House of Commons Hansard #127 of the 41st Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was seniors.

Topics

Opposition Motion--Komagata Maru Incident
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:05 a.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu Surrey North, BC

moved:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should officially apologize in the House of Commons to the South Asian community and to the individuals impacted in the 1914 Komagata Maru incident, in which passengers were prevented from landing in Canada.

Mr. Speaker, I will be splitting my time with the member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin.

Today I rise in support of the NDP motion calling on the government to officially apologize in the House of Commons to the descendants, the South Asian community and the individuals impacted by the 1914 Komagata Maru incident, in which passengers were prevented from landing in Canada.

Next week, May 23 will mark the 98th anniversary of the arrival of the Komagata Maru in Burrard Inlet, Vancouver. Today I am asking all members of this House to vote in support of this motion. The South Asian community should not have to wait a century for an official apology for this tragic event. The tragedy of the Komagata Maru marks a dark chapter in Canadian history. The South Asian community has waited far too long for a dignified apology in the House of Commons.

The journey of the Komagata Maru was one of tragedy. The passengers left their homes to make a new life in Canada, the land of opportunity. What they did not realize was that Canada was not the land of opportunity for all, but only for some. The tragedy was one of several incidents in the early 20th century involving exclusion laws that were put in place to keep out immigrants of South Asian origin. It was a well-known secret. The “continuous journey” was a racially motivated regulation, the same as the Chinese head tax that did immeasurable harm by keeping South Asians out of Canada. At the same time, Canada was accepting massive numbers of immigrants. In fact, 400,000 immigrants came to Canada in 1912 alone, a figure that remains unsurpassed to this day, almost all of them coming from Europe. The Komagata Maru carried 376 passengers. Of them, 340 were Sikhs, 24 were Muslims and 12 were Hindus. They were all at that time British subjects.

The passengers were prevented from disembarking while the ship remained in Burrard Inlet for two months. The men, women and children aboard the ship were denied basic necessities such as water and food. The conditions on the ship worsened on a daily basis and the people aboard the ship suffered greatly. Everyday Canadians, at great risk to themselves, took food to the ship during those two months. In the end, only 20 passengers were admitted to Canada since the ship had violated the discriminatory exclusion laws. The ship was turned around and sent back on July 23, 1914. After its arrival in Calcutta, now Kolkata, on September 27, 1914, police fired on the passengers and 19 were shot dead. The rest were imprisoned or kept under village arrest.

I am an immigrant. I came to Canada 32 years ago to have a better life here. I came here with the same hopes as the people who were on board the Komagata Maru, and I have had incredible opportunities. Being elected to this House to represent my community of Surrey has been the greatest honour and opportunity of a lifetime for me. What if I had endeavoured to make that journey to Canada in the first half of the last century? I too would probably have been turned away. I would have been like those passengers on the Komagata Maru. These policies were racially prejudiced and they were wrong. My community and the whole of the South Asian community deserve a dignified, formal apology in this House for this tragedy.

I have spoken to many Canadians across this great country of ours on this issue. For 17 years I have been fighting for justice for the Komagata Maru incident, along with my good friend and colleague Sahib Thind, who is the president of the Professor Mohan Singh Memorial Foundation of Canada.

In 2006, we urged the Prime Minister to make an apology in the House of Commons. I was on the stage with the in Surrey in 20Prime Minister08. We were expecting the Prime Minister to announce the date of an official apology in the House of Commons. However, a few days before the event we learned that the Prime Minister would be apologizing from the festival stage. We advised the Prime Minister's office that this would be inappropriate and that the community would see this kind of apology as disrespectful.

The Prime Minister's statement in the park was immediately rejected by thousands at the event and those who heard about it. Many felt disappointed and insulted. The current Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism said at that time that the apology had been given and it would not be repeated. This added insult to injury.

The minister went on to say that the turning away of the Komagata Maru was different from other incidents, such as the Chinese head tax. The Komagata Maru tragedy, like the Chinese head tax, was an injustice that happened due to racially prejudiced Canadian immigration laws that were designed to exclude Asian people from the largest wave of immigration Canada had ever experienced. The Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism dismisses the Komagata Maru tragedy as one incident and refuses to acknowledge the continuous journey policy that was in place for 39 years. The Komagata Maru tragedy is a symbol of these policies that were in place to prevent people of South Asian origin from immigrating to this country. Again, I want to emphasize that these policies were in place from 1908 until 1947. That makes it 39 years that the exclusion policies were in place.

Even now, there is no transcript or written record of the statement the Prime Minister gave in the park and the Prime Minister's office refuses to provide one. How can the Conservatives think this is acceptable? Without an apology in Parliament, there is no official record of what the government has done. That is unacceptable. South Asian Canadians deserve to have a respectful acknowledgement of this historic wrong. By refusing to formally apologize for the Komagata Maru incident, the Conservatives have essentially created two levels for apologies for historic wrongs. That is unacceptable.

We support the steps taken by governments over the years to offer respectful and dignified apologies, such as the apology for Canadian Japanese internment camps and the apology to Chinese Canadians for the head tax. In apologizing for the Chinese head tax, the Prime Minister stressed that it was a “grave injustice that we are morally obliged to acknowledge”. The Komagata Maru incident highlights the grave injustices that occurred against people coming from South Asia.

Recently, the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism was out in my community celebrating the contributions by South Asians to Canada and its economy. Photo ops do not cut it and homilies do not cut it. An official and dignified apology is what is required. I urge the Prime Minister to reconsider and make a dignified apology in the House. An announcement in the park is not an apology. My generation and the next generation of South Asian Canadians are waiting for a wrong to be made right. The suffering and loss of lives cannot be set right, but a formal apology is part of the healing process.

In pursuit of a better life, Komagata Maru passengers risked everything. When they arrived on our shores, our government, in ultimate cruelty, turned them away because they were not the right colour or religion. New Democrats are respectfully requesting, in the strongest possibly way, that the Prime Minister officially provide closure for the trauma this has caused in the South Asian community. Let the Prime Minister finally apologize in a dignified way in the House so that the process of healing and reconciliation can begin.

Opposition Motion--Komagata Maru Incident
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:10 a.m.

NDP

Alain Giguère Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, as I understand it, despite the story of that unfortunate crossing, racist laws were still in effect after 1914. If I am not mistaken, they persisted in Canada until 1947, after the Second World War.

Can my distinguished colleague give us some historical background about how those laws were repealed?

Opposition Motion--Komagata Maru Incident
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, there is no doubt that we live in more tolerant society today than in 1914. In 1914, these discriminatory laws were put in place to restrict people of South Asian origin from coming to Canada, even though at that time they were British subjects. Canada was under the Commonwealth, as were the South Asian countries that we are talking about here under British rule at that time.

It took 39 years to abolish these discriminatory laws. The South Asian community has been waiting for 98 years for an official, dignified apology in this House so the healing process can begin.

Opposition Motion--Komagata Maru Incident
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, I want to thank my colleague from Surrey North for bringing this forward into this House. I know he feels very passionately about this and has worked on this file which is more than a file, it is a life's work for him, to have this apology. There are other people in the community who I have met, like our dear friend, Sahib, who has also worked very hard.

My question to my colleague is, what is it going to take for the Canadian government to bring closure to this black spot in our history that has not been addressed by any government, be it Liberal or Conservative?

Opposition Motion--Komagata Maru Incident
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, my colleague from Newton—North Delta has done great work in our community over the years, and continues to do that work.

It has been 98 years. Over the last 17 years, I have been across this country, talking to many Canadians. I have talked to descendants groups and other activist groups involved in the community. I have talked to grandchildren of the passengers who were on board the Komagata Maru.

This is not about money. Nobody in the South Asian community wants any sort of money from this. It is about a respectful apology. Everywhere I went there was only one thing the community requested over the years. The community asked for a respectful way to close this very dark chapter in our history, and that is by officially apologizing, recognizing that incident in this House so the healing process can begin.

Opposition Motion--Komagata Maru Incident
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

Peterborough
Ontario

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, as you would know, Canada does not have a perfect record when it comes to our tolerance and acceptance of cultures.

In fact, we made many mistakes as a young country. As a member of my father's family, I am a member of the Italian community, immigrants to this country who were here during a dark period. During the Second World War we interned Italian Canadians and other Canadians. These were not foreign citizens, they were Canadian citizens who were interned.

More than 20 years ago, then Prime Minister Brian Mulroney apologized. What was missing from the Italian community, as we had this debate just a couple of years ago, was not the apology. The apology was made, as it was in this case, by our Prime Minister. I am proud that our Prime Minister sought to do that. What was missing for some members of the Italian community was not the apology but the acceptance of that apology.

Canada has expressed its sorrow for what occurred. Why does the member feel that the acceptance has not been given?

Opposition Motion--Komagata Maru Incident
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:15 a.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have talked to thousands of people throughout Canada about the Komagata Maru over the last 17 years.

A political announcement in a park is not an official apology. An apology is a dignified way of recognizing our past wrongs. Yes, we live in a more tolerant society today. The community wants, to put this dark chapter to rest, a dignified apology in the House, so we can begin the healing process and the reconciliation process. That is the voice of the South Asian community.

Again, I urge my Conservative colleagues to vote for this motion so that we can provide closure for the South Asian community.

Opposition Motion--Komagata Maru Incident
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:20 a.m.

NDP

Alain Giguère Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, this story prompts us to honour our duty to remember. Remembrance is the only way for us to understand our past and prepare for our future. Remembrance helps us promote and protect law, democracy and justice. Our duty to remember calls on us to consider this dark chapter in our history, pass judgment on it, apologize openly and clearly, recognize our wrongdoing and invite those who were wronged to join us in building a better Canada.

Some historical background is important here because this event did not happen by chance. It happened against the backdrop of a specific society: Canada in 1914.

In 1914, Canada and India were both British colonies. We were all British citizens. Everyone held the same citizenship. At the time, that community was made up of barely 4,700 people, barely 1% of the population. It was a small community that got its start in 1897 when Indian soldiers arrived in Canada and decided to stay here and put down roots. The community was organized but very small.

At the time, anti-Asian xenophobia was pronounced in Canada, and the Indian community was not the only target. Xenophobia also cost the Japanese and Chinese communities dearly.

There was therefore a strong feeling of xenophobia toward these people who, let us remember, had the same citizenship as us. They were British citizens.

This xenophobia was not new. In 1907, the Vancouver Trades and Labour Council formed the Asiatic Exclusion League. It lobbied to curb what it called the yellow peril—Asian immigration. This council was even responsible for a race riot. On September 7, 1907, some people's businesses and assets were vandalized. Many people were injured. This type of incident is called a pogrom. On September 7, 1907, there was a pogrom in Canada.

At the time, the Laurier government established a commission of inquiry under the direction of the then deputy minister of labour, William Lyon Mackenzie King, the future Prime Minister. He came to a very sad conclusion: Indians were not made to live in Canada because they were accustomed to a tropical climate and had other customs that were vastly different from ours. We were far from inclusive.

This report led to a racist law and decrees. Decree 920 prohibited people who were not coming directly from the country in which they had citizenship from settling in Canada, and decree 926 required all Asian immigrants to have at least $200 in their possession.

In 1907, it was not common for people to have $200 in their pockets, particularly if they were from a country as poor as India was at that time. Exploitation, misery and famine were prevalent there. The most recent famines in India occurred only a few years ago.

This measure was accompanied by measures imposed on Indo-Canadians by the Government of British Columbia at the time. Indo-Canadians did not have the right to vote. It was decided that they did not have the right to vote in either provincial or federal elections. In addition, they were prohibited from working in professional occupations. They could not be lawyers, pharmacists or accountants.

In 1908, this desire not to have any members of the Indian community in the country even led the Canadian government to invite all members of the Indo-Canadian community to leave Canada and go to British Honduras. People knew full well that the living conditions in British Honduras were not particularly good. They declined the offer, and rightly so.

In 1913, there were some attempts to weaken this law.

The law was declared ultra vires, because the use of the term “Asian origin” could prevent a British colonist and his children born in India from coming to Canada. The government addressed this issue immediately by replacing “Asian origin” with “Asian race”. This was the first time that an exclusion was made based on race in Canada.

This was the context in which the Komagata Maru arrived at the Port of Vancouver on May 23, 1914. Canada had been informed of the vessel's impending arrival and had decided, by decree, to deny these people the right to enter Canada. Under the pretext that there was already an overabundance of unutilized labour—this was in 1914, right before the First World War, when all the men would be mobilized—a decision was made to prohibit the labourers, workers and artisans from getting off the boat, before they had even arrived.

