costs. The overall transition, including the allocation of resources, will be business-driven, aligned with Service Canada’s automation agenda.

With regard to (d), please refer to the response provided above for (c).

With regard to (e), as of September 20, 2011, Gander had 32 employees; Grand Falls-Windsor is not a designated EI processing site; St. John’s had 58 employees; Corner Brook had 12 employees; and Happy Valley-Goose Bay had 9 employees.

With regard to (f), Service Canada has made considerable progress in modernizing how EI is processed, resulting in significant savings.

Processing costs have been reduced as a result of our automation agenda by almost 30% since 2003. Current EI modernization plans will yield over 15% in further cost savings over the next three years.

Specific itemized cost savings realized by consolidating all NL EI processing sites to St. John’s are not yet available. These savings will be confirmed as site-specific decisions related to workforce, accommodation and timing have been determined.

With regard to (g), each of the 22 sites was chosen following a careful review in which both national and regional perspectives were taken into consideration. This is a national program, and many factors were considered, such as, among others, existing labour force, skill availability, bilingual capability, and real estate.

With regard to (h), no dates have been set to formally close the existing EI processing centres. The transition from 120 to 22 sites will happen gradually over the next three years.

The overall transition will be business-driven, aligned with Service Canada’s automation agenda.

A workforce management strategy is in effect to assist with planned personnel changes, which will include anticipated attrition, retirement, reassignments and training.

Opportunities for transitioning into other business lines will also be available for some EI employees currently working in sites with other lines of business.

This will mean that positions in the consolidated centres will be filled as vacancies are created in the sites that will not be EI processing centres.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, if Questions Nos. 140, 141 and 144 could be made orders for returns, these returns would be tabled immediately.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Question No. 140
Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Etobicoke North, ON

With respect to development of the oil sands, its impacts on the environment and surrounding communities, and the economic effects of these impacts: (a) what, if any, steps has the government taken to establish air emission limits or air quality standards to achieve the World Health Organization’s Air Quality Guidelines to protect air quality and human health; (b) what, if any, steps has the government’s sector-by-sector approach taken to regulate carbon emissions in the oil sands to ensure the oil sands industry makes appropriate reductions in its greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to contribute to Canada’s GHG emission reduction goal of 17% below the 2005 level; (c) what, if any, studies has the government undertaken to examine the effect of the oil sands expansion on (i) GHG emissions, (ii) Canada’s ability to meet its GHG emission reduction goals, (iii) Canada’s contribution to the goal of staying below a 2°C increase in global average surface temperature, relative to the pre-industrial level, as articulated at the G8 meeting in L’Aquila, Italy and at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change negotiations through the Copenhagen Accord in December 2009 and the Cancun Agreements in December 2010, (iv) the full suite of sustainability criteria, including environmental, economic and social sustainability, and (v) what were the results of any studies identified in (c)(i), (c)(ii), (c)(iii), and (c)(iv); (d) what, if any, studies has the government undertaken to examine (i) the scope of oil sands expansion if the oil sands sector is not required to deliver its proportional share of GHG reductions, (ii) the impacts such a decision would have on other sectors’ allowable GHG emissions, (iii) whether other sectors of the Canadian economy would have to do more than their proportional share to reduce emissions, (iv) what were the results of any studies identified in (d)(i), (d)(ii), and (d)(iii); (e) what, if any, studies has the government undertaken to assess safety, risks and effectiveness of carbon capture and storage (CCS) and what were the results of any identified study; (f) what, if any, studies, has the government undertaken to assess safety, risks and effectiveness of enhanced oil recovery and what were the results of any identified study; (g) what, if any, studies has the government undertaken to examine the possible impact of CCS technology on GHG emissions in the oil sands, (i) what are the government’s projections for the level of reductions that is feasible with CCS, (ii) what are the government’s projections for how CCS technology would impact oil sands emissions by 2020 and by 2050, (iii) does the government project that an oil sands industry equipped with CCS technology would be able to meet the specific reductions targets established by the government for 2020 and 2050; (h) how does the government plan to address emissions that cannot be reduced by CCS, such as (i) emissions from smaller in situ projects, (ii) mine fleet emissions, (iii) tailings fugitives; (i) what, if any, steps has the government taken to set an economy-wide price on carbon, rather than a sector-by-sector regulatory approach, as a means to reducing GHG emissions from the oil sands; (j) what, if any, steps has the government taken to adopt regulations to require all new oil sands facilities that began operations in 2010 or later to implement full-scale CCS by 2015, and will projects for which CCS is not an option still be approved by the government, whenever such approval is required for the project to proceed; (k) what, if any, steps has the government taken to quantify and eliminate air and water pollution discharge from tailings ponds by 2020 through Section 36(3) of the Fisheries Act (i) by identifying substances associated with tailings ponds as toxic under the Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA), and (ii) what would be the projected impacts on the environment, human health, industry, and migratory birds of such legislative measures; (l) what, if any steps has the government taken to implement its phase ll monitoring plan (i) when will data collection of begin, (ii) when will data be available for inclusion in decision-making processes, (iii) will monitoring programs be reformed in advance of any new oil sands expansion; (m) what steps is the government taking to ensure sufficient capacity exists to (i) implement the Northwest Territories Water Strategy, (ii) help reform water monitoring in the Mackenzie River Basin; (n) what, if any, steps has the government taken to develop a federal emergency response plan to strengthen the Mackenzie River Basin Transboundary Waters Master Agreement in case of a failure of a tailings lake dyke; (o) are Mackenzie River Basin residents in particular and Canadians in general financially protected from a major industrial accident such as the failure of a tailings dyke and, (i) if so, why are both groups protected, (ii) if not, why, and does the government plan to implement measures to ensure these groups are protected; (p) what, if any, studies has the government undertaken to identify critical habitats for woodland caribou in north-eastern Alberta, and what were the conclusions of each study, including the results of consultations with First Nations on conservation of woodland caribou; (q) what, if any, studies has the government undertaken to determine the level of oil sands development that is consistent with caribou conservation in Alberta; and (r) does the government plan (i) to conduct a comprehensive health study of the impacts of oil sands development on surrounding communities, (ii) to identify and implement measures to reduce any health impacts discovered in such a study?

