House of Commons Hansard #109 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was criminal.

Topics

Criminal Code
Private Members' Business

6:30 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

Order, please. The hon. member for Drummond will have three minutes for his speech when the motion returns before the House.

The time provided for the consideration of private members' business has now expired, and the motion is dropped to the bottom of the order of precedence on the order paper.

A motion to adjourn the House under Standing Order 38 deemed to have been moved.

6:30 p.m.

NDP

Jamie Nicholls Vaudreuil-Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am an NDP member. We have never taken federal power and so we look at the long game and often go to history to see the mistakes made in the past.

There is a famous saying by one of the major figures in Canadian politics. It was “You had an option, sir.” Those famous words were what cleared out the Liberal government at the tail end of the Trudeau era. They were words uttered by former Conservative prime minister Brian Mulroney, then only a candidate, debating former prime minister John Turner about a raft of patronage appointments that had been made.

The member across who will probably speak to this would have probably been tucked into his bed at that time, when the debate was televised. That might account for the lack of historical awareness of this pivotal debate. Those words were credited with bringing down years of Liberal arrogance, to usher in the greatest Tory majority that Canada had seen.

Mr. Mulroney, we would come to learn, would have ethical challenges of his own. Therefore, nobody's hands were clean in the end. Eventually he, too, was swept from power, leaving his party in tatters.

Often what undoes a party is a lapse in ethical judgment concerning appointments, what is called patronage.

What I am going to say tonight here in this place is a warning to members across. They too are vulnerable to the will of Canadians. The member across has a bright future, but the electors do not look favourably upon the political class when we give our friends plum positions at the expense of taxpayers. No one would denigrate the competence of these people, but their closely linked past with the party leads one to question if the appointment was based on merit or favouritism. It puts it into question and it taints the appointment itself.

The Prime Minister used to call the Senate a dumping ground for political cronies. I guess he has caved in to the rotten precedent set by Liberal and Tory administrations of past years.

In the words of our former leader:

He has declared to the Canadian public that he would not name unelected people to the Senate....His word means less and less every day he's in office, and he's behaving more and more like the Liberals.

These appointments are not limited to the Senate only, but through a whole range of public positions. I only have four minutes, so I would never be able to get through all the appointments. Let me look at the ones that stand out.

Doug Finley, husband of the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development, was the former campaign manager of the Conservative Party. He was at the head of the campaign during the in and out scandal. Wow, nice reward, a plum Senate position.

Carolyn Stewart-Olsen, the Prime Minister's communications assistant, was given a Senate job.

Don Plett, former president of the Conservative Party of Canada, was given a Senate job.

Elmer Derrick is not a Conservative, so I guess my theory is, but wait a second, he signed a deal to support Enbridge's $5.5 billion oil pipeline. He was appointed director of the Prince Rupert Port Authority.

Bernard Généreux, former Conservative MP, was appointed to the Quebec Port Authority conseil d'administration.

Jean Pierre Blackburn, former Conservative cabinet minister, was appointed as ambassador to UNESCO.

Larry Smith, failed Conservative candidate in Lac-Saint-Louis, was given a plum job in the Senate. He had the gall to complain about his pay cut.

Josée Verner, former Conservative cabinet minister, was given a plum Senate job.

Jennifer Clarke, a Vancouver Tory who failed in the 2011 election, was named director of the Prince Rupert Port Authority. Wow, Prince Rupert is really hopping.

Mark Wright, former assistant to a Conservative MP, found himself appointed to the Thunder Bay Port Authority.

Andrew Paterson, who massively donated to the Conservatives, was named to a well-paying job with Canada Post.

The list could go on and on. “I'll scratch your back if you scratch mine” works between buddies, but it is not a valid framework for public appointments. It has become so bad that Canadians have lost faith in the political class. Whether it is the Liberals or Cons, they always come in promising—

6:35 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

Order, please. The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport.

6:35 p.m.

Nepean—Carleton
Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, our government's practice is to appoint qualified candidates to positions where they are responsible for serving Canadians.