Understandably, when artisans and labourers are prohibited from immigrating to Canada, they are left with few choices.

The 376 passengers arrived in despicable living conditions. As soon as they arrived, they were incarcerated in the very boat they arrived in. They were not allowed to land.

The premier of British Columbia at the time, Richard McBride, declared that British Columbia should remain white. He was crystal clear. People who were not white were not welcome. People who were not Christian were not welcome.

In terms of individual justice, this is a very sad story. The people were incarcerated on a boat without any judgment or decree. They were presumed guilty and incarcerated, no questions asked.

What was the Canadian government's approach to reviewing the immigration files? It essentially applied the law to a group. It selected a few individuals, judged them and applied the sentence to everyone. The migrants were not given individual hearings or individual trials. They were judged as a group, not on their individual merits, but those of another. Our country's most natural and most fundamental rules of law were trampled on.

In the end, Canada had to right this wrong. Failing to honour our most basic rights was unacceptable.

As a result of bad faith in the application of justice, only 24 of the 376 individuals were allowed entry into Canada. What a joke. The others were sent back to India where pent-up frustration led to a riot that caused 25 deaths.

This is a black mark on Canada's history. It must be made right because Canada is a democratic country. I am very proud to be a member of this Parliament and I invite all members to share my pride and to help right this wrong.

If we fail to right such wrongs, repeated errors will become systemic flaws. We will not fail in our duty. We will right past wrongs and build our future. We will remember our past shortcomings as we build a future in which we respect those who were not respected in the past.

Opposition Motion--Komagata Maru Incident
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, over the last 17 years, I have had a chance to talk to many Canadians, especially the descendants of the passengers from the Komagata Maru. The stories they have heard from their grandfathers and great-grandfathers still pains those descendants. They have repeatedly told me that they are looking for closure from the Canadian government to heal the wounds that are still open.

How can we put closure to this? What can the government do to provide closure for the families?

Opposition Motion--Komagata Maru Incident
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Alain Giguère Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, Canada has a black mark on its history, like all nations with a history.

Canada is a free, democratic and forward-looking country. Nevertheless, we must look into the eyes of the victims' descendants and give them an official apology, not as individuals, but as a community, as a people, as a country. It is vital that we apologize to these people; they are entitled to an apology. It does not cost a lot to apologize and it is an excellent way to defend democracy.

Opposition Motion--Komagata Maru Incident
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, back on April 2, 2008, a former member of Parliament, Ruby Dhalla, moved the following motion:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should officially apologize to the Indo-Canadian community and to the individuals impacted in the 1914 Komagata Maru incident, in which passengers were prevented from landing in Canada.

That motion passed unanimously. The government has been very much aware of the incident and aware of the need to apologize.

Why does my colleague feel that the government has been so reluctant to give a formal apology inside the House on this issue?

Opposition Motion--Komagata Maru Incident
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Alain Giguère Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, we cannot rewrite history. But we can study it and make amends.

I am not really interested in who was responsible for what at the time this motion was moved. What I do want to know is what we are going to do today. And I believe that we can apologize. That is called being mature.

Opposition Motion--Komagata Maru Incident
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

Costas Menegakis Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, I listened with great attention to the speech from the hon. member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin.

I also heard the question from the hon. member from the Liberal Party. Suffice it to say that I found it quite peculiar coming from a member of the Liberal Party given the number of years that the Liberal Party governed Canada and never even visited the location. It was a serious matter that was never addressed by the Liberal Party. However, that is not what I wish to speak to at this moment.

I have a question for the hon. member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin this question. A short few years ago, the right hon. Prime Minister of Canada, the Prime Minister today, actually visited the community and personally apologized to the community. We understood at the time that it was very public. It was welcomed by the community and it got closure. Here it is being revisited again today.

Is this a political ploy? Why is the apology by the Prime Minister of Canada, which was made directly and personally to the descendants in British Columbia, not sufficient?

Opposition Motion--Komagata Maru Incident
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

NDP

Alain Giguère Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, Stephen Harper's personal apology is a good thing. He apologized as an individual. However, we are not asking for an individual to make a personal apology, but for the leader of the country to speak on behalf of the nation and apologize on behalf of the people and the Government of Canada.

Opposition Motion--Komagata Maru Incident
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:30 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

I would remind the member to refer to his colleagues by their title or the riding they represent.

Tabling of Government of Canada Apology for the Komagata Maru Incident
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Edmonton—Sherwood Park
Alberta

Conservative

Tim Uppal Minister of State (Democratic Reform)

Mr. Speaker, I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the Prime Minister's apology on behalf of the Government of Canada for the Komagata Maru incident of 1914.

[Member spoke in Punjabi]

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Resumption of Debate on Opposition Motion
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:35 a.m.

Edmonton—Sherwood Park
Alberta

Conservative

Tim Uppal Minister of State (Democratic Reform)

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to the many actions our Conservative government has taken in regard to acknowledging, commemorating and educating Canadians about the Komagata Maru tragedy of 1914.

South Asian Canadians have contributed a great deal to our beautiful country. We have worked hard to build Canada. Things have not always been fair for us. For decades, South Asian Canadians were discriminated against. At no point was this discrimination more obvious than the very disgusting racist continuous journey policies of the early 1900s that led to the tragedy of the Komagata Maru.

I wonder if many of the travellers on the Komagata Maru ship imagined that one day their children or grandchildren would stand up as a proud Sikh to address the Canadian people from Canada's Parliament. In fact, it is easy to imagine that one of the passengers on the Komagata Maru would have a grandson about my age.

Today's motion asks for an apology for this tragic incident. I am very proud to remind the House that on August 3, 2008, almost four years ago, the Prime Minister already took the historic step of apologizing for the Komagata Maru incident on behalf of the Government of Canada.

[Member spoke in Punjabi]

Let me read exactly what the Prime Minister said on that historic day:

Good afternoon, Bonne après-midi, Sat Sri Akaal, Nameste, As-Salamu Alaykum. I'd like to begin today by thanking the president of the Mohan Singh Memorial Foundation, Sahib Thind, for inviting me once again to this spectacular showcase of Punjabi culture. The vibrant dance and musical traditions, exquisite art and timeless literature being celebrated here today are the fruits of a millennial old civilization whose influence spans the globe. Canada now shares this rich cultural legacy; it has become an integral part of our own cultural diversity. Today over one million Canadians are of South Asian descent. These hard working men and women passionately devoted to their families and communities are helping make our country even stronger for the generations yet to come, our country that afford opportunity to all, regardless of their background, our country that offers sanctuary to victims of violence and persecution, our country of freedom and democracy, of prosperity and peace, second to none in the world. As Canadians, we have before us, and before our children and grandchildren, a future of literally unlimited possibility. A lot of that promise stems from the confidence, the ideas and the energies brought here by successive waves of newcomers drawn to our shores by the promise of a new and better life. Canada is renowned the world over for its welcoming embrace of immigrants. But like all countries, our record isn't perfect. We haven't always lived up to our own ideals. One such failure, as has been mentioned, was the detention and turning away of the Komagata Maru in 1914, an event that caused much hardship for its passengers, 376 subjects of the British crown from Punjab, and which for many of them ended in terrible tragedy. Two years ago, I stood before you and made a commitment and [since] then we have acted on that.

This May the Government of Canada secured the passage of the unanimous motion in the House of Commons recognizing the Komagata Maru tragedy and apologizing to those who were directly affected. Today, on behalf of the Government of Canada, I am officially conveying as Prime Minister that apology. Now friends, many Canadians have worked long and hard to secure recognition for this historic event. I'd like to thank from this community, the Professor Mohan Singh Foundation, the Khalsa Diwan Society, the Komagata Maru Descendants Association, and Community Leader, Tarlok Sablok, for their persistent and passionate dedication to this issue over the years. I also wish to acknowledge my own colleagues...for the work they have done to help all Canadians come to terms with this sad chapter in our history. We cannot change the events of the past; we cannot undo the misdeeds committed against those long deceased. But we can bring Canadians together in the present to unite our country, and to set us on a course to accomplish greater things in the future....

That historic apology followed a previous speech the Prime Minister made in 2006 in which he stated that the Government of Canada acknowledged the Komagata Maru incident and announced the government's commitment to undertake consultations with the South Asian community on how best to recognize this sad moment in history. The apology delivered in 2008 was a direct result of these consultations.

It also followed a May 2008 motion by the government, which passed by unanimous consent in the House of Commons, recognizing the Komagata Maru tragedy and apologizing to those who were directly affected.

I believe that the apology was made by the Prime Minister with great respect. I know most people in the community appreciate that apology, agree with that apology, respect that apology, and feel we should move on.

Jack Uppal, who is no relation to me, is highly respected and one of the most recognized figures in Canada's South Asian community. This community leader and successful businessman came to Canada as an infant with his parents in 1926. They settled in British Columbia. Mr. Uppal was one of the first Sikh children to attend a Vancouver public school. He now owns a successful lumber company in South Vancouver.

Mr. Uppal is known for hiring new immigrants and supporting others looking to come to Canada. Mr. Uppal has received the B.C. Community Achievement Award. He was president of the Khalsa Diwan Society, where he helped new immigrant Sikhs to integrate into Canadian society. He helped to establish Ross Street Temple. He is a member of the Indo-Canadian advisory committee for the community historical recognition program.

In June of this year, Mr. Uppal is going to receive a much deserved honorary doctorate degree from Simon Fraser University at the spring convocation.

This is what Mr. Uppal had to say in response to the Prime Minister's historic apology:

“Under the leadership of this Prime Minister, this government apologized for the historic injustice of the Komagata Maru. That apology was given in my house, my backyard, the place where the incident took place. I accepted the apology; the matter of an apology is closed. For myself, I have accepted the apology.

“The Komagata Maru was a tragic incident in Canada's history, but this government has made remarkable efforts to right the wrong. From the Prime Minister's public apology, to the Minister of Immigration's establishment of the Komagata Maru Canadian historical recognition program, which has funded a significant number of educational projects, museums and memorials across the country, this government is to be commended for its approach to reconciling a dark stain in our history.”

There are countless others in the community that share Mr. Uppal's view.

The Komagata Maru incident took place almost 100 years ago now, and no government previously issued an apology. Our government and the Prime Minister are the first and only ones to make such a historic apology for this tragic event.

I want to refer to the response Mr. Uppal gave to the Prime Minister's apology, specifically the last point during which Mr. Uppal addressed the government's creation of and funding for the community historical recognition program, as this brings me to my next point.

In 2006, in direct response to calls for the Government of Canada to address historic wrongs involving immigration and wartime measures, our Conservative government created the community historical recognition program, otherwise known as CHRP. This program provides grants and contribution funding for community projects that are developed in partnership with various groups.

In May 2008, the immigration minister at the time, the secretary of state for multiculturalism and Canadian identity, announced that the Indo-Canadian community would be able to apply for up to $2.5 million in grants and contribution funding for projects that acknowledge, commemorate and educate current and future Canadians about the Komagata Maru incident.

I will list the projects related to the Komagata Maru incident that the NDP and Liberals voted against.

Our government has provided funding for the Komagata Maru incident online project. This funding has gone toward the creation of a comprehensive website about the Komagata Maru incident, including interactive tools and learning modules.

Our government has also provided funding for the creation of the first ever public museum dedicated to the Komagata Maru incident, which will be housed at the Khalsa Diwan Society in Vancouver.

We have helped fund the first ever public monument dedicated to the Komagata Maru incident in Vancouver's Harbour Green Park, the closest point to where the ship was anchored for two months.

We have funded several book projects on the Komagata Maru incident. One is an illustrated book that will include the societal, cultural, political and religious aspects of the story of the Komagata Maru. The text will be based on the transcript of the award-winning film, Continuous Journey. The second book project will include content that will be translated into Punjabi.

Our government has provided funding for a project which engages youth through creative writing and digital media on the history of the Komagata Maru incident and tragedy.

Unfortunately, time does not permit me to go through the several other projects our government has funded that acknowledge, commemorate and educate Canadians about this tragic event.

It is clear that our government has taken several steps in regard to the Komagata Maru incident. Unfortunately, we have not received the support of the NDP or the Liberals.

The South Asian community has contributed a great deal, both economically and culturally, to this great country.

The Prime Minister and our government have taken several historic steps to address the Komagata Maru incident through the Prime Minister's apology and the creation of the CHRP program among others.

