House of Commons Hansard #133 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was cost.

Topics

Public Service of Canada
Adjournment Proceedings
Private Members' Business

6 p.m.

North Vancouver
B.C.

Conservative

Andrew Saxton Parliamentary Secretary to the President of the Treasury Board

Mr. Speaker, I rise to respond to the suggestion made by the hon. member opposite, that the government has something to hide because the former Public Sector Integrity Commissioner has resigned. This could not be further from the truth. Our record of strengthening accountability, increasing transparency in the public service and restoring Canadians' trust in government holds up to the utmost scrutiny.

This government has a long list of accomplishments to make the public service more open and more accountable to Canadians. The first thing we did when we came to power in 2006 was to establish the Federal Accountability Act.

This is the toughest anti-corruption law in Canadian history. That act and its supporting action plan contained dozens of measures and hundreds of amendments to some 45 federal statutes, which touched virtually every part of government and beyond. It gave agents of Parliament additional powers. It dealt with issues such as the financing of political parties, lobbying and whistleblowing by creating the new position of the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner in the first place.

I must, however, take this opportunity to correct the hon. member for Madawaska—Restigouche. When he asked the question on December 9, it showed how he obviously does not know the background on how the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner is appointed.

I would like to take a moment to remind the House that the Public Sector Integrity Commissioner is an independent officer of Parliament. She was appointed with the approval of all opposition party leaders and Parliament, but do not take my word for it. Let me provide a quote, which states:

Therefore, we seek unanimous consent that the ninth report of the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates dealing with the certificate of nomination of Christiane Ouimet to the position of Public Sector Integrity Commissioner be deemed tabled and concurred in.

Who said that? It was the Liberal chair of that committee.

Ms. Ouimet's appointment was considered by the government operations committee on June 14, 2007. Her nomination was considered by the Senate on June 19, 2007. The Senate agreed to appoint her on that very same day.

When it comes to accountability and openness, our record speaks for itself. The member needs to stop and examine the historical record. In fact, that is exactly what the NDP member for Winnipeg Centre did. He stated, “We're the oversight committee for the office of the integrity commissioner and we failed whistleblowers and I'm the first to admit it”.

We have made Canada's public institutions more open, accountable and transparent than at any time in this country's history. We have a process in place for ensuring the independence and objectivity of the integrity commissioner. We are pleased that the interim integrity commissioner has indicated that a third party review will take place to ensure no valid concerns were overlooked.

I would simply ask the member opposite, where is the beef?

Public Service of Canada
Adjournment Proceedings
Private Members' Business

6 p.m.

Liberal

Jean-Claude D'Amours Madawaska—Restigouche, NB

Mr. Speaker, the parliamentary secretary should not forget that it was his party, his government, his Prime Minister, who decided on Ms. Ouimet's appointment. It was no one else. It came from that side of the House. They were the ones who decided who would apply for the position of integrity commissioner and how she fulfill that mandate.

When I hear the parliamentary secretary say they wanted a more accountable public service, I wonder what will happen to the minister responsible for CIDA? Her officials had recommended going ahead with funding KAIROS. They said it was a good project and that we should continue to help that agency. What did the minister do? She added the word “not”, to not approve the financial contribution.

They want to make people more accountable. Those are fine words. That is what they are saying on the government side: the officials are accountable. Who is not? The government and its ministers are not. That is the reality. If they want to talk about accountability, they should look in the mirror first.

Public Service of Canada
Adjournment Proceedings
Private Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

Conservative

Andrew Saxton North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, when our government took office, we promised to bring accountability to Ottawa, something that was severely lacking under the previous Liberal government.

As part of that plan, we created the position of Public Sector Integrity Commissioner to ensure that public servants can speak out about wrongdoing without the fear of reprisals. We made the position an independent officer of Parliament who reports to Parliament. Not only is the position independent of government, but appointments to that position are approved by all parties. An appointment is made after consultation with the leader of every recognized party in the Senate and House of Commons, after approval in the Senate and House of Commons.

In addition, the Standing Committee on Government Operations and Estimates examines the qualifications and competence of the nominee and reports to the House. This was the process used for the former commissioner.

Why is the member opposite criticizing the government for the actions of a commissioner approved by his own party? The new interim commissioner has committed to reviewing the disclosures of wrongdoing and complaints of reprisal and to reporting his findings to Parliament.

Status of Women
Adjournment Proceedings
Private Members' Business

6:05 p.m.

Liberal

Todd Russell Labrador, NL

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure today to address a couple of questions that were raised back on November 5 regarding 600 murdered or missing aboriginal women. Of course, these women were victims of sexualized racialized violence. At that time, I asked the minister responsible if the government would call a public inquiry into the 600 murdered or missing aboriginal women and girls.