(Return tabled)

Question No. 141
Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Kirsty Duncan Etobicoke North, ON

With respect to climate change and international and national security: (a) what does the government project are the potential impacts on currently stable regions of the world of such climate change-related phenomena as, but not limited to, (i) rises in sea level, (ii) increases in extreme weather events, (iii) increases in the spread of infectious disease, (iv) increases in environmental refugees; (b) what does the government project will be (i) the consequences of the impacts identified in (a)(ii), (a)(iii), and (a)(iv) on domestic military missions, (ii) the consequences of (a)(i), (a)(ii), (a)(iii), (a)(iv) and (b)(i) in terms of the military’s capacity to respond and the availability of troops for missions not related to conflicts induced by climate change-related phenomena; (c) what does the government project will be the potential impacts on already-weakened states of such climate change-related phenomena as, but not limited to, (i) sea level rise, (ii) extreme weather events, (iii) the spread of infectious diseases; (d) what does the government project will be the extent of the effects climate impacts could have on already-weakened states, including, but not limited to, (i) expanded ungoverned spaces, (ii) further weakened and failed states, (iii) increased conflicts, (iv) increased migrations; (e) what does the government project will be the impact of the effects identified in (d) on Canada’s national security; (f) which nations does the government project will be most affected by climate change, (i) what is the government’s assessment of each such country’s capacity to adapt or cope, (ii) what, if any, action is Canada taking to strengthen the capacity of weak governments to better cope with societal needs projected to arise as a result of climate change-related impacts, (iii) what is the government’s assessment of possible security risks if Canada does contribute to international efforts related to (f)(i) and (f)(ii); (g) has DND or the Canadian military conducted any studies of how climate change can have a multiplier effect on instability in unstable regions of the world and, if so, what were these studies and their results; (h) what are the studies, along with their dates and results, undertaken by the government concerning the possible national security risks of climate change, and what specific observations were included in these studies concerning the impacts the research might have for government efforts pertaining to, but not limited to, (i) the encouragement of regional cooperation, (ii) the improvement of international confidence, (iii) the improvement of public relations; (i) what, if any, departments have participated in an inter-departmental process to develop a policy to reduce national security risks resulting from climate change and (i) if departments have participated in such a process, have all agencies involved with climate science, treaty negotiations, economic policy, and national security been involved in the process, and what were the results, (ii) if departments have not participated in such a process, why not; (j) what, if any, strategies has the government developed, including the dates of each completed strategy, concerning the integration of the national security consequences of climate change into national security and national defence strategies, and if the government has developed such strategies, (i) do the strategies examine the capabilities of the Canadian military to respond to the consequences of climate change, (ii) do the strategies include guidance to military planners to assess climate change risks on future missions, (iii) do the strategies provide guidance for updating defence plans based on new assessments; (k) for each strategy identified in (j), what are (i) the details of any testing of the strategy that has been conducted, (ii) the details of the implementation of the strategy, including, but not limited to, working with allies and partners to incorporate climate mitigation strategies, capacity building, and relevant research and development; (l) what are the government’s plans as concerns its engagement in global partnerships intended to help less developed nations build the capacity and resiliency to better manage climate impacts; and (m) what, if any, conferences has DND undertaken with respect to climate change and national security, if no such conferences have been undertaken, why not, and, if any such conferences have been undertaken, (i) who participated, (ii) what topics were covered, (iii) what findings were made, (iv) what recommendations were made, (v) what follow-up has occurred?

(Return tabled)

Question No. 144
Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Philip Toone Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine, QC

With regard to Service Canada programs and services within the riding of Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine: (a) what is the current baseline for service; (b) what value-for-money studies, reviews or summaries have been undertaken relating to Service Canada programs; (c) what are the recommended changes in Service Canada programs in Gaspésie—Îles-de-la-Madeleine; (d) what is the level of spending on Service Canada operations in the riding for this year and 2010–2011; (e) what is the planned level of spending on Service Canada operations in the riding for 2012–2013 and 2013–2014; (f) what are the numbers for Full Time Equivalents (FTEs) for this year and 2010–2011 in the riding; (g) what are the planned numbers of FTEs for 2012–2013 and 2013–2014 in the riding; (h) how many clients did Service Canada serve in the riding this year and 2010–2011; (i) what is the number of inquiries per FTE for this year and 2010–2011; and (j) what is the demographic make-up of the clients served in the riding this year and in 2010–2011?

(Return tabled)

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

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

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Bill C-317—Income Tax Act—Speaker's Ruling
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I am now prepared to rule on the point of order raised by the hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh concerning ways and means proceedings on Bill C-317, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (labour organizations) standing in the name of the hon. member for South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale.

I would like to thank the hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh for having raised this matter, as well as the bill's sponsor, the hon. member for South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale, for their interventions and the hon. member for Kitchener—Conestoga for his comments.

The hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh pointed out in his remarks that the purpose of Bill C-317 is to require that labour organizations provide specific financial information to the minister for public disclosure. The member also pointed out that failure of a labour organization to comply with this new requirement could result in a labour organization losing its tax exempt status, noting, as well, the subsequent impact this would have on dues-paying members of that organization.

He characterized the effect of Bill C-317 in the Debates, on October 18, 2011, page 2171, as follows:

—the income tax exemptions that apply to labour organizations and the reduction of taxable income as a result of writing off the dues paid by their members would easily qualify as alleviations of taxation. Further, the provisions of Bill C-317 would repeal those alleviations by terminating the labour organization's Income Tax Act exempt status.

The member for Windsor—Tecumseh explained that any labour organization not in compliance with the financial disclosure requirements outlined in the bill would no longer enjoy the tax exempt status as provided for in section 149(1)(k) of the Income tax Act. He argued that this would have the effect of taxing a person, or in this case an organization, that was not already a taxpayer. He concluded therefore that Bill C-317 should have been preceded by the adoption of a ways and means motion.

In his submission, the hon. member for South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale in the Debates, on October 25, 2011, page 2438, contended that the purpose of Bill C-317 was limited simply to providing a mechanism for the public disclosure of union finances and only augmented the existing types of information that the Canada Revenue Agency was already empowered by its mandate to compel organizations or taxpayers to provide.

He also referred to a ruling from the 40th Parliament on Bill C-470, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (revocation of registration). He found a parallel between Bill C-317 and Bill C-470. Where it had been argued that charitable donations were discretionary so that Bill C-470 did not affect any existing alleviation of tax, the hon. member argued that in the case of Bill C-317 payers of union dues could exercise their discretion by opting to join a union or labour organization that adhered to the financial disclosure provisions of Bill C-317 and, thus, maintain the tax exempt status of their dues.

Before analyzing the arguments presented, it is important to take into consideration the context of this discussion as it is worth noting that the financial procedures of the House are based on long-established and strictly observed rules of procedure, procedures that are based on the concept of the financial initiative of the Crown. This concept is clearly presented in Erskine May’s Parliamentary Practice, 23rd edition, at page 848:

—it is for the Commons, acting on the sole initiative of Ministers, first to authorize the relevant expenditure (or 'Supply') and, second, to provide through taxes and other sources of public revenue the 'Ways and Means' deemed necessary to meet the Supply so granted.

The role of the Speaker in the present situation is to determine if Bill C-317 is a legislative initiative which imposes a tax or other charge on the taxpayer and therefore would have required the prior adoption of a ways and means motion by the House.

In order to respond to that question, it may be useful to examine more closely the different precedents cited by the members who intervened on the present case.

During his initial point of order, the member for Windsor—Tecumseh referred the Chair to the ruling of November 28, 2007, on Bill C-418, An Act to amend the Income Tax Act (deductibility of remuneration). In that ruling, at pages 1463 and 1464 of the Debates, the Chair made reference to Erskine May's Parliamentary Practice, 23rd edition at page 896, where it explains, “the repeal or reduction of existing alleviations of taxation” must be preceded by a ways and means motion.

The Chair concluded that Bill C-418 removed an existing tax exemption which then resulted in an increase in the tax payable by certain corporations. In the Chair's view, this constituted a reduction of an alleviation of taxation and therefore required that it be preceded by a ways and means motion. I would ask hon. members to retain the phrase, “alleviation of taxation”, as I will return to that concept shortly.