I think it would be appropriate for the hon. member to acknowledge the hard-working Canadians who serve in a variety of these positions. Many he did not name, but they are mildly compensated for a great deal of time and commitment. People have spent a lifetime accumulating experience to go on to serve on a board on behalf of the Canadian people. Often these nominated Canadians are well qualified and could be doing something else in the private sector, but they choose to serve. Indeed, public service is a worthy and honourable undertaking. Thousands of my constituents are public servants.

The hon. member has every right to raise questions about the people we appoint. The executive cabinet has the ability to make nominations, and the opposition has the responsibility to scrutinize them in this chamber. I do not deny the member's role in doing that. I only ask that he avoid painting all appointed Canadians with a negative brush. There are many honourable people in this country who have served in those roles and do so every day for the well-being of their country. We ought to recognize and thank them for that. We ought to work together to ensure that all nominations are done on the basis of merit, just as this Prime Minister does every day.

6:35 p.m.

NDP

Jamie Nicholls Vaudreuil-Soulanges, QC

Mr. Speaker, I do not think there was anything I said that denigrates the public service. In the years that we have been here, we have been great defenders of public service. However, when appointments are made that bring up questions and lead the public to ask if the appointment was made because the person was involved with the party in question rather than because of the wealth of experience the person might have from their career, as soon as that decision is tainted, then effectively the trust in the political class is reduced.

I would suggest to the member across that he visit the hall outside near the central foyer and look at the portraits of the two prime ministers mentioned earlier. He might hear the echoes. He had an option. He could have said, “I'm not going to do this. It is wrong for Canada, and I'm not going to ask Canadians to pay the price.” There was an option to say no, but he chose to say yes to the old attitudes and old stories. That, if I may say so respectfully, is not good enough for Canadians.

If he heeds those words of one of the past leaders of his party, he may stick around long enough to see the portrait of his leader on the wall in 2016 and continue to keep the NDP government to task in his capacity as one of the leaders of the official opposition. If not, he will become one of the forgotten—

6:35 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, indeed, one day this Prime Minister will have his portrait unveiled in these halls of Parliament. It will be an occasion to reflect upon the historic achievements that he has ushered in during his time as Prime Minister.

He has won three mandates just now, and perhaps more in the future. He led Canada through one of the greatest worldwide financial crises since the Great Depression. He brought to an honourable conclusion Canada's efforts to combat the Taliban in Afghanistan following the al-Qaeda attack that killed dozens of Canadians on 9/11. He has lowered taxes and reduced the encumbering weight of the state on the backs of the Canadian people. He has been recognized all around the world for his defence of human rights, Canadian values and strong economic freedom. That is why we are proud to call him our Prime Minister. It is why Canadians gave him a strengthened mandate. It is why that unveiling will be a great occasion.

April 24th, 2012 / 6:40 p.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am happy to rise this evening in this adjournment debate to bring attention to a serious matter of discrimination against the transgendered community in Canada that was the result of a change in the regulations regarding air travel implemented in August 2011.

I am also happy to continue the debate here tonight in the hopes that the government will act to end this situation where an unnecessary regulation causes great distress to transgendered Canadians when they try to travel, by subjecting them to scrutiny that no others face.

This raises a couple of important questions. One is the question of privacy rights. Why do transgendered Canadians have to prove their gender when no one else is asked to face the same kind of scrutiny at an airport? They also have to do this in a public situation, which unfortunately exposes them to the prejudice that often exists in our country against transgendered Canadians and again is a violation of their privacy rights.

We have many examples where it has caused delays in people catching flights and therefore caused missed flights, the repurchase of tickets and disruption of their travel plans for a reason that would never happen to any other Canadian planning to travel. In some cases, people have been prevented from flying by their inability to come up with documents which match the gender appearance which they show.

The government took no action when I raised this question with the Minister of Transport in question period on February 1. In fact, not only was there no action, there was unfortunately much tittering on the other side as if there was something funny about the challenges that face transgendered Canadians in their everyday lives in this country.

At transport committee on February 9, government members voted unanimously to defeat a simple NDP motion that had been moved by the member for Trinity—Spadina. That motion called for the repeal of section 52(1)(c) of the identity screening regulations under the Aeronautics Act. This regulation states, “An air carrier shall not transport a passenger if the passenger does not appear to be of the gender indicated on the identification he or she presents”.