I would remind this House that the Prime Minister took another historic step when he appointed the first ever turban-wearing Sikh to cabinet in Canada and in fact anywhere outside India. It is with great honour that I serve with the Prime Minister as part of a government that I truly believe continues to make our great country a better place for all Canadians.

Our Conservative government recognizes and appreciates the significant and important contributions of South Asian Canadians. Through our actions, our government has responded to the issues that are important to these communities across the country.

South Asian Canadians can count on our Conservative government to stand up for the values and issues that are important to them: family, hard work, culture, and respect, among others. We have shown through our actions that our government will not only listen, but also take action. We will continue to do so.

Resumption of Debate on Opposition Motion
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:45 a.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu Surrey North, BC

Mr. Speaker, I listened to the speech. There is a lot of misinformation contained in it.

I was at the 2006 and 2008 consultations that the member talked. Every single one of the members who spoke at those consultations unequivocally said they wanted an apology in the House of Commons, yet when the report came out, it was slammed by the entire community, the very organizations the member talked about.

I was at the stage when the Prime Minister made the political statement in the park. At the same time, the very organizations that the Prime Minister thanked rejected the apology right at the stage at the time when the Prime Minister could not even wait to hear the “thank you” note from the president of the organization. Every single one of those people present at the event, when the so-called apology was made, rejected it with their arms up.

I want to know from the member why the government is not apologizing in the House of Commons in order to have a dignified closure to this tragic event in our Canadian history. Why Is it refusing to do it in the House--

Resumption of Debate on Opposition Motion
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

Order, please. I am sure there are other members who wish to pose questions. The time is limited.

The hon. Minister of State.

Resumption of Debate on Opposition Motion
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Conservative

Tim Uppal Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, it absolutely was a tragic event, a dark spot in our great Canadian history. That is why the Prime Minister did give an official apology in front of thousands of Punjabis and thousands of South Asians who had gathered at a cultural festival. The Prime Minister went there himself and delivered this official apology on behalf of the Government of Canada and on behalf of the people of Canada.

I am very proud of the fact this apology was given, not only because it was given in the area where the incident took place, where the ship was turned away, but also because it was in front of thousands of people, so that thousands of South Asians could share in that apology on behalf of the government instead of the apology being made here.

Resumption of Debate on Opposition Motion
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, the Liberal Party of Canada has recognized the Komagata Maru, a 1914 incident, for many years. We have called upon the government to apologize. In fact, the Prime Minister made reference to that when he made an apology out in British Columbia.

However, the party has gone further than that. We have indicated very clearly that the Prime Minister of Canada should stand inside the House of Commons and make that formal apology, because many members of the Indo-Canadian community would like to see the Prime Minister do just that.

My question for the member is this: why would the government not be sympathetic to having the Prime Minister of Canada stand in the House of Commons, as he did in British Columbia, and apologize on behalf of all members and, in fact, the Government of Canada for the--

Resumption of Debate on Opposition Motion
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

Order, please.

The hon. Minister of State for Democratic Reform.

Resumption of Debate on Opposition Motion
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Conservative

Tim Uppal Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, I find it a little rich for a Liberal member to stand and ask for an apology. First, the apology has already been made, with a great deal of respect, in front of thousands of people. It is a little rich for the Liberal Party to even talk about this when for the 13 years it was government it had an opportunity, over two prime ministers, to make this apology, and it chose not to.

It was this government and this Prime Minister who, very respectfully, in front of thousands of people, officially apologized for the Komagata Maru incident. I am proud of the fact that I am part of the first government to apologize for this incident.

Resumption of Debate on Opposition Motion
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:50 a.m.

Conservative

Parm Gill Brampton—Springdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to thank the hon. minister for his very passionate speech. It was, indeed, a very tragic moment in our history.

The minister mentioned in his speech that the Prime Minister apologized for this tragedy about four years ago, in front of thousands Indo-Canadians, South Asians, in British Columbia, where this tragic incident actually took place. He also mentioned that there was funding made available for historic recognition programs and so on to remember this tragic moment in our history.

I would like to ask the hon. member why he believes the NDP has introduced this motion today, after four years. Maybe he can shed some light as to the motives behind the motion.

Resumption of Debate on Opposition Motion
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

Tim Uppal Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, I look back and see that the apology has been made by the Prime Minister on behalf of the government. It was made with very much respect and in front of thousands of people. Many people I speak to are very proud of the fact that their government has apologized. He is the first Prime Minister to do so.

It is time to move on. It is time to educate others about what happened in that incident. We have provided funding for a museum, for online projects, for books and for a monument.

I can only think that the NDP is bringing this up now as a political ploy. It is unfortunate that it would bring such an emotional issue up as a matter of politics.

The apology has been made, with respect, in front of thousands of people.

Resumption of Debate on Opposition Motion
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, I have a brief question and a comment first.

If my memory is right and if history is right, the bill or the order in council that prohibited the Komagata Maru from landing, resulting in all those people not only losing their lives but being treated in such a terrible manner as their ship docked in the harbour, was passed in Parliament. It was an official government action.

It is my belief that the Prime Minister going out to speak at an event and making a pronouncement was a political speech. Whenever we have apologized for the wrongs that we have done to others, as history shows, it has been done through an apology in this House.

My question to my hon. colleague is this: if the government is willing to acknowledge out on a stage that what Canada did was a historical wrong, why will it not apologize in here and let us close this chapter so that truth and reconciliation can proceed?

Resumption of Debate on Opposition Motion
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

Tim Uppal Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, as I said, it is unfortunate that the NDP would bring this up as a political issue and misinform Canadians.

Apologies have been made outside of the House for other incidents as well, other government actions. Those apologies were made with respect, in the same way as this one.

I have been honoured to table in this House the apology that the Prime Minister delivered in front of thousands of people in British Columbia. The apology was official. It was made in front of thousands of people. It was made where the incident took place. I am proud to be a part of a government that has made that apology.

Resumption of Debate on Opposition Motion
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, I look to the minister because there is a great deal of merit for the Prime Minister to stand in his place inside the House. I do not see the drawback as to why thePrime Minister would not want to do that. It is not a question of political partisanship.

The Komagata Maru is something that political parties of all stripes have recognized as an issue. The Prime Minister and even the minister himself have indicated that they are potentially prepared to apologize inside the House.

My question is this: when can we anticipate that we would see the Prime Minister make some sort of a formal apology inside the House? Does he see that happening any time in the future?

There are many members of the Indo-Canadian community who are happy that the Prime Minister did make the apology out in British Columbia, but there are many members who—

Resumption of Debate on Opposition Motion
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

Order. I am sorry to interrupt the hon. member, but time is limited. We need to give some time to the Minister of State to respond.

The hon. Minister of State.

Resumption of Debate on Opposition Motion
Business of Supply
Government Orders

10:55 a.m.

Conservative

Tim Uppal Edmonton—Sherwood Park, AB

Mr. Speaker, again I am very proud that an official apology has been made. However, it is also important to look at what I mean by “let us move on”. What I mean is that we should educate Canadians about what happened in that incident.

I am a second generation Canadian, but my family history also goes quite far back into British Columbia. I think it is important that we have educational tools to teach people and to tell them what happened. At some point, I would like to take my daughter to that museum and to the monument of the Komagata Maru incident and tell her what happened.

What is important is to educate Canadians. That is exactly what this government has done. It has apologized and moved to educate Canadians about it.

Emergency Medical Services Week
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am honoured to stand in the House today and call attention to Emergency Medical Services Week, which will take place next week.

There are over 30,000 paramedics from coast to coast who are represented by the Emergency Medical Services Chiefs of Canada. Paramedics are the third largest health care provider group in Canada. They serve on the front lines of health care in every community across our nation providing essential care. They are a reliable and constant presence in most remote and rural areas, as well as in our largest cities. Every day, the efforts of the communications staff, paramedics and support staff make a real difference to someone in someone's community.

Emergency Medical Services Week 2012 salutes the men and women of Canada's emergency medical services. I invite hon. members to join me in celebrating the lifelong dedication of emergency medical services professionals to keep Canadians safe.

Canada Summer Games
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

NDP

Pierre-Luc Dusseault Sherbrooke, QC

Mr. Speaker, mark your calendar. From August 2 to 17, 2013, Canada's best athletes will converge on my riding, Sherbrooke, to participate in the Canada Summer Games. We will be proud to welcome them to our community, and I invite all of you to join us for this major sporting event.

The games were first held in 1967 and have become the largest multi-sport competition for young Canadians. This year, 4,200 athletes will compete in 20 different disciplines over the course of two weeks. Under the motto, “Unity through Sport”, the games bring together young Canadian athletes to promote healthy lifestyles, perseverance, fun, team spirit, pushing one's limits and knowledge of Canada's diverse regions and cultures.

The organizers hope to recruit more than 5,000 volunteers. I therefore invite everyone to apply at jeuxducanada2013.ca.

On behalf of the people of Sherbrooke, I invite you to come cheer on our athletes, discover Sherbrooke and the Eastern Townships, and, as they say, “get in the games”.

Kindred Spirit Award
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Conservative

Stephen Woodworth Kitchener Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, this year, Kitchener celebrates its 100th anniversary as a city. On June 10, 1912, the town of Berlin became the city of Kitchener, my lifetime home.

Our dynamic city and many public-spirited, hard-working people make me proud to be the member of Parliament for Kitchener Centre.

Just this past week, two Kitchener residents, Randy Rollo and Tara McTeer, were honoured with the Kindred Spirit Award from the Kitchener Downtown Community Health Centre, ROOF, Ray of Hope and the YWCA for their support of the homeless. Both Randy and Tara experienced homelessness and now they give back to those facing similar obstacles.

Randy helped to start the Out of the Cold Shelter program and has volunteered since 1999. Tara is a health worker at Mary's Place and volunteers with many organizations in Kitchener. They are evidence of Kitchener's greatest asset, our generous and hard-working people.

Status of Women
Statements By Members

11 a.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, I stand today to recognize the hard work and dedication of Lisa Murphy who is stepping down after 22 years as executive director of the P.E.I. Advisory Council on the Status of Women.

One of her many strengths was that, as a leader, she was also a great listener and empathized with all who walked through her door. As a result, she made such a difference for women in distress and not only fought their cases but worked to better their lives in general.

She was a key member on the premier's action committee on family violence prevention and has worked tirelessly on issues, such as family law and legal aid reform, maintenance enforcement, legislative reviews, voter guides and efforts to have women's unpaid work count. In her own right, Lisa is an accomplished artist.

On behalf of the House of Commons, I congratulate Lisa Murphy and extend to her a sincere thanks for her dedication to advocating for women's rights and promoting women's issues on Prince Edward Island and in Canada.

Hockey
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Susan Truppe London North Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, one week ago today, Londoners of all ages created a night to remember. The London Knights defeated the Niagara Ice Dogs to win the Ontario Hockey League Championship.

The Knights' OHL championship run began with a sweep of the Windsor Spitfires, a six-game series win against Saginaw, a sweep of the Kitchener Rangers and finally, in front of a capacity crowd at the John Labatt Centre, located in my riding of London North Centre, the Knights defeated the Niagara Ice Dogs in five games to win the OHL Championship.

I congratulate Mark and Dale Hunter and the entire London Knights organization, especially forward, Austin Watson, who won the Wayne Gretzky 99 trophy as the OHL playoff MVP.

On behalf of all members of this House, I wish the Knights well as they move on to the Memorial Cup in Shawinigan. They won the cup in 2005 and I know they can do it again this year. I believe I speak for all Londoners when I say, “Go Knights, go”.

Montcalm Volunteer Organization
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

NDP

Manon Perreault Montcalm, QC

Mr. Speaker, I wish to commend the invaluable contribution made by the Regroupement bénévole de Montcalm to the vitality of my riding.

Since 1985, this organization has played a key role in the social development of the people of Montcalm. This organization promotes volunteerism within the community and is well known for its innovative services and its ability to stir people to action.

The Regroupement bénévole de Montcalm is dedicated to improving the quality of life of the people of our community. It fulfills this noble mission remarkably well and the entire community benefits as a result. The organization successfully meets the many needs of the public, through the development of ambitious programs in many areas of activity, for example.

The Regroupement bénévole de Montcalm has become a voice for social justice, respect, solidarity and the promotion of volunteerism. The way it reaches out to the people of Montcalm is key to its success.

Katie Cares Foundation
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Candice Bergen Portage—Lisgar, MB

Mr. Speaker, two weeks ago, I had the honour of presenting the Diamond Jubilee Medal to 15-year-old Kaitlyn Reimer who was recognized for her impact on those around her.