First, let me address the differing interpretations of how an individual union member’s rights are affected by Bill C-317. The member for Windsor—Tecumseh argued that union members do not have the automatic individual right to stop paying dues to an organization that no longer enjoys a tax exempt status. The member for South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale countered that, in his estimation, union members would have the ability to select a labour organization that complies with the provisions of C-317 to ensure that they maintain their tax exemption. While this is more a question of labour law than procedure, the Chair is aware that members of a labour organization cannot easily change which union they belong to nor can they simply withhold paying their union dues except in extremely limited situations provided for in the law. As pointed out by the member for Windsor—Tecumseh, this is in stark contrast to donors to a charity who may choose whether they wish to contribute, the organization they wish to contribute to and the timing of any such contribution.

The Chair must agree with the hon. member for Windsor—Tecumseh that the non-compliance of the labour organization would also remove a current income tax deduction for the dues-paying members of the union. For the Chair, there can be no doubt that this also can be characterized as the removal of an existing alleviation. For this reason alone, Bill C-317 would need to be preceded by a ways and means motion.

Let us return to the larger context. The Chair appreciates the point made by the member for South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale that the Canada Revenue Agency already enjoys the authority to compel the financial disclosure of certain financial information. However, it is not the power of the CRA to require the disclosure of certain information that is at issue.

It is true, as the member for South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale claims, that Bill C-317 changes the reporting requirements for labour organizations. However, contrary to what the member asserted, that is not all it does. In stating that non-compliance with these new requirements makes a labour organization ineligible for tax deductions available to labour organizations, Bill C-317 potentially removes an alleviation of taxation and in so doing, the bill potentially creates a new statutory authority that removes what is currently an unqualified exemption.

Perhaps the distinction can be better understood by looking again at the example offered by Bill C-470 in the third session of the 40th Parliament. That bill changed the definition of a class of taxpayers, specifically registered charities, but the alleviation of tax for registered charities as a class of taxpayer remained unchanged. By contrast, Bill C-317 does not change the definition of a labour organization. It demands disclosure of certain types of information, failing which disclosure, the bill provides that the tax alleviation in place for labour organizations will no longer apply to non-complying labour organizations.

This is a subtle difference, but it is a crucial distinction for the Chair.

The ruling on Bill C-470 determined that the bill altered the conditions and requirements for an organization to be classified by the minister as a registered charity but did not alter the class of taxpayer. In more basic terms, Bill C-470 proposed to alter the definition of what constituted a registered charity but did not change the tax exemptions for registered charities. In the ruling on C-470, delivered on March 15, 2010, and found on pages 419 and 420 of the Debates, I stated:

It seems to me that the bill instead seeks to provide a new criterion that would allow the minister to determine into which existing class of taxpayer an organization falls. The existing tax regimes and the existing tax rates are not affected.

However, unlike Bill C-470, Bill C-317 does not attempt to alter the conditions or requirements for an organization to be classified as a labour organization.

According to the provisions of Bill C-317, under the Income Tax Act, a labour organization would remain a labour organization, whether it complied with the proposed disclosure requirements or not. If enacted, Bill C-317 would thus create a situation whereby labour organizations can be differentiated into two distinct categories, those that comply with the financial reporting mechanism and those that do not.

In the Chair's opinion, this new category of labour organization would constitute a class of taxpayer that does not currently exist. Labour organizations in the newly created class, that is those that do not meet the financial reporting requirements outlined in the bill, would see the removal of their current tax-exempt status. Put simply, Bill C-470 did not alter the tax-exempt status of registered charities, whereas, in contrast, Bill C-317 proposes to alter the current tax-exempt status of labour organizations.

As a result of this determination, I find that Bill C-317, by distinguishing between certain labour organizations, creates a new class of taxpayer and that this new class of taxpayer would then be subject to a removal of an alleviation of taxation.

For the reasons stated, I must, therefore, rule that Bill C-317 should have been preceded by a ways and means motion. Consequently, I also rule that all proceedings on the bill to date, namely introduction and first reading, have not respected the provisions of our Standing Orders and are, therefore, null and void. Accordingly, the Chair directs that the order for second reading of the bill be discharged and the bill be withdrawn from the order paper.

However, I am reluctant to deny the member what is likely his only opportunity in this Parliament to have an item on the order of precedence.

As members are well aware, Standing Order 94(1) provides the Speaker with the authority to “make all arrangements necessary to ensure the orderly conduct of Private Members' Business”.

In light of the unique nature of this particular situation, the member for South Surrey—White Rock—Cloverdale will be permitted to substitute another item onto the order of precedence. The substitution shall be done pursuant to the spirit of Standing Order 92.1, which allows a member 20 sitting days to substitute another item of private members' business for the item that has been discharged and withdrawn. Should the member choose not to replace the item within the next 20 sitting days, his name will then be dropped from the order paper.

I thank the House for its attention.

Tabling of Document by President of the Treasury Board
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, something happened in the House at the end of question period, which is really serious with regard to the state of our democracy. A public servant just quit over what he felt was principle when the President of the Treasury Board asked to have tabled in the House the fact that he had given a donation to a political party. It happened to be our party, but it could have been any party.

That goes against everything that we stand for in this democracy. It is fear and intimidation. It can put the chill of fear into public servants and individuals in Canada donating to a political party that a minister will use that against them. By implication, it can be damaging to a person's reputation. In my view, it goes against freedom of choice, freedom of speech and freedom of political affiliation. The government has access to information on Canadians all over the place, whether it is their tax matters, health matters or whatever it may be. This is unbecoming of a minister to do. I do not have a clue what rule to apply here, but I think what that minister has done is wrong.

We know that during the election the Conservatives used Facebook and Twitter to prevent people from coming to certain meetings. This is the kind of stuff that we would expect to see in Russia, where people are spying on others and where fear and intimidation are used to prevent people from doing certain things.

I think what the President of the Treasury Board did in the House, by naming a person's individual political affiliation to try to make a point and destroy his reputation, because he resigned on principle, is absolutely and utterly wrong in this country called Canada.

Tabling of Document by President of the Treasury Board
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

12:25 p.m.

Carleton—Mississippi Mills
Ontario

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Minister of State and Chief Government Whip

Mr. Speaker, the information that was provided is public information. One can go to a website and find information on all donations. One can find that I actually donated to the Conservative Party. I will publicly admit this.

We are not talking about any confidential government information. It is publicly available information. I see no problem or offence committed in giving out publicly available information.

Tabling of Document by President of the Treasury Board
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

12:30 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on the same point of order. What happened after question period is shameful, especially since it came from the President of the Treasury Board. Frankly, that individual is in no position to lecture anyone, considering everything that is going on and the money he used to line the pockets of his friends in his riding during the G20 and G8 summits. What is even more shameful is that they are attacking a public servant, someone who worked for the well-being of the community for 30 years.

Fortunately, nothing in our democracy prohibits someone from donating any sum of money to a political party, in accordance with the Canada Elections Act, even if that person is a public servant or senior official. Ever since this government came to power, it has created a climate of fear. I began working as a member's assistant in 1993 and, until the Conservatives came to power, never, ever did any public servants tell me that they could not answer, that they did not know anything, that they might call me back and that it would be better to go through political channels rather than through the public service. This began precisely when the Conservatives came to power. This government suddenly created a climate of fear and began scaring public servants. It is trying to prevent them from doing their jobs. What this government is doing publicly today is unfortunately more of the same.