This is a completely unnecessary regulation. It is not required under any of the international aeronautics agreements. There are many other solutions to the supposed problem presented by transgendered people who want to fly. The United Kingdom, for instance, does the very sensible thing, which we are talking about, which is requiring that identification simply match the face to the person on the documents. The question of gender is irrelevant to that match.

In Australia, there is a much more innovative solution. Australian passports and other documents allow three gender choices in determination of documents. Australian travel documents may say male, female or indeterminate, which allows transgendered people to choose a category which would not subject them to this kind of study.

In committee at that time the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport said, “I think my colleagues across have argued their case very well and have raised some good points.” Then he went on to raise no substantive points in answer to our proposal to simply limit the regulations for flying to matching up the face to the identity documents of the person.

Tonight I am asking the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport whether the government has reconsidered this issue. I am hoping that the government will be able to report to transgendered Canadians that this unnecessary regulation will be removed at the earliest possible date.

6:40 p.m.

Nepean—Carleton
Ontario

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Transport

Mr. Speaker, the identity screening regulations were created in 2007 to support the passenger protect program. That program is an aviation security initiative designed to identify people and to protect Canadians in their travels. To accomplish this, airlines used to have to verify at the boarding gate that a passenger's name, as indicated on his or her identification, matched his or her boarding pass. However, the regulations did not specify that the airline had to also match the identification and boarding pass with the passenger.

In 2010, after an incident in which an airline allegedly did not check the identification of a passenger who was wearing a veil, the regulations were amended to explicitly require that air carriers compare and verify the physical identity of passengers against their travel documents and identifications. Air carriers are now required to screen each passenger by matching the face, date of birth and gender with that on their identification.

That said, we all know it is possible that someone's age, gender or facial characteristics do not necessarily match or resemble his or her identification. This can happen for a variety of reasons. Some are medical, some are due to aging and some are due to just regular changes in appearance that can occur. That is why we give airlines the ability to resolve any apparent discrepancies when comparing passengers with their identifications.

Unlike what is being alleged, they do not necessarily require a medical certificate to do this. For example, it is possible that a passenger's gender could appear to be different from that on their identification, but what people are deliberately not being clear about is that the airline can use other methods, methods such as questions or visual assessments, to confirm that the gender on the identification is correct and belongs to that passenger. I think we can all agree that this is simply good security. We want to make sure, essentially, that people are who they say they are. That is done by matching three things: the passport to the identification and the identification to the passenger. If those three things can be linked, there is a secure identification of the person boarding the plane.

Let me be clear. These regulations do not discriminate on the basis of gender, sexual orientation or other irrelevant characteristics. They simply seek to match the passenger to the identification and the identification to the passport so that the airlines and our transportation system can be comfortable knowing that the people getting on the plane are who they say they are.

6:45 p.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, I thank the parliamentary secretary for his remarks, but he is still doing the same thing: evading the main issue.

We all believe in security in transportation and the necessity of checking the identities of passengers boarding planes. No one disputes that. However, gender is an irrelevant characteristic and does not need to be checked to establish identity. We know that other countries do not do this and have equally safe air transportation systems. The fact is that although the intention may not have been to discriminate against transgendered Canadians, having this unnecessary regulation very clearly results in that discrimination and the violation of privacy rights, exposure to prejudice and, ultimately, difficulties in travelling.

I know the government likes to talk about unnecessary regulations and the necessity to remove them. I am offering this as one that is very simple and would not affect security. It would not require the gate agents of all the airlines to be experts in gender identity or force transgendered Canadians into a situation in which they may be discriminated against, exposed to prejudice and prevented from flying.

Once again, I would call on the government to eliminate this unnecessary regulation, which has nothing to do with the safety of air travel.

6:45 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Poilievre Nepean—Carleton, ON

Mr. Speaker, I think the hon. member would agree with me that we can structure our regulations in a way that ensures that people of all backgrounds, genders and characteristics can have equal treatment when boarding aircraft to reach their destinations and ensures at the same time that the system can protect Canadians against those who would do harm. We can marry those two objectives of avoiding any form of discrimination on the one hand and protecting the security of Canadian air travellers on the other. These are not incompatible goals. They are the objectives of our government, and we continue to achieve both of them.

6:50 p.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

The motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, this House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 6:50 p.m.)