From a young age, Kaitlyn has been a positive force in the community, from volunteering for Special Olympics to cheering on her teammates. Kaitlyn is known for her humble character, which deflects attention from herself and onto others in need.

In 2010, Kaitlyn's life and that of her family was changed when she was diagnosed with cancer. Determined to make a difference, she started the Katie Cares Foundation to raise money for toys, furniture and games for children in the hospital.

Kaitlyn and her foundation still raise funds and awareness for childhood cancer across southern Manitoba. As Kaitlyn continues her fight with cancer, her most important wish is that her foundation grows and helps families.

Because of her caring and positive attitude, Kaitlyn is an inspiration to so many. Her kindness will never be forgotten. We love Katie very much.

Canadian National Institute for the Blind
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Simcoe—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, this May, the Canadian National Institute for the Blind wants to make vision health awareness a priority for all Canadians. Seventy-five percent of vision loss is avoidable and yet every 12 minutes in Canada someone loses their vision.

Age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of vision loss, with over one million Canadians having some form of AMD, including individuals within my riding of Simcoe—Grey. The number of Canadians who experience vision loss is forecasted to double over the next 20 years.

As demographics change in Canada, the cost of vision loss is going to rise, making our health care system even more overburdened and taking a greater toll on Canadians.

In 2011, the Government of Canada announced over $7 million to support the CNIB in its accessible library services, and our government is continuing to support the CNIB and its important work for Canadians.

The CNIB and Vision 220 Canada are working to create a vision plan care for Canada, and I encourage all parliamentarians to advocate for this important health issue.

Rose Festival
Statements By Members

11:05 a.m.

NDP

Malcolm Allen Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, this coming June, the city of Welland will host its 51st annual Rose Festival.

Every year, Welland, aptly named the rose city of Canada, hosts this festival to encourage community spirit, involvement and pride through many free events and activities.

I wish to recognize this event as it is important to the citizens who live throughout the entire Niagara area. I encourage all members of the community to take part in the wide range of events, including the popular run for the roses and the rose parade.

I also wish to recognize the organizers and coordinators who help to make this event possible, including the president, Jeff Ward; the parade chair, Larry LaRose; the coronation chair, Diane Freeman; and the art show chair, Sam Adams. These outstanding individuals are unpaid volunteers who truly make the festival an existing and worthwhile experience for all. Their level of devotion to preserving cultural heritage and natural beauty is appreciated by all members of the Welland community.

I invite all members of this House to join me in recognizing the hundreds of community festivals happening right across the country and all of the hard-working volunteers who make them happen.

Rose Lax
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

David Sweet Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, the nations of Canada and Israel, and, indeed, the Jewish community in Hamilton and around the world, lost a remarkable friend at the end of April with the sudden passing of Rose Lax.

Remarkable because she was born in a displaced persons camp to survivors of the Holocaust and yet grew to become an individual lauded for having changed the Jewish political landscape of North America.

Remarkable because of her tireless work to empower university students against the scourge of anti-Semitism on campuses.

Remarkable because Israeli member of the Knesset, Bennie Begin, son of the sixth Israeli prime minister, spoke of the very special connection he felt with Rose and the Lax family since the time of his parents.

We lost a woman of outstanding character and heart in Rose Lax. I, along with my colleagues, the Hon. Stockwell Day and the member for Nepean—Carleton, offer our sincere condolences to Rose's family.

Education
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

NDP

Don Davies Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am proud to rise today to share the outstanding achievement of two teams of students at Gladstone Secondary School in Vancouver Kingsway who won first and second prize at the VEX Robotics High School World Championship in Anaheim, California.

Under the guidance of dedicated teachers, Todd Ablett and Paul Wallace, the students combined hundreds of hours of extra work, creativity and a competitive spirit to become the first Canadian team in history to bring home the top prize.

This achievement underscores the importance of a strong public education system in our country. It also demonstrates the critical need to support science and technology in our economy.

Given the opportunity, resources and support, our youth can outshine any team in the world. The bright ideas of our youth today will be the transformative innovations that build the Canada of tomorrow.

I congratulate Gladstone Secondary School and all who participated in this competition on their brilliant success. They have done us all proud.

New Democratic Party of Canada
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Costas Menegakis Richmond Hill, ON

Mr. Speaker, according to the NDP leader, resource sector workers are a disease. He falsely claims that they are costing Canada jobs elsewhere.

I will set the record straight. Ontario's economy benefits from the development of its own natural resources and, in manufacturing, for the resources sector across the country. Nationally, in 2010, the natural resource sectors employed over 760,000 workers.

Resource development is an important component to the economy and creates hundreds of thousands of direct, indirect and induced jobs across the country.

The NDP leader's politics of division, pitting one region of the country against others and his ill-informed remarks show that his foolish economic policy will raise prices and cost Canadians jobs.

Haitian Flag Day
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, on January 1, 1804, the Republic of Haiti was born. A few months earlier, on May 18, 1803, Haiti adopted a revolutionary flag, which has been the pride of the Haitian people ever since.

Every year, May 18 marks Haiti's anniversary of becoming the first republic in the world to be created out of a slave rebellion. I would like to express the importance of this day to the Haitian diaspora in Canada, especially in the national capital region.

Canadians of Haitian origin have been settling on both sides of the Ottawa River for a long time. Today, Ottawa's Haitian community is more than 20,000 strong. The Haitian diaspora contributes to all sectors of activity, with a notable presence in education, culture, health and law.

On this May 18, 2012, let us celebrate the rich contribution that Canadians of Haitian origin have made to Canada's success.

New Democratic Party of Canada
Statements By Members

11:10 a.m.

Conservative

Shelly Glover Saint Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, the leader of the NDP was completely wrong when he started to attack Canada's energy and natural resources sector.

In my home province of Manitoba, mining is the second largest industry, directly employing over 6,100 people, particularly in the north.

Manitoba's NDP premier said that the province's mining industry was “providing high-paying jobs and supporting our northern communities”. Unbelievably, the federal NDP leader believes these jobs are a disease.

It is now time for Manitoba NDP MPs, such as the member for Winnipeg Centre and the member for Churchill, to tell the House if they think the work their constituents are doing is a disease.

Minister of Canadian Heritage
Statements By Members

11:15 a.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims Newton—North Delta, BC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday, the Museum of Science and Technology opened an exhibit called “sex”, an exhibit the Minister of Canadian Heritage called “insulting to taxpayers”.

Ironically, the minister's insults did not dissuade the public. It had the opposite effect of doubling opening day turnout.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time the minister has publicly insulted Canada's curators. In 2010, the minister disparaged the National Gallery when he encouraged citizens to “vote with their wallets” and skip the Pop Life exhibit.

Canada's minister of culture and heritage should have the capacity to represent the diversity of culture in Canada, not just his own dogma. More important, he should not be using the museum as an opportunity to belittle curators or as a rallying cry for his base.

Leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada
Statements By Members

11:15 a.m.

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Calgary Centre-North, AB

Talk about belittling Canadians, Mr. Speaker, the NDP leader has decided to stick with his stance against the hard-working Canadians who make their living in Canada's energy sector. My constituents in Alberta, who work hard to provide for their families in the sector, do not think what they do is considered a disease. The NDP leader is ill-informed. This industry creates jobs and economic growth in Alberta and across the country. The oil sands are also projected to create $783 billion in tax revenue across Canada in the next 25 years.

It is absolutely unfathomable why the NDP leader would choose to call this sector of our economy a disease. The NDP needs only to look to the Liberal Party to see what happens when a political party denigrates the hard-working people in our country's energy sector.

I wonder, does the member for Edmonton—Strathcona agree with her leader? Does she too think this is a fair thing to say about the hard-working people in Alberta?

Pensions
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, for months now Conservatives have refused to come clean about their plans to cut old age security. The finance minister claimed that the only projections he has seen have come from the media. Now we learn that the finance minister has been sitting on a report about the future costs of OAS for nearly five years, but refuses to share it with Canadians. Two elections, four budgets, one big cover-up.

Why are Canadians only now learning the truth?

Pensions
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, of course, that report was never completed because at the time we were entering an economic downturn and the focus of our government was on the economic stimulus, our economic action plan. That focus worked because we produced 750,000 net new jobs since the economic downturn. That was our focus for Canadians: ensuring jobs, growth and economic prosperity in the short and medium term. We are now turning our focus to ensuring income security for the long term. That is why we are making changes to make old age security sustainable.

Pensions
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, six years ago when the Prime Minister was out on the campaign trail, he promised Canadians he would not cut OAS. Back then he said, “fully preserve old age security and all projected future increases”. Now we learn the truth. Conservatives were always planning to cut OAS as far back as 2007, yet never once did they come clean with Canadians. Canadians pay faithfully into their pensions. Canadians paid for this report.

Will the Conservatives stop burying their cuts in their Trojan Horse budget bill and stop burying this report?

Pensions
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, our objective is to ensure that our old age security system is there for current generations and for future generations, because we want to act in the interests of our economic security for the long term. That is not what the leader of the NDP wants to do. The leader of the NDP believes in an economic theory that says for one Canadian to do better, another Canadian has to be worse off and for one region to succeed economically, another region has to be worse off. I can say that is not the experience of 145 years of Canadian history. Canadians know better. They know that when one part of Canada succeeds, when our economy grows, we all grow together. That is why the NDP approach is so dangerous to Canada's economic future.

Pensions
Oral Questions

11:15 a.m.

NDP

Nathan Cullen Skeena—Bulkley Valley, BC

Mr. Speaker, it is not surprising that the Conservatives want to hide the facts from Canadians. Every known report on old age security indicates that the program is viable and that the retirement age does not have to be raised to 67. The Parliamentary Budget Officer, the OECD and Canadians all agree.

Is the real reason why the Prime Minister does not want to release this report because it would confirm that the program is already viable?

Pensions
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, as I said several times, we are trying to ensure the economic and income security of Canadians in both the short term and the long term. That is what we are doing with our changes to old age security. I find it very interesting that the NDP House leader is now backing off and will not even defend his own leader's comments about our resource sector development being a disease. He will not even defend his own leader's policy of pitting one region of Canada against another. I am not surprised. Already his party is abandoning the NDP leader.

Pensions
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

NDP

Françoise Boivin Gatineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, it is not that we are not defending him. We do not need to defend him because the Conservatives are misquoting what the leader said previously. We do not need to defend our leader, who wants resources and good jobs for everyone, but not at the cost of harming the environment.

One month ago, the Conservatives on the Standing Committee on Finance questioned Kevin Page's competency. Yesterday, the Parliamentary Budget Officer provided a clear and reasonable response to these unfounded assertions. Mr. Page again proved that the old age security program is sustainable and is not at risk.

Why are the Conservatives continuing to attack the Parliamentary Budget Officer when they are not even capable of providing their own figures?

Pensions
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Saint Boniface
Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, I would like to quote some Canadian economists in response to my colleague's question so that she might understand what Canadians think about this.

Avery Shenfeld, CIBC World Markets' chief economist, said budget 2012 “...makes sense in a world economy that is still not what we would like it to be. Relative to what anybody else is doing, we still come out with flying colours.”

Other economists have commented about this. We continue to push forward with a plan to create jobs, sustain the economy and make sure we have long-term prosperity.

Parliamentary Budget Officer
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

NDP

Françoise Boivin Gatineau, QC

I wonder, Mr. Speaker, who do we trust more, let me see, the Parliamentary Budget Officer or the government that changes its tune every day? The Parliamentary Budget Officer also showed that the Conservatives could have created 94,000 new jobs if they had not been so reckless with their cuts. So much for standing up for jobs.

The point is this. The Parliamentary Budget Officer puts out public reports for all Canadians to review. The Conservatives will not even say how much they are going to take away from seniors, so why do they continue attacking Kevin Page?

Parliamentary Budget Officer
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Saint Boniface
Manitoba

Conservative

Shelly Glover Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Finance

Mr. Speaker, the PBO has said repeatedly in the past that our government's plan to return to balance is not sustainable. In fact, less than a year ago, he said we do not have a sustainable fiscal structure, a significant delay in taking fiscal action substantially increases the required amount of corrective measures.

Regardless, our government continued on its path. We continued on the intended plan and demonstrated that it works. We have created over 750,000 net new jobs since July 2009. I cannot explain the PBO's contradictions, but numerous economists tend to agree with this government's plan.

Pensions
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Bourassa, QC

Let us focus, Mr. Speaker. Let us talk about OAS.