Tabling of Document by President of the Treasury Board
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I have already heard from the member for Winnipeg North just before we went into routine proceedings. If he has something new to add, I will hear him now very briefly.

Tabling of Document by President of the Treasury Board
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, the government representative stood up and indicated that he, too, has contributed to the Conservative Party.

What he is really doing is trying to minimize the severity of what actually took place after question period. Although I do not know him personally, there is a 30-plus year career civil servant who has taken a stand on a very important issue that all Canadians are concerned about.

The government has sent out a message to the civil service. This is where it starts to get on to our privileges as members of Parliament. We rely, in part, on civil servants being able to provide information, whether it is in committee or elsewhere, freely. The government message here is that if they say or do or take any actions against the government, it will come down with a heavy arm.

In this case, it was meant to intimidate and discredit the actions of that particular career civil servant. I believe the government, at the very least, owes the civil servant a formal apology. In fact, I would suggest that it is an issue that you, Mr. Speaker, should take under advisement and come back to this House in terms of the ramifications of the point of order that was raised by the President of the Treasury Board.

I take it very seriously. The government is trying to silence—

Tabling of Document by President of the Treasury Board
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Speaker Andrew Scheer

I will just stop the hon. member there so that we do not get into a whole debate on a point of order.

I will hear the hon. Chief Government Whip and then I will take it under advisement and come back to the House if necessary.

Tabling of Document by President of the Treasury Board
Points of Order
Routine Proceedings

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Carleton—Mississippi Mills, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I said previously, the information provided is publicly available. The President of the Treasury Board did not provide any confidential information. He did not provide anything with respect to that individual.

However, I find it interesting that the report of the individual's retirement first came from the Liberal Party.

The House resumed consideration of the motion that Bill C-16, An Act to amend the National Defence Act (military judges), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Security of Tenure of Military Judges Act
Government Orders

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, in keeping with my own injunction to try to be brief, I will offer a few brief remarks with respect to this bill. It is, after all, a two-page bill. It is not earth-shattering.

First, since I will not be on my feet here at any other time before November 11, I want to take this opportunity to recognize the brave men and women who serve us so well. We are very fortunate in this country that we have people who are prepared to put their lives, bodies and minds on the line for us.

I want to make the point that some parties in particular take every opportunity to enthusiastically embrace the military; however, there seems to be a somewhat less enthusiastic embrace for our veterans. On November 11, I hope that our embrace is far more enthusiastic and that they get a level of support similar to what our military gets.

I offer my condolences to the Greff family and to the Gilbert family. This must be a particularly poignant time for them. Both families are hurting and are classic examples of people who give their lives so that we can operate in this chamber as we do.

Bill C-16 has had a tortured path getting here. It went through a number of reiterations, prorogations and dissolutions and was derailed in various other ways as well. We saw another example this morning, when some members of House, rightly upset that they could not offer their observations with respect to Remembrance Day, denied unanimous consent to proceed in an expedited fashion. As a consequence, we have taken far longer than we ever should have in order to deal with the bill.

The bill has three components and revolves around a core concept: the tension between the independence of the judiciary and the hierarchy of the military command structure. Indeed, pretty well all of the justice issues in the military, the conflicts over those two points of principle, are the subject matter of both Bill C-16 and Bill C-15. Sometimes it is with respect to the independence of the police, but in the case of Bill C-16, it is with respect to the independence of the judiciary.

We are here because the courts have told us that the system has to be repaired. We cannot have a system in which the independence of the judiciary is subject to the whims of the CDS or anyone else in the chain of command. The bill does respond to the Regina v. Leblanc case and it requires a retirement age of 60.

I appreciate that in order to be a military judge, one also has to be a military officer, but it is an interesting conflict. Frankly, for lawyers and judges the age of 60 is frequently prime time in their careers. Ironically, by requiring that age of retirement and by requiring that the judge be an officer, in effect we are limiting the pool of people who would, in all other circumstances, be excellently qualified for the judiciary.

As a classic example, last week we had a hearing with respect to two judges for the Supreme Court of Canada. One was 63 and the other was 56 years old. Ironically, one would not be qualified to be a military judge and the other would only be entitled to one appointment.

There is an interesting debate as to whether one has to be an officer in order to be a military judge. I am not sure that we should not actually be debating that a little more extensively; possibly a retired officer could be a military judge beyond age 60. There is another argument as to why one has to achieve the fitness levels required of officers up to age 60 in order to sit as a judicial officer.

Those issues aside, this bill does warrant our support. I think the regime that the government has put forward in the bill is an appropriate regime. A military officer who is a military judge will be automatically required to retire at age 60, as opposed to the requirement in the civilian system for retirement at age 75. The person can be removed for cause, and there is an inquiry process, again independent of the chain of command. That is an appropriate form of removal, given our requirements for the independence of the judiciary. Of course, there is also resignation.

There is this ongoing tension between chain of command and the independence of the judiciary. Bill C-16 does achieve some balance between those two tensions, and I and my party will support this bill; indeed, we would have supported it at all stages had the government handled the desires of other people in this chamber a little more sensitively. In fact, possibly by this time we would have gone to committee of the whole and had this bill passed and on the way to the Senate. There is a time deadline of December 2, and I am rather hoping that we still achieve that time deadline; otherwise, a decision will be imposed upon us.

Security of Tenure of Military Judges Act
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I have a question for the hon. member who just spoke. I would like to tell him that we also support this bill.

However, when I returned to my office, I heard criticism from a Conservative member. First, you clearly established the rules here in this House by saying that he did not have the right to mention the absence or presence of a member. One thing is for certain: while I was away, I was still watching the House of Commons debates on television and I heard this same member criticizing the Bloc Québécois for taking steps to delay the bill—a bill that we support—which is completely false. I would like to ask the hon. member whether he shares my opinion in this regard.

This bill was introduced on October 7. The House resumed on September 19. It is the Conservative government that is in charge of the legislative agenda here in the House. Subsequent to the court's decision, the Conservatives could very well have introduced this bill earlier and made sure, of course, that the whole process was followed and that this bill was passed quickly. Everything could have been done but, instead, the Conservatives introduced a bill to abolish the Canadian Wheat Board and a bill to reduce the political weight of Quebec. They introduced all kinds of bills but not this one. So if anyone is to blame for the speed with which the bill must be passed, it is the Conservatives themselves.

Security of Tenure of Military Judges Act
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

I am not sure that was a question Mr. Speaker, but it was a comment.

I largely agree with the sentiments of the hon. member. The bill was initially presented in a form that incorporated a number of other things, many of which were quite problematic. It could have actually been presented as a stand-alone bill in the last Parliament and could have been law by now.

The government chooses to proceed in whatever way it chooses. It prorogues at its whim, it formulates its bills at its whim, and it alienates members of the opposition, apparently, at will as well, the consequence being that things that should not be delayed do get delayed.

I say to my colleagues on the government side that what goes around comes around.

Security of Tenure of Military Judges Act
Government Orders

12:40 p.m.

Ajax—Pickering
Ontario

Conservative

Chris Alexander Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, I would like to point out that it is a bit rich for the hon. member for Richmond—Arthabaska to say he supports this bill when he and his colleagues were the ones who refused to give unanimous consent this morning.