Also at that time, I asked the minister responsible why the government had cut funding to Sisters in Spirit, a groundbreaking initiative that has been taking place over five years. It has been largely responsible for documenting the cases of these aboriginal women. It has also been the chief advocate for these women and their families.

In the throne speech and in the budget, the government had committed to move forward on this particular file. In October of 2010, it did announce a $10 million funding grant. However, the funding was not directed specifically toward aboriginal women. It was announced without consultations with NWAC, the Native Women's Association of Canada, and the Sisters in Spirit organization.

In terms of the developments, NWAC summed up its feelings and analyses in a press release. It said that it did not specifically speak to aboriginal women, that it did not include measures to address serious crimes like murder and speak only to violence as a whole. It said that it reinvents and conducts work that has already been done by Sisters in Spirit. It indicated that the announcement did not address the jurisdictional issues of the RCMP and that it allowed any community group to access funding, not necessarily aboriginal or women specific.

Although the government had promised to fully tackle this serious issue, which is a national tragedy, it did not deliver on that promise. In fact, the government denied Sisters in Spirit funding. It indicated that it was not allowed to use its name, its slogan or its logo, Grandmother Moon, which has become so enmeshed with the fight for justice for these women. It indicated that it would not be allowed to perform advocacy work. Some people have said that it was telling aboriginal women to shut up and that it could not speak for these women who could no longer speak for themselves.

The government should revisit its decision to not hold a national public inquiry. I ask this House, as I have asked many times, how it is that 600 people can be murdered or go missing in this country and no national public inquiry is called. When the salmon went missing in the Fraser River, the government said that it would call a public inquiry. However, it will not call a public inquiry for murdered or missing aboriginal women.

I ask the government to revisit its decision to cut Sisters in Spirit's funding and to fully fund it and its objectives, collaboratively and in consultation.

In closing, I would just like to say that these are not nameless, faceless people. There are 600 of them. I would ask anyone listening tonight to visit the NWAC web site, scroll down, look at their faces, read their stories and act.

Status of Women
Adjournment Proceedings
Private Members' Business

6:10 p.m.

Beauport—Limoilou
Québec

Conservative

Sylvie Boucher Parliamentary Secretary for Status of Women

Mr. Speaker, I thank the member opposite for giving me the opportunity to correct some misunderstandings about the government's response to the important issue of missing and murdered aboriginal women.

The member's question is a good example of the misinformation that has circulated. In my opinion, the issue is too important to play petty politics. The lives of young women have been tragically cut short and the families have been devastated by grief. In all sincerity, I would like to respond fully to the member's questions.

On October 29, the Minister for Status of Women announced the seven elements of the government's most recent advancements in addressing this disturbing high number of missing and murdered aboriginal women identified in the Sisters in Spirit report.

What my colleague referred to as a laundry list is a reality, with a carefully balanced and targeted package.

First, the focus is on improving law enforcement and the response of the justice system. This is consistent with the commitment made in the throne speech to treat measures to fight the disturbing number of unsolved cases of murder and disappearance of aboriginal women as a criminal justice priority, and the commitment in the budget to take concrete action to ensure that law enforcement and the justice system meet the needs of aboriginal women and their families.

Consequently a significant portion of the funds will be used to establish a new RCMP national police support centre for missing persons. The new centre will ensure that police officers throughout Canada will have better access to more complete information about missing persons, so that if a person is being held for any reason, police officers will immediately know if a missing person report has been filed.

This measure responds directly to the concerns described in the report by the Native Women's Association of Canada and by others, including the Association of Chiefs of Police who passed a resolution calling on the federal government to show leadership with respect to missing persons, and the recent report by the federal-provincial-territorial working group on missing and murdered women. This will help police forces to search for and, most importantly, to locate missing persons.

The new national police support centre for missing persons will help Canada's police services by coordinating missing persons investigations and will provide specialized support.

The national information website will be modelled after certain provincial websites, such as Ontario's, which have led to new arrests in unsolved cases by encouraging the public to submit information to help identify human remains.

Amendments to the Criminal Code will also help police in their investigations, in response to calls, including calls from provincial attorneys general.

I completely agree with the hon. member opposite. A support centre for missing persons is necessary. I also recognize that resources need to be dedicated to the other factors in this complex issue that lead to higher rates of violence against aboriginal women—

Status of Women
Adjournment Proceedings
Private Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Labrador.

Status of Women
Adjournment Proceedings
Private Members' Business

February 17th, 2011 / 6:15 p.m.

Liberal

Todd Russell Labrador, NL

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for her words. However, I would reiterate that what I have said here in this House are not just my words. These are the words of the Native Women's Association of Canada and the words of the Sisters in Spirit. These are people who have worked at this for five years and some for decades.