On Tuesday the Minister of Finance explained that he had no idea how much money the budget's OAS changes would save the government, “because we do not project beyond five years”.

Today we find out there was a report, and that report has existed since 2007. The Conservatives can project beyond five years, but in a typical Conservative fashion, they will not let anyone see it. Will they release the report so that parliamentarians and Canadians can have an informed discussion about the OAS changes?

Pensions
Oral Questions

11:20 a.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, as I already said, that report was never completed because it was being worked on at a time when our priorities changed, when it became necessary to focus dramatically on the economic downturn.

The results are clear. As a result of our economic action plan 2012 and the effort of our Prime Minister and our Minister of Finance, Canada posted the strongest economic performance through the downturn of any of the major developed economies with the strongest job growth, the lowest debt and the lowest deficit.

We are still working to continue to keep that strong fiscal position. We are doing it through economic action plan 2012 to ensure that we stay in a strong position to ensure the economic future of--

Pensions
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

The hon. member for Bourassa.

Pensions
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Bourassa, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would ask the minister to shut off his tape of talking points. We are not talking about that. Even at the time, he said that there was no report and denied the existence of any reports. Well, today, there is a report.

We are talking about taking billions of dollars from the pockets of our seniors.

In 2010, the Supreme Court ruled that access to government information was a right guaranteed by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and I quote, “...only where access is necessary to permit meaningful discussion on a matter of public importance...”. I think this is important enough.

Instead of playing games, when will the Conservatives table the report so that we can have a serious discussion? Is it because they are afraid that people will finally see that there was no problem with—

Pensions
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

The hon. Leader of the Government in the House of Commons.

Pensions
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

York—Simcoe
Ontario

Conservative

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

Mr. Speaker, as I already said, the report was never completed. We want to ensure that the old age security program is sustainable for future generations, and that is the reason for our changes.

Seniors' pensions will not be reduced. The old age security program is not sustainable in its present form and changes therefore have to be made. Our changes will ensure the sustainability of the old age security program so that Canadians can benefit from it when they need it.

Search and Rescue
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Cardigan, PE

Mr. Speaker, the government is not only ruining the Canadian fishery, it is now putting Canadian lives at stake. After closing the coast guard centres in St. John's and Quebec City, now it has decided to shut down the biggest and busiest search and rescue centre on the west coast in Kitsilano, B.C. It is also reducing the coast guard regions from 5 to 3, and firing 763 coast guard employees.

Why does the government insist on putting Canadians at risk on the sea?

Search and Rescue
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission
B.C.

Conservative

Randy Kamp Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and for the Asia-Pacific Gateway

Mr. Speaker, I can assure my colleague that the top priority of the Canadian Coast Guard is the safety of mariners.

He referred to the consolidation on the west coast, which we are very familiar with. I can assure him that the service will remain the same and will be in line with other major Canadian ports. I would also remind him that the search and rescue capability in that area was actually improved through the addition of a hovercraft in the 2010 budget. I would also tell him that the coast guard will be establishing a new inshore rescue boat station for the summer season in the Vancouver port. He has no reason to be concerned.

Employment Insurance
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Malcolm Allen Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, the government is stepping up its attack on Canadian workers. Today, Conservatives are targeting seasonal and contract workers with the new EI changes.

Contract workers are the backbone of many Canadian industries. These people work hard from seed to harvest in order to keep our farms and orchards putting locally produced food on Canadian dinner plates. Yet the Conservatives want to target these workers and compel them to earn less than other EI recipients.

When will the Conservative government stop targeting Canadian workers and start respecting them?

Employment Insurance
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Simcoe—Grey
Ontario

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, we expect that Canadians will take available jobs in their own area with the appropriate qualifications. Canadians will face unprecedented labour skills shortages in the coming years and we want to ensure that employers, like those in my riding, of Simcoe—Grey, who run apple orchards and run small businesses, are turning to Canadians first so that Canadians get the jobs that they need and they want.

I would just ask the NDP why it will not get with the jobs plan so Canadians can be employed.

Employment Insurance
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

NDP

Malcolm Allen Welland, ON

Mr. Speaker, the government's jobs plan actually increased the unemployment rate in the last two months, so I am not too sure it is a great plan.

The government keeps pretending that employment insurance belongs to it but we all know that it does not. EI belongs to the workers. It belongs to the people who have put in the time and the sweat, and it is their money that goes into this program, not the Minister of HRSD's who has some distorted view of being unemployed.

The Conservatives seem to think that being unemployed is an all-inclusive vacation. Seasonal workers are, from coast to coast to coast, the backbones of many communities, so why the attacks? When will the government realize that EI does not belong to it, it belongs to the workers who paid for it.

Employment Insurance
Oral Questions

11:25 a.m.

Simcoe—Grey
Ontario

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, it must be clear that EI belongs to the workers and the employers who pay for employment insurance. We will experience unprecedented labour shortages across the country over the next number of years. We support and applaud the millions of Canadians who work hard every day to support their families. Canadians will face these unprecedented labour skills shortages and we want to ensure employers in Canada have Canadians first as the individuals they employ to ensure that they have jobs.

Employment Insurance
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

NDP

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

Mr. Speaker, these changes will hurt workers.

The Conservatives have decided that their new target will be those in seasonal or temporary jobs. Murky employment insurance reforms couched in barely veiled insults are an attack on these valiant workers.

The labour market has changed a lot since Duplessis's day. Jobs for life are no longer the norm, and people need employment insurance for smooth transitions.

Will the government abandon these poorly thought-out reforms, seeing as it does not even understand exactly what they mean?

Employment Insurance
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Simcoe—Grey
Ontario

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, as I have said before, we expect Canadians will take available jobs in their own local areas based on appropriate qualifications, the qualifications that they have.

However, let us talk about issues of disparaging people. The Leader of the Opposition wants to call Western Canadian employers a disease.

We want to ensure that every Canadian in this country who is willing to work has a job That is why we have created 750,000 net new jobs since the downturn in the economy. I look forward to the NDP finally supporting a jobs plan in the country, the one we provided.

Employment Insurance
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

NDP

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

Mr. Speaker, I look forward to the government finally inoculating workers against the changes that it is proposing.

The more money they pilfer from the employment insurance fund, the less the Conservatives seem to remember that the fund belongs to workers, not to them.

Now this disrespectful government is telling workers that they will not be entitled to employment insurance. People who have contributed for years are having the rug pulled out from under them as the government changes the rules. That is unacceptable.

Is the government really planning to lock up the employment insurance fund so that unemployed workers cannot access it?

Employment Insurance
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Simcoe—Grey
Ontario

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, employers and employees pay for EI. We are experiencing unprecedented labour skills shortages across the country. We want to ensure that Canadians have opportunities for jobs in their local areas based on their qualifications.

The NDP may say whatever it wants but it is clear that it is not for the jobs plan that our government has created, the one that has created 750,000 net new jobs since July 2009.

Fisheries and Oceans
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

NDP

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

Mr. Speaker, people want a plan that will work well for workers, not a plan that will work poorly for them.

Apparently, closing search and rescue stations was not enough for the government. Now it is planning to shut down 10 Coast Guard centres, which analyze marine traffic and navigation conditions. The government's decision will put crabbers, lobster boats and other Atlantic and Gulf of St. Lawrence fishers in danger.

Will the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans reverse these dangerous decisions and ensure adequate protection for fishers?

Fisheries and Oceans
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission
B.C.

Conservative

Randy Kamp Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and for the Asia-Pacific Gateway

Mr. Speaker, as I said earlier, the safety of Canadians and mariners is the top priority of the Canadian Coast Guard. The efficiencies that are proposed by the Coast Guard are balanced and will contribute to its fair share to reducing the deficit. However, the proposed changes to the Coast Guard will have no impact on our ability to provide the world-class service that Canadians and mariners have come to expect.

Fisheries and Oceans
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, on the west coast, the government has announced the closure of the Kitsilano Coast Guard station located in the heart of Vancouver and one of the busiest stations in the country. This is the third station to close. However, it does not end there. The Conservatives are now contemplating closing 10 of 22 marine communications and traffic service centres.

This is not about finding savings in administration or duplication of services. The government cannot cover this up with some temporary summer programs. This is a straight-up attack on marine safety.

Why are the Conservatives gutting these marine safety services?

Fisheries and Oceans
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission
B.C.

Conservative

Randy Kamp Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and for the Asia-Pacific Gateway

Mr. Speaker, as I have already said, we are doing our part in reducing the deficit. We have taken a very careful look at where our services are, where they need to be and where they can be administered in the most effective way. That is what we have done on the west coast and, in fact, that is what we have done throughout the country.

I can assure the member that the safety of mariners will not be affected.

Fisheries and Oceans
Oral Questions

11:30 a.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, these closures are happening right now. Services are being cut to Coast Guard stations, lighthouses and command centres.

The minister cannot deny that these are short-sighted and reckless cuts that will put Canadians at risk on the water. It looks like the Conservatives just do not care about people who make a living on the water or about Canadians who use the water for recreation. They are cutting the Vancouver centre at the busiest time of the year and it is one of the busiest stations. It is one of the most dangerous cuts we have ever seen in this kind of safety.

Why are the Conservatives going full steam ahead under this policy?

Fisheries and Oceans
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission
B.C.

Conservative

Randy Kamp Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and for the Asia-Pacific Gateway

Mr. Speaker, as I have already said, we have taken a very careful look at where the search and rescue facilities are, where the services are located and how they can best meet the needs of mariners, and that is what we have done in this case.

With respect to the particular station the member refers to at Kitsilano, it is 17 nautical miles from Sea Island and that station will be able to continue to operate. In fact, it is that station that got the new hovercraft in the 2010 budget to be able to better service this area.

Arts and Culture
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Canadian Heritage had no qualms about publicly criticizing the Canada Science and Technology Museum. Now he is washing his hands of the whole matter by saying that he simply gave his opinion.

Come on. Clearly, if the minister criticizes something loudly and clearly, it has an impact. He has failed to respect the independence of museums—period.

Since today is International Museum Day, will the government take this opportunity to promise to stop meddling in the exhibit choices of museums?

Arts and Culture
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Oak Ridges—Markham
Ontario

Conservative

Paul Calandra Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, the minister was invited to the Museum of Science and Technology by the president of the museum. He was asked for his personal opinion on the exhibit and he gave his personal opinion on the exhibit.

We, of course, value the independence of our national museums. We leave the decisions on their displays up to the museums and the board of directors. We expect that they will be reviewing it and we will see what happens with that display in the near future.

On this side of the House, when we are asked our personal opinion, we do not actually call our big union bosses and ask them what it should be. We actually speak for ourselves.

Arts and Culture
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

NDP

Rosane Doré Lefebvre Alfred-Pellan, QC

Mr. Speaker, after hearing the minister's comments, some parents trusted his words and were opposed to the exhibit but many checked it out for themselves and saw the educational value and brought their children in. Come on, daddio, it is time for the minister to get back in the DeLorean. It is not 1955. Sex happens and it is better if youth are more informed, not less.

Will the government commit to stop interfering with museums, culture and science?

Arts and Culture
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Oak Ridges—Markham
Ontario

Conservative

Paul Calandra Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, as I have said in the House a number of times, this government has actually invested more in arts and culture than any government has in the history of this country, and that includes our national museums. When we took over government, our national museums were starved for funding and resources. We actually reversed that trend.

On the exhibit that the member talks about, I am the father of two young girls and I will not be visiting it. It is up to parents to make that decision on their own. Originally the exhibit was meant for children 12 years and up. I was very pleased, as was the minister, that it was changed to 16.

We know Canadian parents can make their own choices. That is why we brought in choice for child care on this side of the House. The NDP voted against it. We will continue to focus on the priorities of Canadians.

Fisheries and Oceans
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Liberal

Lawrence MacAulay Cardigan, PE

Mr. Speaker, the government is gutting the Fisheries Act, taking quota away from the fishers and considering the elimination of the owner-operator and fleet separation policies. We now understand that it is eliminating over 1,000 jobs from DFO, on top of the over 400 employees who were fired at Christmas.

These employees give a valuable service to science and the protection of the fishery.

Why is the government trying to destroy the Canadian fishery?

Fisheries and Oceans
Oral Questions

11:35 a.m.

Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission
B.C.

Conservative

Randy Kamp Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and for the Asia-Pacific Gateway

Mr. Speaker, to the contrary. While we will not apologize for acknowledging that our government's top priorities are to ensure a strong and growing economy and to spend tax dollars wisely, our government has found fair, balanced and moderate savings to reduce the deficit and accomplish this goal. Of course, DFO is included in that.