The hon. member for Scarborough—Guildwood made the point that what goes around comes around. Earlier, the member for St. John's East suggested that the measures in these bills could have been brought forward in the previous Parliament.

The statement made by the member for Scarborough—Guildwood is true. The statement by the member for St. John's East is not true, given that the bill containing these measures in the last Parliament was reported from committee on March 24 of this year and this country was plunged into an unnecessary and costly election on March 25.

Would the member not agree that what goes around does come around, but in this case his party and the other parties opposite prevented us from moving forward with the subsequent stages of these measures?

Security of Tenure of Military Judges Act
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, that is the kind of debate I would actually wish to avoid by limiting my remarks simply to the substance of the bill, but since the Conservatives insist on getting into it, we are going to get into it, are we not? The clock is going to run, and again we are going to achieve absolutely nothing.

This legislation has had at least three or four iterations. It is almost what one might call a fifth generation bill. During that period of time we have had prorogations and all kinds of delays. The government can move its legislation as it desires, so to say that it did not quite get it done in the bill's last iteration before an election is also pretty rich.

This is, frankly and candidly, an unnecessary debate; we agree on the substance of the bill, so let us just move it forward. As the parliamentary secretary said earlier, only four judges are involved. That is all we are talking about here. If the government cannot move its legislation and continues to alienate the opposition, we are not going to make the December 2 deadline, in which case the whole system will go up the flue.

Security of Tenure of Military Judges Act
Government Orders

12:45 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to participate in the debate on Bill C-16. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence is well aware that the Bloc Québécois supports this bill.

What we take issue with is that the parliamentary secretary has said in the House that we have failed to provide unanimous consent, which is completely false. I will give an example. Today, I gave unanimous consent, on behalf of the Bloc Québécois which I represent, to the agreement between the Cree and the federal government. We had already given our word and consent with respect to this bill.

With regard to Bill C-16, we were asked for our support yesterday at the same time that we were asking for unanimous consent to pay tribute to veterans. Remembrance Day is at hand. We are all wearing poppies—I see, Mr. Speaker, that you are wearing one also—to commemorate the battles fought by our veterans, the people who went overseas to fight in two world wars and other conflicts, which unfortunately should not have occurred but did, and who fought for our freedom.

The dean of the House of Commons, the member for Bas-Richelieu—Nicolet—Bécancour, wanted to rise, like members of other parties, and pay tribute for a few minutes to the people who fought to protect our freedom and to prevent dictators from taking control of the world and suppressing freedoms, as was recently the case in Libya. The leader of the Green Party also wanted a few minutes to address the people and pay tribute to our veterans. This was refused by lack of unanimous consent. We were simply told that the Conservative government had the right to do so and that it was within the rules.

I know that the government was probably afraid that the Green Party and the Bloc Québécois would use this precedent to intervene and rise often in the House, saying that they want to be recognized as parties. We have known from the beginning that we do not have 12 members, just 4, and that the leader of the Green Party is the only member of Parliament for her party. For that reason, the interim leader of the Bloc Québécois specifically stated yesterday, when making the request, that he did not want to set a precedent and that he simply wanted to make a statement.

That was one of the lowest moments I have experienced since being elected in 2004. I have rarely seen a government rebuff the opposition parties in a such a way and on such an occasion.

We did not give our unanimous consent to Bill C-16 then and we are opposing it today because the fault lies with the government for not being alert enough to introduce it sooner. The government could have introduced this bill as early as September 19, when Parliament resumed, but it waited until October 7. The government has also introduced a series of bills and has prevented the opposition from debating them and discussing them properly by moving closure and time allocation motions five or six times. I do not even know how many there have been, but closure has been moved on at least five or six bills. We cannot follow the normal legislative process because the government is in a very big hurry. It made legislative choices, but Bill 16, which we are discussing today, was not part of them.

The Conservatives chose to introduce Bill C-10 on justice. They decided to abolish the firearms registry and destroy the data. They also introduced a bill that will diminish Quebec's political weight in the House. There was also the bill on the Canadian Wheat Board. They chose to introduce all those bills instead of Bill C-16. I want to come back to Bill C-16 to which we could have given our unanimous consent. We only did what the government said it would do, in other words, follow the rules. I have been in federal politics long enough to know there are rules to be followed in the House. There is a legislative process to be followed: first reading, second reading, third reading and work in committee.

I understand perfectly well that there was a court order, but if the government was in such a hurry, it could have made sure that this bill went through all the stages as quickly as possible. After all, it is the government that sets the agenda.

Yesterday, by refusing to allow us to pay tribute to veterans, if the government was trying to send a message that we do not exist, that we are not an official party and that we do not deserve to speak in this House, it failed. Today we are sending our own message that we are still here. Just like the Conservative members, and in fact like all members of the House, we were democratically elected. Even the Prime Minister himself must acknowledge that he was democratically elected in his riding and that he is an MP first and foremost, and Prime Minister second. I think it is our duty to do things correctly here.

Thus, there are no second-class MPs in this House. I never thought that when there were 50 Bloc Québécois MPs, nor do I think that today, just because we are fewer in number. My message to the government is that it should think carefully before acting as heinously as it did yesterday. Nevertheless, once again, it is the government's fault that it did not introduce the bill earlier. And we support Bill C-16, especially since a court decision will strengthen the independence of military judges. That is very important. The Minister of National Defence introduced Bill C-16, An Act to amend the National Defence Act (military judges), in the House of Commons at first reading.

The Court Martial Appeal Court of Canada delivered its judgment in the Regina v. Leblanc case. In its decision, the appeal court determined that the provisions in the National Defence Act and the Queen’s Regulations and Orders for the Canadian Forces regarding the appointment and retirement of military judges do not sufficiently respect judicial independence as required by section 11(d) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

In declaring certain National Defence Act provisions constitutionally invalid and inoperative, the Court Martial Appeal Court in Regina v. Leblanc suspended the declaration of invalidity for a period of six months to allow remedial legislation to be enacted. The declaration will be effective December 2, 2011.

Bill C-16 amends the provisions of the National Defence Act that deal with the tenure of military judges, providing that they serve until the retirement age of 60 years, unless removed for cause on the recommendation of an inquiry committee or upon the resignation of the military judge.

To give a bit of background and explain the situation in full, I should mention that judges used to be appointed for a predetermined period of time. I believe it was for five years, but when a judge's term was up for renewal, it seemed that he or she did not have complete independence at that time. Now the process will simply be the same as it is for other judges. The tenure for military judges will allow them to sit as such until the retirement age of 60 years. That creates a balance. It sends a message that we will improve the situation around judicial independence, which is something we in the House could in no way be opposed to.

Justice Lamer made a number of recommendations, and this is one that we have agreed with from the outset. The Bloc Québécois believes in keeping military justice separate from civilian justice. It makes sense for the Canadian armed forces to have its own justice system, in light of the particularities of military life and military requirements. This bill corrects a situation that created a fairly significant difference between the civilian justice system and the military justice system, in order to improve the military system.