The Native Women's Association of Canada also said that we need to establish a new and transparent partnership with the government, that the government needs to do this; that we need to create a fund made available to families and communities of missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls; and that we need the government's ongoing support to the Sisters in Spirit movement and to the Native Women's Association of Canada. Obviously, when they are asking for this, it is not in the announcement. This was post-announcement. So these are obvious drawbacks in the government's approach and in what the government announced in October.

Will the government fully fund Sisters in Spirit, allow it to continue the fantastic work that it has undertaken for the last five years, and will the government call a national public inquiry into the 600 murdered or missing aboriginal women and girls?

Status of Women
Adjournment Proceedings
Private Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Conservative

Sylvie Boucher Beauport—Limoilou, QC

Mr. Speaker, this is the first time that a government has set up place a system like ours. No one had ever thought about it before, especially not the Liberals.

Therefore, five of the seven initiatives are directed at some of the other aspects. Additional funds will be provided in the western provinces, which have had a higher number of missing and murdered aboriginal women, according to the information collected by Sisters in Spirit. This will enable them to better adapt the services to the victims' culture. There are funds available to develop victim services for front-line aboriginal groups and organizations in order to address the unique needs of the families of missing and murdered women. This will help aboriginal victims and the families of missing and murdered aboriginal women.

There are also funds for aboriginal communities so that they can get together and develop community safety plans, to identify and respond to their own needs in their own communities and make a lasting difference.

There is money available for projects newly developed by aboriginal groups and front-line organizations working to reduce the vulnerability of women and young girls—

Status of Women
Adjournment Proceedings
Private Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

Order.

The hon. member for Davenport.

Haiti
Adjournment Proceedings
Private Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, since the January 2010 earthquake, the people of Haiti have struggled to rebuild their country after over 200,000 people lost their lives and millions were left without shelter. Canadians watch with growing concern as the already frail infrastructure and the societal structure of Haiti literally fell to pieces.

Canadian opened their hearts and their wallets and donated time and money to Haiti. Donations totalled over $220 million matched dollar-for-dollar by the Government of Canada.

Haitians have had to endure innumerable challenges over the course of their country's history. They have endured a lack of development, a shattered economy, a ravaged environment and a corrupt political system, along with the recurring natural disasters. Many of these problems appear insurmountable. Although Canadians offered immediate financial assistance, it has taken a long time for it to arrive in Haiti.

Canada's military did a wonderful job in Haiti despite the challenges. Our troops were vital to clearing rubble and reopening roads. However, requests for Canadian troops to stay in Haiti past its mandate of six weeks were rebuffed by the government. The reality today in Haiti is that the country is completely dependent upon external support structures. When the Canadians left, a void was created as we took back our heavy equipment and expertise.

Canadians made significant donations to groups like the Canadian Red Cross and Humanitarian Coalition, a group of NGOs that came together to deliver the humanitarian aid more effectively and efficiently. There needs to be a more effective process for delivering this aid.

Haiti faced significant and prolonged challenges even before the earthquake. The UN report by Michel Forst identified six areas where Haiti needs the assistance of the international community, including the penitentiary situation and prison overcrowding, violence against women, lynching, human trafficking, deportation and the lack of economic, social and cultural rights.

These are specific areas where Canada and the world can help. In order to foster improvement in Haiti we should work to assist Haitians in establishing the rule of law. We also need to work with the Haitians more closely to stop criminal activity so that Haitians can feel secure.

Only 25% of the $600 million it had promised Haiti has been appropriated. These realities are taken in the context of the government spending almost $27,000, which is 55 times the gross national product of the average Haitian, on a single-use backdrop for its conference on Haiti just days after the earthquake.

This is also the government that promised to fast-track family reunifications for Haitians with relatives in Canada. Just last week we learned that the government rejected almost half of the so-called special applications. Recently an Ottawa resident who wanted to bring his daughter and granddaughter to safety applied to have his family reunited, only to have the application rejected even before the deadline to submit the documentation had arrived.

What remains is a country still in desperate need of help. Millions are still living in tent cities where real cities once stood, in squalid conditions with rubble resting where it originally landed over a year ago. Fetid and bacteria-laden water gave rise to the epidemic of cholera that has killed over 4,500 patients to date.

The political system is in chaos and there is still no clear winner of a presidential election beset by fraud and irregularities. Violence against women and children is rampant and the threat of rioting in the streets is constant.

On November 19, I asked the Conservative government why it was not showing leadership and why we were not hearing anything from it in this regard and on the ongoing humanitarian crisis. I ask again, when will the government report to Parliament and give us an update on its promise to help the people of Haiti? When is it going to honour the terms of its pledge to expedite family reunifications?

Haiti
Adjournment Proceedings
Private Members' Business

6:20 p.m.