We have made business decisions to align activities and spending to focus on our core responsibilities, take advantage of modern technologies and remain efficient and effective.

41st General Election
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Mr. Speaker, do the dark secrets of the Prime Minister's election tactics never cease?

Today it is the Privacy Commissioner's concern with respect to internal data from the Conservative CIMS mining information on Canadians for votes.

Previously, it was the admission of guilt on the in and out scandal that saw the Conservatives violating election laws as they ran on a platform of accountability, and the huge 2011 Conservative election fraud by way of the widespread, systematic robocall campaign of lies and misinformation.

Will the government drop its charade and call a royal commission? Will it just—

41st General Election
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister.

41st General Election
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Peterborough
Ontario

Conservative

Dean Del Mastro Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs

Mr. Speaker, one of the things that I think has really troubled Canadians in this entire story is the fact that it is the Liberals who actually did everything they could to obscure and hide the fact that they themselves had broken the law. It was not until they were caught that they then had to admit that they did conduct illegal calls using false names and, in fact, breaching election laws and CRTC regulations.

I will be clear here. The Conservative Party of Canada has been open. We are assisting Elections Canada. It is the Liberal Party that is not. Perhaps the member would like to turn over to the Privacy Commissioner all the records the Liberals have on U.S. servers on Canadians. That is what the Liberal Party—

41st General Election
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

The hon. member for Ottawa—Vanier.

Canadian Co-operatives
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Liberal

Mauril Bélanger Ottawa—Vanier, ON

Mr. Speaker, on January 12, 2012, to launch the International Year of Co-operatives, the Minister of Veterans Affairs said on behalf of the government that the International Year of Co-operatives is a perfect opportunity to raise public awareness about co-operatives and their ability to meet the needs of Canadians, and that the common goal was to help co-operatives gain recognition in order to ensure they have more support and more exposure.

Can the government tell us what it has done since then to give Canadian co-operatives more support and more exposure?

Canadian Co-operatives
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Battlefords—Lloydminster
Saskatchewan

Conservative

Gerry Ritz Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and Minister for the Canadian Wheat Board

Mr. Speaker, with some 9,000 co-ops, 18 million members and some net worth of $350 billion or $360 billion, I think co-ops have a great foundation to continue this work on their own.

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Don Davies Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, the defence minister said several times that operating costs for the F-35 would be the same as the CF-18 operating costs. Now, the former parliamentary secretary is admitting that the F-35 will be much more expensive to fly than our CF-18s, roughly $12,000 more per hour.

Here is another contradiction. He now admits that the delivery of the planes will be pushed back by several years due to delays in rising costs.

Is the parliamentary secretary making up numbers or is this a sign of an impending cabinet shuffle?

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Central Nova
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, we will not speculate. What I would suggest is that the member take a look at the recommendations that will be coming out when the secretariat has a chance to bring all of these departments together to look at this important procurement project.

I would also suggest and encourage him to support this important replacement of the CF-18. This is a very major investment for our country. It is great for the aerospace industry. It will ensure that we have the ability to participate in Norad and NATO missions in the future. That is why we are pursuing this important replacement project, as we are on a number of fronts when it comes to our military.

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

NDP

Christine Moore Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, we have known for some time that operating the F-35s is going to cost more than it does for the CF-18s, but once again, the Conservatives have tried to conceal this fact and discredit anyone who questions their statements. Now a member of their own government has admitted that it will cost $12,000 more an hour than it costs for the CF-18s.

Will the Minister of National Defence finally admit that he has underestimated the costs once again?

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:40 a.m.

Central Nova
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, as I have said a number of times in this House, we are proceeding with this important replacement of the CF-18s. There is a need to do so because an operational gap would occur if we do not make these investments.

The hon. member herself should know that these investments will happen over time. There has been no contract signed. There has been no money spent on the actual acquisition. It was, in fact, a previous government that entered us into an MOU to replace the CF-18s some years ago.

Now a very comprehensive review is taking place, led by a secretariat. There will be independent oversight and greater reporting to Parliament and the public, and we are moving ahead on that basis.

Veterans
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Christine Moore Abitibi—Témiscamingue, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives want to spend money on an F-35 program run amok when they are not even doing enough to guarantee support services for our troops returning home from missions. A recent report confirms that veterans are not receiving the mental health care they need. Many are suffering from post traumatic stress disorder and there are not enough health professionals to help them. Again this week, two specialists left the Petawawa base.

Why is this government failing to ensure that soldiers returning from missions have access to the help they need?

Veterans
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Central Nova
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay Minister of National Defence

That is not true, Mr. Speaker. Once again and as always, this hon. member is providing inaccurate information.

We are in fact relocating professionals to Petawawa, in order to have them closer to those members of the military who will need that support. We have had to do so because of retirements and because individuals have transferred to new jobs. This is common turnaround within the Canadian Forces.

We are moving forward to hire more mental health professionals. We, in fact, have a goal of doubling the number. We are moving rapidly in that direction and will continue to support those soldiers, their families and our veterans when they need those services.

Veterans
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Don Davies Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Mr. Speaker, talk is cheap. Just two weeks ago, a damning report slammed the government's lack of mental health treatment for Afghan veterans. It called the situation a crisis.

Currently, the 6,000-member base in Petawawa has no psychologists and just one working psychiatrist.

These brave soldiers who risked their lives deserve to have their health care needs met. Why is the government not investing more into the health of our men and women returning from combat? It is time to back up words with action.

Veterans
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Central Nova
Nova Scotia

Conservative

Peter MacKay Minister of National Defence

Mr. Speaker, that is exactly what we are doing. We are doubling the number of mental health professionals within the employment of the Canadian Forces. We have made significant investments through the legacy of care. We are locating mental health professionals at Petawawa to do exactly what the member suggests: to make them more accessible and to ensure that those investments are providing the service when and where it is needed.

However, the member might have missed that, because in his haste to point this out, he is forgetting the fact that he and his party have voted against every investment we made to--

Veterans
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Some hon. members

Hear, hear!

Firearms Registry
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Conservative

Garry Breitkreuz Yorkton—Melville, SK

Mr. Speaker, our government has kept its promise to end the long gun registry. This registry has been ineffective in improving public safety and a huge waste of taxpayer dollars.

Now we have the situation of provincial governments trying to bring in long gun registries by the back door. The leader of the NDP has already said that he will bring back the long gun registry, should he get the chance.

Would the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety please tell us what the government is doing to defend the rights of law-abiding gun owners?

Firearms Registry
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Portage—Lisgar
Manitoba

Conservative

Candice Bergen Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Public Safety

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to answer that question today.

As part of our government's ongoing measures to reduce the deficit, we will need to end the waiver on firearms licensing fees. However, in order to help law-abiding gun owners, we are providing extra time for them to renew their licence for five years, at no cost. Those with restricted and prohibited licences can apply for a no-cost licence until September 17, 2012. Those with non-restricted licences have a whole year to apply.

This is good news for law-abiding gun owners and good news for taxpayers.

The Environment
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, this past Tuesday we asked the Minister of the Environment to tell us when the new regulations for mining and oil and gas projects would be announced. Once again, he refused to give us a clear answer, claiming that consultations were ongoing.

Yesterday in Bonn, Germany, a government representative announced regulations for 2013, which is quite soon.

Did the minister intentionally mislead the House or is he so disconnected from his department that he did not even know that the regulations were ready?

The Environment
Oral Questions

11:45 a.m.

Calgary Centre-North
Alberta

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, the NDP fails to understand the need to balance environmental stewardship with economic growth. That is why we hear them talking about pitting workers in one section of the country against workers in another.

With regard to oil and gas regulations, we are working closely with industry to ensure that a plan comes up that is sustainable, that works and that achieves the results we are looking for.

I should note that in the most recent greenhouse gas emissions inventory, we saw the economy grow by 3.2% and greenhouse gas emissions stabilize.

The Environment
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Anne Minh-Thu Quach Beauharnois—Salaberry, QC

Mr. Speaker, what is the plan?

The government clearly has no idea what the word “transparency” means. Canadians should not have to rely on German news to find out what their government is up to. The minister has a duty to Canadians and to this House. The only thing we got from him was smoke and mirrors and personal attacks.

Having tried Switzerland and Germany, can the minister tell us which country the government will make its next announcement in?

The Environment
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Calgary Centre-North
Alberta

Conservative

Michelle Rempel Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, as I just said, our government's robust sector-by-sector regulatory approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions is working.

We have implemented regulations in several sectors. We are now working in the electricity sector and in the oil and gas sector to ensure that those that emit the most are regulated in an orderly fashion that ensures economic growth.

I should remind my colleague opposite that what is not helpful is pitting one worker in one section of the country against another. That is something we will not do.

The Environment
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Craig Scott Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, clearly the government would keep us all in the dark. That was a non-answer that we are getting used to more and more.

The Conservatives' agenda to gut environmental rules will make future generations pay for the government's mistakes, but Canadians are also going to pay right now. Government documents released yesterday show that more than $20 million has been set up to speed approvals for major resource projects, regardless of environmental impacts.

Does the government have any idea at all what the total environmental and economic costs of its reckless agenda are going to be?

The Environment
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 can tell the member what the benefits of the economic action plan are. It is 750,000 jobs across this country. Members opposite need to get on board with that plan.

Actually, yesterday we were able to have our committee meet. We had three ministers come and talk to us about our future plans. We look forward to the changes that are going to be made so that we can develop the economy across this country, protect the environment and develop even more jobs.

Hopefully the NDP will begin to work with us instead of trying to divide workers in one section from workers in another part of this country. Resources extend across this country, from British Columbia right across to Newfoundland and Labrador. The NDP needs to get on board and support Canadian jobs.

The Environment
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

NDP

Craig Scott Toronto—Danforth, ON

Mr. Speaker, Conservatives have no idea at all of the cost and no interest at all in telling Canadians what they are.

Natural resources cannot be responsibly managed without something called science, but yesterday the government announced it is closing a groundbreaking freshwater research facility, the Experimental Lakes Area. It has been at the forefront of water science for nearly 50 years, measuring the impacts of human activities on fresh water ecosystems. I do not mean to sound academic, but that means the soil, air, water, animals and people.

Is the government—

The Environment
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

The hon. Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Natural Resources.

The Environment
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, of course we rely on science, and that is what we depend on to make our decisions, but we also depend on leading Canadians. We look forward to doing that.

We are focused on jobs, growth and economic prosperity across this country. We all know that major projects across this country are taking far too long. That is one of the reasons we brought forward the initiatives that we have in economic action plan 2012. We want to have one project, one review, with set timelines. That is reasonable.

Canadians are looking forward to that, and they are looking forward to the jobs that will come out of it as well.

Employment Insurance
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, it has been six and a half years since the Conservatives took power.

Employment Insurance
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

Employment Insurance
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Cape Breton—Canso, NS

That is too easy, Mr. Speaker. Are the Conservatives applauding the fact that they have been found guilty of election fraud? Are they applauding the fact that they have a minister over there who is on his third ethics investigation? Maybe they are applauding the $16 orange juice. Whatever it might be, these guys have been a rotten government, but as bad as it has been, it is going to get worse with the EI changes.

On behalf of mayors, wardens and counsellors in rural communities who fight out-migration every day, why is the government attacking seasonal industries?

Employment Insurance
Oral Questions

11:50 a.m.

Simcoe—Grey
Ontario

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, the mayors and wardens in my riding of Simcoe—Grey are delighted with the jobs that are being created by this government.

With respect to the EI changes, we expect Canadians to take available jobs in their own areas with their appropriate qualifications and we are faced with these unprecedented labour skills shortages. I hear about them in my own riding every week. That is why we are making responsible changes, to ensure Canadians are first in getting those jobs they want and desire.

Government Priorities
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Liberal

Scott Brison Kings—Hants, NS

Mr. Speaker, yesterday on television, the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs stated that sex “...is not biology”. Then he went further. He said that Canadian teens should get their sex education from “their average adult video store”.

Sexually transmitted diseases are on the rise among Canadian teens, and teen pregnancy continues to be an issue. Why, then, is the Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister and to the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs promoting pornography for Canadian teens instead of the sex education that they need?

Government Priorities
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Oak Ridges—Markham
Ontario

Conservative

Paul Calandra Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Canadian Heritage

Mr. Speaker, the reality is that this is another member who wants to talk about anything but what Canadians actually want to talk about.

