House of Commons Hansard #135 of the 40th Parliament, 3rd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was americans.

Topics

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

5:50 p.m.

NDP

Chris Charlton Hamilton Mountain, ON

Mr. Speaker, for me, the issue that the member raised that is most important is the issue of the no-fly list. When it comes to that list, no person may know what information is being held about them by the United States. Perhaps what is even worse, for me, is that they may not correct that information if there are any mistakes.

We have talked a number of times in this House about some of the people who were on that no-fly list. If the late Senator Ted Kennedy and the member for Winnipeg Centre, who I do not think anybody in this House would suggest is shy, cannot figure out how to get their names off that list, what are average Canadian citizens going to do?

The member referenced in his speech the case of Maher Arar who was also on that no-fly list. Let us look at what happened in that instance. We had a commission of inquiry which, as we know, was done by Justice Dennis O'Connor. He concluded by saying:

I am able to say categorically that there is no evidence to indicate that Mr. Arar has committed any offence or that his activities constitute a threat to the security of Canada.

The Prime Minister apologized. We paid compensation to the tune of $10.5 million. Yet, the U.S. authorities refused to accept that he is innocent and to this day he is still on the no-fly list.

I know that the member for Windsor—Tecumseh is a lawyer. I wonder if he could tell us whether anyone can actually get their name off that no-fly list?

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

5:50 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, the answer, in short, is no. There does not appear to be any way of being able to get one's name off that list.

As I say, I have this case that I have been working on for over a year. I have explored every angle, both legal and political, as well as administrative behind the scenes, and there does not appear to be any way that one can get one's name off that list.

I think we have had a Federal Court decision that said some similar thing, in terms of other cases. So, it is just not possible to do it and yet, we are prepared to expose more Canadians to that list.

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

5:50 p.m.

Yellowhead
Alberta

Conservative

Rob Merrifield Minister of State (Transport)

Mr. Speaker, I move:

That this question be now put.

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

5:55 p.m.

NDP

Joe Comartin Windsor—Tecumseh, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. We still have other individuals who are prepared to speak on this.

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

5:55 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

That is fine. The motion is that the question be now put. That is a debatable motion, so we can continue on with debate.

However, right now we are in questions and comments. There is a five minute question and comment period for the minister of state.

The hon. member for Timmins—James Bay.

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

5:55 p.m.

NDP

Charlie Angus Timmins—James Bay, ON

Mr. Speaker, I find it interesting the way our colleagues in the Conservative Party have tried to shut down debate on this. They want to push this through. They do not want to be honest with Canadians. This is the party that ranted about the long form census and claimed that if two Canadians felt that there was a fear of black helicopters in the sky because of the long form census, they would trash an internationally respected data collection agency.

However, the provisions in Bill C-42 here will take the private information of Canadian citizens, who might be flying down to Cancun on a holiday, and they will have no idea that this Conservative government's plan is to allow foreign companies to data mine their personal information.

For example, a person who goes to a travel agency and books a flight to Mexico or the Dominican Republic, and happens to fly over United States airspace, their credit card, hotel booking, and rental car information can be passed on to the United States and held for up to 40 years, so that companies within the United States can access that information to data mine. It can be given to other third party countries without the consent of Canadians.

I would like to ask the hon. member, why has the government not had the decency to go back to the many average Canadians out there who look to parliamentarians to protect their interests and explain it to them why they are trading away the personal information of Canadians?

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

5:55 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Merrifield Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is a very important piece of legislation that we have before us. It is important that it be passed in the sense that Canadians have the ability to move freely internationally, particularly into and over the United States.

What the United States is actually asking for in this piece of legislation is the information of those who fly over its airspace. It is a sovereign nation. It has been attacked by terrorists. It very much has the concern of who those people are who are flying over its airspace in those planes. It has nothing to do with personal information and the fearmongering that we are hearing from my hon. colleague and others in debate. This is absolutely ridiculous. It is a matter of who is in the plane. The U.S. wants to know that and rightfully so. It has a valid concern in that sense.

When 85% of our international travel is actually into the United States, it is important that we not compromise from that perspective. We have concessions with the United States on flying from Canadian point to Canadian point over U.S. airspace and there is no real concern.

This is an issue that we are dealing with in an effective way and we encourage the House to support this. The fearmongering that we get from the other side has nothing to do with Canadians' interests. This is all about politics and that is unfortunate, although we are in a political arena and we should not be surprised by it.