It is absolutely necessary to have discipline within an army. Without that discipline, we would lose any sense of structure and effectiveness. Since the primary goal of our armed forces is to protect the safety of Canadians, this issue is vitally important. The Supreme Court of Canada recognized this principle in 1992:

The purpose of a separate system of military tribunals is to allow the Armed Forces to deal with matters that pertain directly to the discipline, efficiency and morale of the military. The safety and well-being of Canadians depends considerably on the willingness and readiness of a force of men and women to defend against threats to the nation's security. To maintain the Armed Forces in a state of readiness, the military must be in a position to enforce internal discipline effectively and efficiently. Breaches of military discipline must be dealt with speedily and, frequently, punished more severely than would be the case if a civilian engaged in such conduct. As a result, the military has its own Code of Service Discipline to allow it to meet its particular disciplinary needs. In addition, special service tribunals, rather than the ordinary courts, have been given jurisdiction to punish breaches of the Code of Service Discipline. Recourse to the ordinary criminal courts would, as a general rule, be inadequate to serve the particular disciplinary needs of the military.

A number of changes were called for. I think that Bill C-16 is a step that, I repeat, addresses only one of Justice Lamer's recommendations. We can go step by step. That is no problem.

There are also offences in the Code of Service Discipline that do not have equivalents in civilian justice. For example, the offences of disobedience of lawful command or disobedience to a superior officer do not exist in civilian justice. Military justice applies to three categories of people: military personnel in the regular forces, reservists and civilians who work with military personnel on missions.

But although military justice is necessary, people who join the Canadian Forces do not lose their rights, including their charter rights.

For 12 years, a great deal of thought has been given to modernizing military justice to bring it more in line with civilian justice. In its May 2009 report, the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs wrote the following, “...the military, as an organization, benefits when the rules that govern it largely reflect those that apply to Canadian society in general.”

We therefore feel it is important that the government consider not only the issue of the independence of military judges but also the entire military justice reform. In my opinion, even the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence can understand that, when we talk about such a bill, it goes without saying that we should expand our discussion and thought process a bit to include the whole military justice policy, particularly since more than one recommendation was given by Justice Lamer and the Senate committee.

Military justice reform dates back to 1997 and stems from two reviews. First, a special advisory group received a mandate to study the Code of Service Discipline set out in the National Defence Act. Then, the commission of inquiry into the deployment of Canadian forces to Somalia was asked to review how to handle the actions of certain soldiers sent to that country.

The two resulting reports led the government to introduce Bill C-25, which came into effect on September 1, 1999. This bill amended the National Defence Act by abolishing the death penalty in the military justice system, a very important change; incorporating civilian parole ineligibility provisions; creating the Canadian Forces Grievance Board; creating the Military Police Complaints Commission; strengthening the independence of military judges by making changes to the terms of their appointment, their qualifications and their tenure; and creating new positions within the military justice system in order to separate the investigative function from the prosecution and defence functions.

Clause 96 of Bill C-25 provided for an independent review every five years in order to examine the amendments to the National Defence Act. Many of the amendments I just listed are still pending. I am counting on the current government and its Minister of National Defence to take into account the majority of the recommendations that I mentioned just a few moments ago.

With this in mind, the federal government appointed a former Supreme Court justice, Antonio Lamer, to conduct the first review. He presented his report to Parliament in March 2003. Military justice has been on the radar for some time now, and here today we have this bill—barely two pages long—regarding the independence of judges. There will undoubtedly be other, more significant, changes that will improve the National Defence Act and that will also implement Justice Lamer's recommendations, which, as I have said before, are already 10 years old.

In his report, Justice Lamer observed that “Canada's military justice system generally works very well, subject to a few changes.” Consequently, he made 88 recommendations to improve military justice. I will not list the 88 recommendations, although some here might like me to do so.

I will briefly refer to some of Justice Lamer's 2003 recommendations: arrest procedures and pre-trial detention; procedures for proceeding by indictment; the structure of the court; sentencing; aligning the rights of the accused with those in a civil court such that the accused could choose the type of court martial and such that the finding of court martial panels would be arrived at by unanimous vote; strengthening the independence of the principal intervenors in the military justice system; and improving the grievance and military police complaints processes.

In order to implement Justice Lamer's recommendations and amend the National Defence Act, the government introduced Bill C-45 in August 2006. It died on the order paper. In March 2008, the government introduced another bill, Bill C-7, which was identical to Bill C-45 and also died on the order paper when an election was called in the fall of 2008.

In April 2008, the Court Martial Appeal Court of Canada handed down a decision in the case of Regina v. Trépanier. At issue was the possibility of choosing the type of court martial. The Court Martial Appeal Court of Canada ruled that a provision of the National Defence Act that gave the court martial administrator exclusive authority to select the type of court martial was unconstitutional. The Court Martial Appeal Court of Canada found that it was unacceptable that the accused could not chose the kind of court martial that would judge him or her.

Following that ruling—which brings us to where we are today—the federal government introduced Bill C-60 to accomplish the following: to more closely align the manner in which the mode of trial by courts martial is determined with the approach in the civilian criminal justice system, while still satisfying the unique needs of the military justice system; to reduce the types of courts martial from four to two; to allow military judges to deal with certain pre-trial matters at any time after a charge has been preferred; and to require court martial panels to make key decisions on the basis of a unanimous vote. Bill C-60 passed in the House on June 18, 2008.

One of Justice Lamer's recommendations has been incorporated into Bill C-16 before us today.

I repeat—and I will conclude on this in just a moment—the Bloc Québécois is not opposed to Bill C-16. The Bloc did not break any agreements to speed things up. The government alone is responsible for its own legislative agenda. It could have introduced the bill to get it through all the various steps in the usual way, knowing very well that a court order meant that a certain timeline had to be respected.

I cannot believe that, with the army of people and public servants available to the Minister of National Defence, it did not occur to him to look at a calendar and ensure that all the steps could be completed regarding Bill C-16. It is because of the government's own negligence that it is so keen to have the bill fast-tracked, because it did not do its homework.

I cannot believe that the government behaved in this manner. However, as I explained at the beginning of my speech, it is simply because the government made other choices. It had other priorities. It wanted to reduce Quebec's political weight with Bill C-20, for instance. It wanted to put the Canadian Wheat Board out of commission. It also decided to rule out all potential debate on Bill C-10 regarding justice. I can assure this House, not everyone is pleased about that. It is no longer only Quebec that opposes that bill. We will soon be up to 10 provinces that oppose the bill. But the government decided to make it a priority anyway.

In closing, it should have found a way to move a little faster on this matter and introduce Bill C-16 earlier. Had it done so, we might not still be talking about it today.

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1:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

Is the House ready for the question?

Security of Tenure of Military Judges Act
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1:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Security of Tenure of Military Judges Act
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1:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

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

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1:05 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

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1:05 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

I declare the motion carried. Accordingly, the bill stands referred to the Standing Committee on National Defence.

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

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1:05 p.m.

Conservative

Diane Ablonczy Calgary—Nose Hill, AB

moved that Bill C-15, An Act to amend the National Defence Act and to make consequential amendments to other Acts, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

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1:05 p.m.

Ajax—Pickering
Ontario

Conservative

Chris Alexander Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, first, I would like to remind the House that, although Bill C-16 was sent to committee, we could have moved forward much more quickly if the member for Richmond—Arthabaska had acted differently this morning. It is not up to him to decide who forced the Standing Committee on National Defence to examine these very urgent measures for the second time, something that is unnecessary. I think that all members in this House understand these measures and understand how this member wasted the time of the House and the Standing Committee on National Defence.