What Canadians want to talk about is the jobs we have been creating through the economic action plan. They want to talk about the Minister of National Defence, who ended the decade of darkness. They want to talk about the Minister of Justice, who restored balance to our justice system, allowing the Minister of Public Safety to close prisons. They want to talk about the member for Bruce—Grey—Owen Sound, who has brought in new legislation to protect our water resources. They want to talk about the member for Kildonan—St. Paul who continues to promote legislation to—

Government Priorities
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

Order, please. The hon. member for Ottawa Centre.

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, when it comes to extending Canada's military role in Afghanistan past 2014, the Prime Minister says he is considering all options. That was news to Canadians, but then again it is not the first time the government has flip-flopped on mission extension.

At the NATO summit this weekend, will the Prime Minister stand firm on his commitment to end Canada's involvement in this war, or will he continue his habit of making unpopular announcements while in other countries?

National Defence
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Calgary East
Alberta

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, Canada is committed until 2014 to participating in an international mission to train Afghanistan security forces to prevent that country from becoming a safe haven for terrorists. We will assess what is necessary to meet these objectives and we have not made any final decisions at this time.

International Co-operation
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, I can smell the flip-flop coming.

The Prime Minister will be facing additional challenges at the G8—

International Co-operation
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

International Co-operation
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

The Acting Speaker Bruce Stanton

Order, please. The hon. member for Ottawa Centre has the floor. I would ask hon. members to keep conversations low.

The hon. member for Ottawa Centre.

International Co-operation
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

NDP

Paul Dewar Ottawa Centre, ON

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister will be facing additional challenges at the G8 meeting this weekend. Food security is at the top of the agenda. Instead of taking action on hunger and food and security issues, Conservative cabinet ministers launched a blistering attack this week on the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food. How can the Prime Minister expect to have any credibility on the international stage when his cabinet ministers attack UN representatives?

International Co-operation
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Calgary East
Alberta

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, talking about flip-flop, those members should look at what they did in the Libya mission.

As a world traveller, I can tell members that the countries this fellow should have been visiting are India, China, D.R.C., Bangladesh, Pakistan and Indonesia, where 60% of the world's hungry live. Canada is the second-largest contributor to the World Food Programme to feed the hungry, at $300 million. Therefore it is an insult to Canadians and their tax dollars that this fellow came over here to waste the dollars they have contributed by giving $5 million over—

International Co-operation
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

Foreign Affairs
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Conservative

David Sweet Ancaster—Dundas—Flamborough—Westdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, despite a litany of calls from the international community for al-Assad to halt the violence and abide by special envoy Kofi Annan's six point ceasefire plan, the senseless killings continue. Just last week, Syrian forces fired upon onlookers at a funeral. These abhorrent acts drew strong international condemnation.

Would the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs please update this House on the latest actions Canada has taken?

Foreign Affairs
Oral Questions

11:55 a.m.

Calgary East
Alberta

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, al-Assad continues to blatantly disregard the international community while innocent people suffer.

Today Canada is implementing additional measures, which include sanctions prohibiting the export of certain goods to Syria, against Syria's state-run radio and television, the government-owned General Organization of Tobacco and the petroleum exporter, and against three individuals closely associated with the regime.

Our government will stand with the Syrian people and support their demand for freedom, dignity and a brighter future.

Foreign Affairs
Oral Questions

Noon

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, Canadians truly care about what is happening in Ukraine. Over 1.3 million Canadians are of Ukrainian heritage. They are concerned about a fair democratic system, human rights and the rule of law in Ukraine.

Canada will play a role in sending observers, we know that. Last time we sent 1,500. We anticipate in the future we are going to continue to support observers.

What more is the government prepared to do? Think in terms of the potential of a free trade agreement between Ukraine and Canada. Think in terms of the international meetings like—

Foreign Affairs
Oral Questions

Noon

Conservative

Foreign Affairs
Oral Questions

Noon

Calgary East
Alberta

Conservative

Deepak Obhrai Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, the Government of Canada always supports free and fair elections in Ukraine. Because of our strong commitment to Ukraine, Canada will accommodate a request for election observers.

Yes, we are concerned about the recent events that have taken place in Ukraine, most specifically the imprisonment of the former prime minister.

Let me say this: Canada will continue to stand with the Ukrainian people to help them achieve their democracy.

Employment
Oral Questions

Noon

NDP

Jean-François Larose Repentigny, QC

Mr. Speaker, the government does not understand the reality of workers. The manufacturing industry is in crisis. We need only think of the closures of Electrolux, Mabe and Aveos, which have left thousands of people out of work in the Montreal area. Yet, the Conservatives are doing nothing and have not presented a credible job creation plan.

Many unemployed workers will have to get help from community organizations either to go back to school or to find a job.

Will the Conservatives commit to maintaining funding for these community organizations that support unemployed workers?

Employment
Oral Questions

Noon

Beauce
Québec

Conservative

Maxime Bernier Minister of State (Small Business and Tourism)

Mr. Speaker, all Canadians know that we have a plan to ensure that Canada becomes more prosperous and even more free: the economic action plan that we tabled recently.

Unlike the NDP members opposite, we are not trying to pit one region of Canada against another. We are working with all Canadians to ensure that there are jobs available for everyone.

We are doing this while—it is important to point out—managing the deficit and ensuring that we return to a balanced budget as soon as possible so that we can continue to decrease taxes for Canadian workers.

Foreign Affairs
Oral Questions

Noon

Conservative

Parm Gill Brampton—Springdale, ON

Mr. Speaker, Algeria has undertaken political reforms in recent months. On May 10, Algeria held its legislative election, where 42% of Algerians exercised their democratic rights. Canada is very encouraged by this high level of participation of the people of Algeria.

Can the Minister of State of Foreign Affairs for the Americas and Consular Affairs please share with this House an update on this election?

Foreign Affairs
Oral Questions

Noon

Calgary—Nose Hill
Alberta

Conservative

Diane Ablonczy Minister of State of Foreign Affairs (Americas and Consular Affairs)

Mr. Speaker, we are pleased with independent reports indicating that the elections appear to have been free and fair, and with no reports of violence. I especially note that 30% of the newly elected Algerian parliament are women.

Canada is also very encouraged by the recent political reforms that have taken place in Algeria. We support the new government as it continues on this positive path. Canada's foreign policy is based on supporting and promoting across the globe the principles of freedom, democracy, human rights and the rule of law.

Housing
Oral Questions

Noon

NDP

Mike Sullivan York South—Weston, ON

Mr. Speaker, the greater Toronto area has some of the highest wait times for social housing in Canada. Families in need are waiting up to 15 years to get the housing they can afford.

This House just passed an NDP motion calling for greater federal support for affordable housing. When will the government take action?

Housing
Oral Questions

Noon

Simcoe—Grey
Ontario

Conservative

Kellie Leitch Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour

Mr. Speaker, this government has taken action. We have been committed to helping vulnerable Canadians to become self-sufficient and have a roof over their heads. We made historic investments, including for 615,000 individuals to have housing opportunities. We have made sure that there has been up to $1.7 billion in subsidies whether it be for the renovation of existing social housing or the building of new homes. This government has taken action. I ask the NDP why it never supports it.

Employment
Oral Questions

12:05 p.m.

Bloc

Jean-François Fortin Haute-Gaspésie—La Mitis—Matane—Matapédia, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Conservatives obviously see criminals everywhere. Now seasonal workers are considered to be repeat offenders. The Conservatives even intend to punish them financially by forcing them to accept increasingly lower-paid jobs or else lose their employment insurance benefits. This is a frontal attack on regions like mine that depend tourism, fisheries, agriculture and forestry—sectors in which activity is cyclical. The Conservatives want to shut down the regions that will not go along with their plan.

Why is the government doing all it can to impoverish workers and attack the vitality of the regions?

Employment
Oral Questions

12:05 p.m.

Beauce
Québec

Conservative

Maxime Bernier Minister of State (Small Business and Tourism)

Mr. Speaker, what has the Bloc Québécois done for the regions of Quebec over the past few years? Absolutely nothing. We, on the contrary, are working with all the regions—the regions of Ontario, Quebec and particularly western Canada—to make our country more prosperous.

We have confidence in our entrepreneurs. They are the ones who create wealth and employment in Canada. We must support them. That is what we are doing with our budgetary measures, which have been very well received by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business and small businesses across Canada.

Fisheries and Oceans
Oral Questions

12:05 p.m.

Independent

Bruce Hyer Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Speaker, two years ago the Conservative member for Kenora crowed about the importance of new dollars for the Experimental Lakes Area. He said, “The Experimental Lakes Area is known world-wide as Canada’s most innovative freshwater research centre. ...we are investing in projects like this one--helping to establish Canada as a leader in knowledge creation...”

Will the member for Kenora fight for the research centre that he bragged about recently or just allow his party to toss those investments and his credibility into the Experimental Lakes?

Fisheries and Oceans
Oral Questions

12:05 p.m.

Pitt Meadows—Maple Ridge—Mission
B.C.

Conservative

Randy Kamp Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans and for the Asia-Pacific Gateway

Mr. Speaker, I want to assure the member that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans will continue to support freshwater research across Canada. That is why, for example, we invested in the Lake Simcoe cleanup fund of $30 million in 2008. We are making very good progress using that money.

While we think that this facility would be better run by an academic private facility, we are going to continue to invest in clean water in our lakes. We are looking forward to facilitating a transfer from this particular facility to a private organization.

Government Response to Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:05 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, pursuant to Standing Order 36(8)(b) I have the honour to table, in both official languages, the government's response to three petitions.

Interparliamentary Delegations
Routine Proceedings

12:05 p.m.

Conservative

Corneliu Chisu Pickering—Scarborough East, ON

Madam Speaker, pursuant to Standing Order 34(1) I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian delegation of the Interparliamentary Group respecting its participation in the 123rd IPU assembly and related meetings in Geneva, Switzerland from October 4 to October 6, 2010.

I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian delegation of the Interparliamentary Group respecting its participation in the 124th IPU assembly and related meetings in Panama City, Panama from April 16 to April 20, 2011.

I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian delegation of the Interparliamentary Group respecting its participation in the meeting of co-rapporteurs of the third IPU Standing Committee on Democracy and Human Rights in Geneva, Switzerland from May 18 to May 20, 2011.

I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian delegation of the Interparliamentary Group respecting its participation in the Parliamentary Panel regarding the framework of the WTO, public forum, 2011 and the 24th session of the steering committee of the parliamentary conference of the World Trade Organization, WTO, in Geneva, Switzerland, September 20 and 21, 2011.

I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the report of the Canadian Delegation of Interparliamentary Group respecting its participation in the 125th IPU assembly and related meetings in Bern, Switzerland from October 16 to October 19, 2011.

Health
Committees of the House
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Joy Smith Kildonan—St. Paul, MB

Madam Speaker, I have the honour to present, in both official languages, the eighth report of the Standing Committee on Health entitled “Chronic Diseases Related to Aging and Health Promotion and Disease Prevention”.

Pursuant to Standing Order 109, the committee requests that the government table a comprehensive response to the report.

Canadian Coast Guard
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

NDP

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

Madam Speaker, I have the honour to present a petition signed by hundreds of Canadians from across the country who are opposed to the government's decision to make cuts to the Coast Guard's budget and close Canadian Coast Guard centres. I would also like to thank the hundreds of Canadians who signed the electronic petition.

The petitioners urge the Government of Canada to acknowledge that cuts to Coast Guard staff and the closing of Coast Guard centres puts the lives of fishers and other mariners at risk and endangers the marine ecosystem.

Rights of the Unborn
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Schellenberger Perth—Wellington, ON

Madam Speaker, I have four petitions from my constituents.

Canada's 400 year old definition of human beings says a child does not become a human being until the moment of complete birth, contrary to 21st century medical evidence. Therefore, the petitioners call upon the House of Commons and Parliament assembled to confirm that every human being is recognized by Canadian law as human, by amending section 223 of the Criminal Code in such a way as to reflect 21st century medical evidence.

Poverty
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Schellenberger Perth—Wellington, ON

Madam Speaker, I have two petitions on Bill C-233, an act to eliminate poverty in Canada. The petitioners call on Parliament to ensure swift passage of Bill C-233, an act to eliminate poverty in Canada.

Abortion
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Conservative

Gary Schellenberger Perth—Wellington, ON

Madam Speaker, I have two petitions.

Canada is the only nation in the western world and in the company of China and North Korea without any laws restricting abortion. Therefore, the petitioners call upon the House of Commons and Parliament assembled to speedily enact legislation that restricts abortion to the greatest extent possible.