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

5:55 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, let me understand this now. Canadians who are watching this debate just saw something happen. Rightly or wrongly, opposition parties were actually debating the substance of the legislation. Then the government stood up in its opportunity to debate the substance of a law that it is passing to give the reasons why it is a good law and convince Canadians to its side, but its response was to adjourn the debate.

In other words, it does not want to talk about it and it prefers that we end the discussion right now. Is that what Canadians would interpret as being an open and accessible government that takes responsibility or is it yet another manifestation of, “You're on your own”?

Strengthening Aviation Security Act
Government Orders

5:55 p.m.

Conservative

Rob Merrifield Yellowhead, AB

Mr. Speaker, I am not sure if there was a question there.

A significant amount of debate has gone on with respect to this piece of legislation. Canadians' interests will not be served by us continuing to reiterate the kinds of concerns that the opposition has, which are not based on fact but based on hyperbole and fearmongering.

Canadians know full well that we are linked with the United States. It is our greatest trading partner and has been our greatest ally in every war and every battle we have ever fought. We are linked from that perspective. If Canada was attacked by terrorists, the Americans would defend us. When Americans are attacked, we do the same.

This is where we are at when it comes to flying over U.S. airspace and knowing who is in those planes that could potentially cause harm to either American or Canadian citizens. The right to know who is in those planes should not be of that large a concern to my hon. colleagues.

It is important for us to get this legislation through. We encourage debate to be completed, so we can get on with other business of the nation.

Statements by Minister Regarding KAIROS Funding
Privilege
Government Orders

February 28th, 2011 / 6 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, further to the interventions made on Friday, February 18, by members from all sides of the House and further to the intervention made by the member for Guelph earlier today, I would like to provide information that might be of further use to you in considering the alleged matter of privilege raised by the member for Scarborough—Guildwood.

With regard to the departmental document in question, as I pointed out to you the last time the House met, the CIDA document was sent to the Minister of International Cooperation by public servants who were seeking a decision from her.

The member for Ottawa Centre and the member for Scarborough—Rouge River, in their interventions last Friday, argued that this was a formal contract. As you well know, Mr. Speaker, an internal departmental document is not a contract requiring the parties, in this case the minister and her department, to agree. This document included a departmental analysis and a departmental recommendation. Public servants sent this departmental document to the minister so that she could review their analysis and make a decision. The departmental document then quite properly served a role to convey the minister's decision back to her officials so that they could implement the decision.

Across government, hundreds of these internal departmental documents cross ministers' desks every day. As members from all sides of the House would know, especially members from the Liberal Party who have served in government, this is how many elected officials transmit their decisions to the public service in our system of government. Indeed, the president of CIDA, a non-partisan public servant, who is the equivalent of a deputy minister, made this clear when she testified before the House of Commons Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development on December 9:

Yes, I think as the minister said, the agency did recommend the project to the minister. She has indicated that. But it was her decision, after due consideration, to not accept the department's advice.

This is quite normal, and I certainly was aware of her decision. The inclusion of the word “not” is just a simple reflection of what her decision was, and she has been clear. So that's quite normal.

I think we have changed the format for these memos so the minister has a much clearer place to put where she doesn't want to accept the advice, which is her prerogative.

Let me reiterate: “—it was her decision”, referring to the minister, “to not accept the department's advice. This is quite normal.... The inclusion of the word 'not' is just a simple reflection of what her decision was”.

That is direct testimony by the president of CIDA before the standing committee.

It is clear that the deputy minister understood the direction by the minister and how it was being transmitted to her. She even acknowledged in her response that the format in which the departmental document was drafted was confusing and that the department's internal practices have been revised to provide the minister with a clear and direct way in which to approve or not approve advice given, which, in the words of the deputy minister, “is her prerogative”.

The Minister of International Cooperation was the only person with the authority to make a decision regarding this application for funding. In this case, the minister's decision was to reject the recommendation provided to her and to direct that CIDA not provide funding to KAIROS. The minister had reviewed the departmental document and made her decision not to approve the funding application. She also told the committee that she did not know who did it, but told the House that the word was inserted on her instructions. Again, as I pointed out last Friday, these are not contradictory statements.

On all the evidence before the House, it must be concluded that both statements are true. Once again, the member asking the question failed to pursue the inquiry.

Mr. Speaker, as I again pointed out last Friday, in their interventions in this place, no information has been presented by the members across the aisle that would establish how the minister could have intended, intentionally or unintentionally, to mislead these officials. As such, I believe there is no prima facie case of privilege before you.