As I begin my remarks, I would like to congratulate those of our colleagues, the hon. member for St. John's East, the hon. member for Scarborough—Guildwood, and the hon. member for Hamilton Centre, who worked very hard with members on our side to develop a common approach.

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1:05 p.m.

Bloc

André Bellavance Richmond—Arthabaska, QC

Mr. Speaker, I do not plan on making a habit of interrupting the parliamentary secretary. However, I must correct one thing: not one of the 308 members in this House is wasting anyone's time. Every member has the right to speak and to give their opinion. Obviously, some members are not happy with some decisions, for various reasons. Yesterday there was a decision that went against us and that we strongly disagreed with. We will get over it, and the parliamentary secretary should too and should not say that a member of the House is wasting the House's time.

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1:10 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Alexander Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, the member for Richmond—Arthabaska knows full well that he has drawn out the procedures and the debate on this issue. It had nothing to do with the substance of these matters, which are urgent for all members of the Canadian Armed Forces. We are ashamed for him. Even if—

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1:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

Order. Is the parliamentary secretary continuing with debate, or is he responding to the point of order?

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1:10 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Alexander Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am continuing debate, a debate that is urgent, on measures that have been before this House three times. This is the fourth time. It is important that members of this House understand the urgency of these measures and the level of consensus that has been reached by successive Parliaments on these measures. That is the reason for my remarks.

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1:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

Order. The Chair appreciates the clarification and would be pleased if the hon. parliamentary secretary continued with his remarks regarding the matter before the House.

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1:10 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Alexander Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, as I was saying, we have had great collaboration from all three parties represented in this House.

I want to pay particular tribute to the three members I mentioned earlier. The member for St. John's East made a couple of remarks about the LeBlanc case which probably, if they were heard by members of the Canadian Forces, would have them regretting that he chose to pursue his legal career not in the Judge Advocate General's office but in civilian life. He clearly understands the importance of the system, the importance of a strong defence, the importance of independent judges and professionals at every level of the military justice system.

I thank the member for his clarity on the issues. I also thank his party and the Liberal Party for their constructive contribution to advancing these bills.

I rise now in support of Bill C-15 , the strengthening military justice in the defence of Canada bill, which concerns an important aspect of national defence, that of military justice in the broad sense.

Maintaining the integrity of the military justice system is the responsibility of government and should concern all Canadians. The military justice system is an essential tool to maintain the discipline, morale and operational effectiveness of the Canadian Forces.

Without such a system, our men and women in uniform would not be able to focus on their number one priority which is to protect the interests of Canada and Canadians.

For that reason, the government, the Supreme Court of Canada and even the Constitution recognized the importance of maintaining a robust military justice system.

This government also recognizes, as did Chief Justice Lamer in his 2003 report, that there is room for improvement. The principles and procedures of military courts martial and summary trials must remain consistent with Canadian values and the evolution of Canadian criminal law. After all, a legal system can only remain strong if it evolves alongside the society it serves. Otherwise, an outdated system could risk undermining not only the legitimacy of military law, but also the health and vitality of the forces themselves.

This government has tried three times since 2006 to introduce the necessary legislation to do so, but each bill has failed to progress as a result of the unpredictable nature of a minority Parliament. I do not think it is worth going into the details again of those stories from previous Parliaments.

In 1998, when the National Defence Act was last updated, an independent review of the act every five years was made mandatory. In the first review, in 2003—the member for Richmond—Arthabaska was right to mention that it was some time ago—Chief Justice Lamer made several important recommendations about how to improve the act.

These recommendations focused on the administration of military justice, the role of the Canadian Forces provost marshal, the head of the military police, and the system by which grievances of Canadian Forces members were addressed. All of these recommendations were studied in detail, both inside and outside the Canadian Forces and Department of National Defence. A wide range of stakeholders--civilian, military, government, non-government--were consulted and, as a result, this government brought forward legislation on two separate occasions to update the National Defence Act. Members know them well. They were Bill C-7 in 2006 and Bill C-45 in 2008, both of which, as we are aware, died on the order paper.

Then in 2008, the ruling of the Court Martial Appeal Court of Canada in the case of Regina v. Trépanier forced the government to introduce legislation on an urgent basis. In response, the government rapidly introduced a targeted bill, Bill C-60, to rectify this problem. Thanks to many hon. members still present, this legislation was passed by Parliament.

In 2010, the government once again tried to update the National Defence Act, this time by following up on recommendations from the Standing Senate Committee on Legal and Constitutional Affairs as well as the latest recommendations from Chief Justice Lamer.

That bill, Bill C-41, was introduced during the final session of the 40th Parliament and was both studied and reported on by the Senate committee.

Some of the amendments that were submitted by the Bloc and discussed in committee were included in Bill C-41.

However, that bill died with the dissolution of Parliament in March. Since that time, we have had the Court Martial Appeal Court ruling, already discussed today, which assessed the process by which military judges were appointed, currently on a five-year basis, and we started to deal with that issue with Bill C-16. However, that bill does not address other important amendments included in Bill C-15, a bill that aims to reinforce military justice by bringing the National Defence Act up to date. This is an act that is evergreen, that requires constant updating, as many pieces of legislation do, on which the institutions of our country depend.

We have given careful consideration to the recommendations and proposed amendments put forward by members of the House, when Bill C-41 was studied in committee.

Bill C-15 would address various problems regarding military justice through a series of important amendments to the National Defence Act.

First, it would strengthen the administration of military justice by allowing for the appointment of part-time military judges to serve in times of large-scale operations and other search periods, thereby providing flexibility in the courts martial system. We hope this is not a provision that will be needed soon or often, but it needs to be there and it is a former chief justice of our country's Supreme Court who endorses that view.

In addition, it would lower the minimum rank requirement for the senior member of a court martial panel from colonel to lieutenant colonel in most cases and reduce the minimum rank of serving panel members on courts martial of non-commissioned members from warrant officer to sergeant. This fight simply widens the pool of those eligible to serve on these panels.

It would also allow for one more non-commissioned officer to serve on the panel when the accused is a non-commissioned member, as well as allow for increased participation of non-commissioned officers, without undermining the requirement for leadership and experience in the maintenance of discipline. It is the experience of non-commissioned members, as well as officers, on which this system depends.

This bill would clearly define the objectives, intent and principles of sentencing in the military justice system.

By articulating the purposes of military justice, we would be giving increased clarity and transparency to all those engaged in its delivery. This is perhaps the most exciting and compelling aspect of this bill. The National Defence Act had not previously articulated the purposes of military justice. They are implicit and known but now they would be explicit and this would provide Parliament's guidance to the military judges, officers and Court Martial Appeal Court justices presiding over courts martial, summary trials and appeals, just as Parliament has already done for the civilian criminal justice system in the Criminal Code. Of course, this guidance would expressly recognize the crucial elements unique to the military system necessary for it to fulfill its vital function.

The bill would also introduce a broader range of sentencing options to help ensure that the punishments handed down by courts martial or summary trials are appropriate, both in terms of being appropriate to the offence committed as well as being broadly comparable to the range and type of sentences available within the civilian criminal justice system. Criminal justice evolves. Military justice must reflect the best of the evolution of the civilian criminal system.