Newmarket—Aurora
Ontario

Conservative

Lois Brown Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of International Cooperation

Mr. Speaker, I know that it has been said in this House before, but I want to reiterate our government's unwavering support for the people of Haiti.

Like all Canadians, our government is very concerned about the people affected by the outbreak of cholera, particularly those living in the makeshift emergency shelters dotting the landscape outside the urban centres.

Our most recent information indicates that over 4,500 people have succumbed to this deadly disease and over 120,000 people have been hospitalized.

We know the epidemic started in Saint-Marc in the Artibonite region north of Port-au-Prince but that it has since spread to most of the country, including the city of Port-au-Prince and the camps.

I know we live in a media age where every tragic event is broadcast around the world almost instantaneously, and I know that some can become very desensitized. However, when I see the haunting images coming out of Haiti, a country where close to 1.3 million are still homeless, I cannot help but to imagine what it must be like.

The devastating progress of the disease was hastened by inadequate sanitary conditions in many parts of the country, and grew worse because of the heavy rains brought on by hurricane Tomas. Members will also recall the civil unrest in the north, which slowed the response times and hindered some activities in response to the initial outbreak.

This is a very serious situation, indeed, and Canada's response to the cholera epidemic now totals $7 million. Last year on October 23, Canada's Prime Minister was among the first world leaders to announce support for Haiti. In fact after the initial announcement of $1 million, Canada quickly responded with an additional $6 million.

Working with the Pan American Health Organization and the Haitian government, we moved quickly and efficiently to ensure that humanitarian assistance was getting to the most vulnerable. Through our support to PAHO, we were able to provide supplies to treat approximately 80,000 cases of cholera in the early stages of the outbreak.

Our support to UNICEF and its 74 partner organizations provided over 13 million water purification tablets, 2 million oral rehydration salts, and over 600,000 bars of soap.

When a devastating disease such as this occurs, education and prevention become key. I am pleased to tell the hon. member who raised this issue tonight that through UNICEF and its partners, we have reached over 5,000 vulnerable schools, representing 1.2 million children in our effort to educate and stop the spread of cholera.

We are also working with World Vision Canada and Médecins du Monde Canada.

World Vision Canada has provided up to 120,000 cholera patients with life-saving treatment in specialized health facilities, and will provide additional families with access to clean water and the necessary supplies to slow the spread of the disease.

Médecins du Monde Canada has established rehydration centres and cholera treatment centres, providing life-saving medical treatment in Cité Soleil. The organization is also providing further training in cholera treatment and prevention measures to community-based and hospital health workers.

Canadians can be proud of the government's partnership with the Canadian Red Cross. Through a contribution announced by the Minister of International Cooperation last November, the Red Cross has set up its new emergency field hospital. This state-of-the-art mobile hospital includes the medical materials and supplies, as well as professionals, needed to treat thousands of Haitians.

I assure the members that the Government of Canada continues to monitor the situation very closely to help ensure the needs—

Haiti
Adjournment Proceedings
Private Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

The hon. member for Davenport.

Haiti
Adjournment Proceedings
Private Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Liberal

Mario Silva Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, it is important for Haiti that Canada and all nations of the world demonstrate determined and prolonged leadership in assisting this country.

The recent return to Haiti of former dictator Jean-Claude Duvalier only serves to create more instability. I am regularly in touch with Haitians who are presently working to assist in the prosecution of Duvalier. Human Rights Watch, just days ago, stated that:

The government of Haiti should be encouraged and supported in its decision to move forward with the prosecution of the former dictator Jean Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier—

The Government of Canada needs to lend assistance to this process.

Haiti can benefit from unprecedented levels of international support. Work to build government structures, security and sustainability, as outlined in many UN reports and other studies both before and after the earthquake, must take place.

Our shared history with Haiti is rich and our shared culture is still growing. I would encourage the government to forcefully and with greater resolve undertake every possible action to assist the people of Haiti and to reverse the country's longstanding trend toward failed state status.

Haiti
Adjournment Proceedings
Private Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

Lois Brown Newmarket—Aurora, ON

Mr. Speaker, Canadians can be proud of the response this government and Canadians have shown in providing support for our friends in Haiti.

The hon. member talked about showing leadership. Canada was on the ground almost immediately when Haiti called for help after the earthquake, and we have continued to show that leadership in all of the efforts we have undertaken and demonstrated over the last year.

In conclusion, I would like to quote from the Prime Minister's January 25 speech when he was talking about our efforts to rebuild Haiti. When characterizing Canadians' response, he said:

This generosity–both public and private–is a testament to the kindness and compassion that unites humanity in the face of catastrophe.

I could not agree with the Prime Minister more.

Haiti
Adjournment Proceedings
Private Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 10 a.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6:28 p.m.)