For this funding request, there was only one possible decision-maker: the Minister of International Cooperation. Once she made a decision, it became CIDA's decision. Decisions of cabinet and decisions of ministers are decisions of the government. Decisions of ministers are the decisions of the departments they lead.

As I pointed out in my submission last Friday,

CIDA encompasses both officials and the minister responsible for CIDA.

Ultimately, while decisions are communicated on behalf of a department, it is the minister who is accountable for the decision, as she pointed out 11 times in her testimony to the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development on December 9, 2010.

In conclusion, the minister has been clear that the department recommended providing funding to KAIROS. That is unquestionable; but she has also been clear that it was her decision alone not to provide funding to KAIROS. She has been clear that she provided the direction to her office to communicate her decision to the department.

As I also pointed out last Friday, the members opposite have raised several points but have not provided proof of a prima facie case that the House's privileges have been breached. The Minister of International Cooperation has indicated that the way in which she handled this matter was unfortunate, and that she had provided a lack of clarity about how paperwork was handled. She has apologized for this lack of clarity.

While a lack of clarity is, in the minister's own words, “unfortunate”, it is not a prima facie case of privilege. The facts do not support the allegations made against the Minister of International Cooperation by members of the opposition, and I do not believe there is a prima facie case of privilege before you, Mr. Speaker.

Mr. Speaker, thank you for the opportunity to provide some additional information and, again, we look forward to your early ruling.

Statements by Minister Regarding KAIROS Funding
Privilege
Government Orders

6:05 p.m.

Liberal

Joe Volpe Eglinton—Lawrence, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think the opposition members have a duty and an obligation but also a right to ask questions to ascertain the veracity of the information presented to them.

Therefore, in the interest of establishing whether or not there is a prima facie case, perhaps the Parliamentary Secretary to the Leader of the Government in the House of Commons would tell the House on what date the minister signed the document and on what date she instructed that “not” be inserted.

While he is doing that, perhaps he can give us an indication on documentation the minister received on other projects that were accepted and not subject to contention, where she instructed that a “yes” be inserted.

Statements by Minister Regarding KAIROS Funding
Privilege
Government Orders

6:05 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I know that my hon. friend wants to engage in debate on this, but it is quite clear that arguments have been presented by all sides of the House on several occasions now.

The case is before you, Mr. Speaker, for your consideration. I think the facts are clear, as I stated twice now in interventions on behalf of the government, that the minister's statements have not been contradictory. There is no proof of a prima facie case of privilege in this particular situation.

I ask all members, along with me, to encourage the chair to bring a ruling on this matter to the House as quickly as possible.

Statements by Minister Regarding KAIROS Funding
Privilege
Government Orders

6:05 p.m.

Carleton—Mississippi Mills
Ontario

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Minister of State and Chief Government Whip

Mr. Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I would like to advise the House that tomorrow will no longer be the allotted day and that the House will continue consideration of Bill C-42. Wednesday, March 2, will be the allotted day.

Statements by Minister Regarding KAIROS Funding
Privilege
Government Orders

6:05 p.m.

Liberal

Maria Minna Beaches—East York, ON

Mr. Speaker, I just need to say something.

When a document goes to a minister's office, first of all, we must recognize that the Minister of International Cooperation is not CIDA incarnate. She is the Minister of International Cooperation. CIDA has a president and vice-presidents. The president is CIDA; the system is CIDA.

Having been there I know that in cases like this, the president does not sign the document, unless the president and the vice-president of CIDA and the people recommending the program have thoroughly checked it out, have thoroughly debated or discussed it with the minister's office and have then decided that it is to be approved or that it is being supported or not.

In this case, it was obvious that the president signed the document, as did the other official from CIDA. Therefore, the document was signed.

Now if the minister did not agree, the normal procedure would be to send the document back and to continue negotiations and to have some discussion. The minister does not sign a document and then stick in the “not”. That is never done.

I think what happened in this case is quite obvious: the officials signed the document, the minister signed the document as it had been approved, and then after the fact was told to put in the “not” by the PMO, or someone at the PMO put it in.

I can say this: the document was doctored. It was not done the other way.

Statements by Minister Regarding KAIROS Funding
Privilege
Government Orders

6:10 p.m.

Conservative

The Deputy Speaker Andrew Scheer

This is not a point of debate.

The Chair is willing to hear arguments based on the specific question of privilege that was originally raised but not to engage in another round of debate on what may or may not have happened.

I would urge the hon. member to stick to the actual substance of the question of privilege that was raised.