Bill C-15 would also improve how victims are treated by the military justice system. The bill includes the option of presenting victim impact statements before courts martial and would give military judges the authority to order restitution.

Victim impact statements are very important to the whole justice system, something that is recognized on the civilian side but which now needs to be enacted on the military side for us to continue to be as proud of and confident in that system as we have been to date.

The bill would set an additional limitation period for holding summary trials, requiring that charges be laid within six months of an alleged offence being committed, to accompany the existing requirement that the summary trial be held within one year of the alleged offence. And, Bill C-15 would legally empower the Court Martial Appeal Court of Canada to suspend sentences handed down by courts martial where deemed appropriate.

In addition to resolving issues related to the administration of military justice, Bill C-15 would strengthen the military police system by officially establishing the position, duties and responsibilities of the Canadian Forces Provost Marshal, who is the military police chief, and by speeding up the military police complaint process and making it more fair.

The provost marshal, just to be clear, is not yet recognized officially in the National Defence Act. Mr. Justice Lamer recommended that he or she be so, and the position would be so under Bill C-15 when it is enacted.

With respect to addressing grievances in the Canadian Forces, Bill C-15 would permit the Chief of the Defence Staff to better delegate his power as the system's final grievance authority, thereby helping to resolve grievances more swiftly and efficiently in the interests of better administration and morale.

The bill would also formally change the name of the Canadian Forces Grievance Board, at its own request, to the military grievances external review committee to reflect the actual status of that committee. This would better reflect its independence and increase the confidence of Canadian Forces members in its impartiality.

Finally, this bill would improve the existing statutory requirement for a periodic independent review of selected provisions of the National Defence Act. It would clearly establish that requirement in the act itself, setting out both the scope of review and the mandate of review period which would be adjusted from five to seven years to ensure the quality and effectiveness of each independent review.

In conclusion, the government recognizes that the changes proposed in this bill are extensive and, in some cases, complex. However, it should be noted that, in most cases, the need for these changes has been recognized for years and most of the proposed changes have already been addressed and analyzed in committee.

Our men and women in uniform are counting on us. This government acknowledges that regular attention and review is necessary to ensure the continued relevance and effectiveness of any legal system, military or civilian, and through Bill C-15, we will ensure that this is the case for military justice in the years to come.

Canadians depend on their government to build and maintain a justice system that reflects our national values and respects the rule of law. This government has been given a strong mandate from Canadians to do that. The House has a mandate to act in this area as well. I therefore call on the House to support this important effort by moving this bill forward as quickly as possible.

It may seem to some of us in the House that the measures in the bill are distant or obscure. Not all of us have had direct contact with the military justice system, but we all understand that the roughly 100,000 Canadian men and women in uniform, regular force, reserve force, depend on these measures for their morale, for their discipline, for the framework of justice, action and order in which they operate in Canada, and which they take with them abroad when they are deployed as they have been so often in the history of this country.

We have a responsibility to them, eight years after the Lamer report, to move forward with these important measures. The measures in Bill C-15 go well beyond those provided for in Bill C-16, and will indeed supersede that of the bill we dealt with earlier today if that bill passes into law earlier.

We hope that we have the support of all members of the House in moving through an expeditious debate on the bill, efficient consideration at committee, and early implementation and enactment of the bill into law.

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1:20 p.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the remarks from the hon. parliamentary secretary. My question involves the review that was done by the hon. Mr. Justice Lamer submitted in 2003. That review contained some 88 recommendations, a few of which are covered in Bill C-16 and some in Bill C-15, but it seems the government has substituted its judgment for Mr. Justice Lamer in omitting some of those.

As well, in his report there were many things in the recommendations the government could do without legislation, including increasing resources to the military justice system which apparently the government has failed to do in that intervening time period.

Why have there been these omissions of recommendations from the bill and why has the government not acted on those recommendations which do not require legislation?

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1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Alexander Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, the government has acted on many of the recommendations that do not require legislation and we would be happy to review those in detail with the hon. member and his party at committee or outside of the House. Within the confines of an answer to this question, I cannot provide that level of detail.

The vast majority of the recommendations contained in the Lamer report of 2003 have been translated into legislation in the bill. I think the member will agree, as many members in his party did in consideration at committee, that these are the right ones and that not all were appropriate for translation for inclusion in the bill at this time.

There are larger issues related to the Military Police Complaints Commission and the grievance process which are still subject to policy review, still subject to decisions pending outside of the House, which we hope to translate into legislation at a subsequent date. But keep in mind that Justice LeSage is leading another review of the military justice system, which is due very soon, which will have recommendations. The House will have a chance to return to these issues relatively soon because of our delay in implementing the recommendations from the Lamer report over eight long years.

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1:25 p.m.

Liberal

John McKay Scarborough—Guildwood, ON

Mr. Speaker, as the hon. member would know, in the many reiterations of this bill, one of the debates was around the independence of the police to conduct investigations. The independence of the police is as important to the rule of law as the independence of the judiciary.

As I said earlier, the tension between the independence of the police and the command structure of the military is what creates something of a hybrid system for military justice in this country, and for that matter, in all other countries.

There exists a tension in the military system of justice that does not exist in the civilian system. Where police would be assumed to be, both factually and in appearance, independent of supervision from, say, an authority like a mayor or other political authority in a military justice system, that is not entirely a warranted assumption.

Hence, my question is with respect to subsection 18.5(3), which states: “The Vice Chief of the Defence Staff may issue instructions or guidelines in writing in respect of a particular investigation”.

I would be interested in the government's view with respect to the ability of the vice chief of the defence staff to actually issue instructions on a unique and discreet investigation. That does not auger well for the independence of the police to pursue an investigation, where it might take the police.

Does the hon. member have some concern that this particular section could be both used, but more ominously abused, by senior brass, for want of a better term, in order to shut down an investigation?

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1:25 p.m.

Conservative

Chris Alexander Ajax—Pickering, ON

Mr. Speaker, the government, after long consideration within the Department of National Defence, and on the basis of consultations with many, inside and outside of government, has come to the conclusion that it can be confident that those measures, mentioned by the member for Scarborough--Guildwood, are required. Abuse can come in many forms. We rely on the professionalism of the senior leadership of the Department of National Defence, and all our public servants, to prevent it. By and large they do.

I would remind the hon. member, there are also safeguards in the bill. The number of times that the vice chief of the defence staff has recourse to this provision is subject to review. This provision itself is subject to review, as are all the measures governing military justice. It is currently every five years. We are now proposing every seven years.

Let us be clear, there are institutions within the Department of National Defence. The superintendence of military justice is in the hands of the judge advocate general's office. Investigations and police work are in the hands of the provost marshal. They have their own logic and their own autonomy. That is enhanced by the bill, given that the provost marshals will for the first time be recognized, and the purposes of those officials' work recognized in the National Defence Act, thereby strengthening their ability to do their job without interference.

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1:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Barry Devolin

Given that the time for government orders for today is about to expire, the hon. parliamentary secretary will have four minutes remaining in questions and comments when the House returns to this bill.

In view of the ruling made earlier today, there will be no private members' business hour today.

Accordingly the House stands adjourned until Monday, November 14, 2011 at 11 a.m. pursuant to Standing Orders 28(2) and 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 1:31 p.m.)