Pensions
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, I am pleased to table a petition from well over 100 residents of Winnipeg North who have taken the time to put the petition together, sign it and send it to the House of Commons.

The petitioners believe that people should continue to have the option to retire at the age of 65. They ask that the government not in any way diminish the importance and value of Canada's three major seniors programs: OAS, GIS and CPP.

The Environment
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:10 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Madam Speaker, it is my honour to present a petition that is the result of the tireless efforts of youth in Vancouver. Ethan Trinh, Kaitlyn Fung, Nick Nguygen, Angela Ho, Lucas Chan, Chris Ly and Amy Bui formed a group called Youth For Climate Justice Now. Together they gathered over 10,000 signatures for the environment.

The petition draws our attention to the serious threat of climate change and calls on the government to support the Save the Fraser Declaration, halt development of the proposed Enbridge pipeline, and support a ban on crude oil tankers off the coast of British Columbia.

These students have also expressed to me a deep concern over the government's recent comments equating environmental activists with eco-terrorists. They want Canadians to know that the biggest threat to their future is not environmental activists, but rather the Conservative government, which puts the interests of large corporations ahead of the interests of environmental sustainability.

We should listen to our youth.

Republic of the Fiji Islands
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Madam Speaker, I have a second petition. It is from the Fijian community, which is 100,000 strong. The petitioners are calling yet again for the establishment of a high commission in the Republic of the Fiji Islands.

The United States, China, Australia and New Zealand all have embassies or high commissions in Fiji. Many Canadians of Fijian descent who travel extensively to Fiji are left without adequate consular services in that part of the world. They do a lot of business in Fiji. They own property in Fiji. They point out that Fiji is a Commonwealth country and we should be making sure that Canadians have that necessary service in that part of the world.

Rights of the Unborn
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Maurice Vellacott Saskatoon—Wanuskewin, SK

Madam Speaker, it is a great privilege to present petitions today from several hundred constituents from the Saskatoon—Wanuskewin riding, and a few beyond that as well. These several hundred individuals have taken the time to petition Parliament.

The petitioners state that whereas Canada's 400-year-old definition of a human being says a child does not become a human being until the moment of complete birth, they note the fact that that is contrary to 21st century medical evidence. Therefore, they are calling on the House of Commons to confirm that every human being is recognized by Canadian law as human, to exclude none. They are asking for the amendment of section 223 of the Criminal Code in such a way as to reflect up-to-date 21st century medical and scientific evidence.

Canadian Broadcasting Corporation
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, I rise today to present two petitions. The first is from residents of parts of Toronto, Sarnia, my own riding of Victoria, and potentially some of your constituents, Madam Speaker.

The petitioners are calling on this House assembled to protect and preserve our national public broadcaster and to ensure stable and predictable funding for the CBC, as not only a revered Canadian institution, but as an essential service in bringing this diverse country together.

The Environment
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Green

Elizabeth May Saanich—Gulf Islands, BC

Madam Speaker, the second petition is from residents of the province of Alberta. The petition concerns Enbridge's so-called northern gateway project, what one might call the great pipeline of China, a project to put risky supertankers on the shores of British Columbia in the most treacherous waters of the country. The petitioners are calling for full, fair, transparent and unbiased hearings from the current Conservatives in power.

Rights of the Unborn
Petitions
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Stella Ambler Mississauga South, ON

Madam Speaker, it is my privilege as the member of Parliament for Mississauga South to present a petition on behalf of my constituents.

My constituents are petitioning Parliament to amend section 223 of the Criminal Code of Canada to recognize every human being as human in law and to reflect the findings of 21st century medical knowledge.

Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

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

Madam Speaker, Question No. 579 will be answered today.

Question No. 579
Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Ted Hsu Kingston and the Islands, ON

With regard to Parks Canada lands: (a) since January 1, 2006, has Parks Canada or the government sold, subdivided, leased, or in any other way alienated or dealt with its holdings of real property on the east side of Little Lake in Peterborough, Ontario; (b) if the answer to (a) is no, has it studied doing so; (c) if the answer to (a) is yes, (i) what was or is the nature of the alienation or dealing which has either been effected or studied, (ii) who are or were the parties to the transaction; and (d) has Parks Canada or the government communicated with any federal or provincial parliamentarians on the subject of the government’s holdings of real property on the east side of Little Lake in Peterborough, Ontario, and, if so, (i) with which parliamentarians, (ii) who sent and who received any such communication, (iii) what were the dates of any such communication, (iv) what are the file or reference numbers of any such communication?

Question No. 579
Questions on the Order Paper
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Thornhill
Ontario

Conservative

Peter Kent Minister of the Environment

Mr. Speaker, with regard to (a), Ssince January 1, 2006, Parks Canada has not sold, subdivided, leased, or in any other way alienated or dealt with its holdings of real property on the east side of Little Lake in Peterborough, Ontario.

With regard to (b), Parks Canada is not considering doing so.

With regard to (c), Ssince the answer to (a) is no, this is not applicable.

With regard to (d), Parks Canada has not communicated with any federal or provincial parliamentarians regarding Government of Canada holdings of real property on the east side of Little Lake in Peterborough, Ontario.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre
Saskatchewan

Conservative

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

Madam Speaker, if a supplementary response to Question No. 512, originally tabled on October 25, 2011, as well as Question No. 585 could be made orders for returns, these returns would be tabled immediately.

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Question No. 512
Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Brian Jean Fort McMurray—Athabasca, AB

With regard to questions Q-386 through Q-509 on the Order Paper: (a) what is the estimated cost of the government's response to each question; and (b) what is the estimated cost of the government's response to this question?

(Return tabled)

Question No. 585
Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

With respect to staffing at Veterans Affairs Canada (VAC): (a) how many persons were employed by VAC in Prince Edward Island for the fiscal years 2007-2008, 2008-2009, 2009-2010, and 2010-2011, broken down by (i) full-time employees, (ii) part-time employees, (iii) term contract employees, (iv) student contract employees; (b) what is the deployment, broken down by percentage, of VAC staff to (i) departmental headquarters in Ottawa, (ii) departmental headquarters in Charlottetown, (iii) regional offices across Canada, (iv) sub-regional offices across Canada, (v) district offices across Canada; and (c) what was the total remuneration of VAC employees in Prince Edward Island for the same periods listed in (a)?

(Return tabled)

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Conservative

Tom Lukiwski Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

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

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Is that agreed?

Questions Passed as Orders for Returns
Routine Proceedings

12:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

The House resumed consideration of the motion.

Opposition Motion--Komagata Maru Incident
Business of Supply
Government Orders

12:15 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, what an honour it is today to rise in my place to speak on such an important issue. This is the first time that I have addressed the Komagata Maru incident of 1914 in this place, but I did have the opportunity to address this issue in the Manitoba legislature. This is a very important issue to many of my constituents. Kalgidhar Darbar, Singh Sabha, and Sikh Society are three gurdwaras which many of my constituents visit on a weekly basis. I have had many discussions over the years about this tragedy which took place on the shores of B.C. so many years ago.

The minister made reference earlier to the importance of education. We also believe we need to promote education on this issue to make more Canadians are aware of this tragic event that took place in Canada's history. To that end, as we are debating the issue today, the leader of the Liberal Party is in Vancouver and will be visiting the Komagata Maru museum.

This issue has been brought up in the past. I thought I would highlight a few of the political thoughts on the issue from the Liberal Party's perspective and then go into the history of what took place.

It is important to recognize that the issue of the apology was first brought to the legislature by Ruby Dhalla and other individuals, such as Sukh Dhaliwal and Navdeep Bains. It was implied within that motion that the Prime Minister stand in his place in the House of Commons and apologize on behalf of all parliamentarians and the government. In fact, it was on April 2, 2008 when Ruby Dhalla, the former MP for Brampton—Springdale, tabled Motion No. 469, which states:

That, in the opinion of the House, the government should officially apologize to the Indo-Canadian community and to the individuals impacted in the 1914 Komagata Maru incident, in which passengers were prevented from landing in Canada.

That motion was passed by the House of Commons and received unanimous support from all members of the House. The expectation at that point was to have a formal apology delivered by the Prime Minister inside the House of Commons.

On May 23, 2008, the Legislative Assembly of British Columbia unanimously passed a resolution, which states:

Be it resolved that this Legislature apologizes for the events of May 23, 1914, when 376 passengers of the Komagata Maru, stationed off Vancouver harbour, were denied entry by Canada. The House deeply regrets that the passengers, who sought refuge in our country and our province, were turned away without benefit of the fair and impartial treatment befitting a society where people of all cultures are welcomed and accepted.

Many would agree that this is the type of apology that would be most appropriate to be heard inside the House of Commons, ideally put forward by the Prime Minister of Canada.

On August 3, it is important to note that the Prime Minister did appear at the 13th annual Ghadri Babiyan Da Mela, which is a festival in Surrey, B.C., to issue an apology for the Komagata Maru incident. In response to the motion calling for an apology from the government, he stated, “Today, on behalf of the Government of Canada, I am officially conveying as Prime Minister that apology.”

Many members of the Indo Canadian community were appreciative of that apology, but there were many others who wanted an apology to be presented in the House of Commons.

At the time, the secretary of state, now the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, stated, “The apology has been given and it won't be repeated”, thus settling the matter for the federal government. We believe that the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism, the person who made that statement, is wrong and that he should acknowledge the need for us to open the issue, as we are doing today, and ask the Prime Minister to apologize in the House.

I made reference to the fact that I actually had the privilege to be a member of the Manitoba legislature on May 13, 2008, when this very issue was raised there. It was brought forward in the form of a resolution, which states in part:

Therefore be it resolved that the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba call upon the Federal Government to apologize for the tragedy of the 1914 Komagata Maru incident;

I spoke to that resolution and I voted in favour of it. The intent of the resolution, as far as most of my constituents and I were concerned, was that the federal government in Ottawa would make that apology inside the House of Commons. I must say that those individuals I represented back then are part of the riding of Winnipeg North. I have had the double pleasure, if I can put it that way, to have represented this issue from both a provincial perspective and federal perspective.

I talked about the importance of there being a historical and educational component to this. There is no shortage of information about this incident on the Internet. One of the sites that I truly appreciate is vancouverhistory.ca archives. It really highlights the incident. I will quote from that source:

On May 23, 1914 a ship called the Komagata Maru--normally used for transporting coal--arrived at Vancouver and anchored in Burrard Inlet. She carried 376 Indians: 12 Hindus, 24 Muslims and 340 Sikhs, British subjects all, and people who had come to make a new life in Canada. (In this article “Indians” means “people from India.”)

The arrival of the Komagata Maru had a convulsive effect on the city. There was already deep-seated prejudice against non-white residents in the area, mostly Chinese and some Japanese. Anti-Oriental riots had occurred as recently as 1907. That was also the year 901 Sikhs had arrived in Vancouver aboard the Canadian Pacific steamer Monteagle. Many white residents--particularly those who felt their jobs were threatened--decided the new arrivals must be prevented from getting off the ship.

They had a lot of official sympathy. The federal government was pressuring steamship companies to stop selling tickets to Indians. In 1907 Ottawa passed a bill denying Indians the right to vote. They were prohibited to run for public office or serve on juries, and were not permitted to become accountants, lawyers or pharmacists. The provincial government had passed laws specifically intended to discourage their immigration. They had to have at least $200 on their person to enter British Columbia--the average Indian earned about 10 cents a day--and they had to have come via direct passage from India.

The Komagata Maru had not left from India. She had departed April 4th, 1914 from Hong Kong with 150 passengers, picked up another 111 in Shanghai four days later, 86 more on the 14th at Moji in Japan and a final 14 at Yokohama. Then she headed to Canada.

The ship’s journey was intended as a direct challenge to BC’s exclusionist laws. She had been chartered by Gurdit Singh, an affluent Hong Kong businessman.

Word of the ship’s approach reached Canada and newspapers picked up the story. The Province newspaper headlined its report “Boat Loads of Hindus on Way to Vancouver.”

We know, of course, that was not the case. Obviously, there were a number of individuals, more than just Hindu, who were on the boat.

The article continues:

(To white Canadians, it seems, all Indians were Hindus.) Other headlines referred to a “Hindu Invasion.”

Indians who already lived here began to gather and discuss how to help the new arrivals.

On May 23, seven weeks after she left Hong Kong, the Komagata Maru arrived in Vancouver.

Canadian and BC authorities were waiting for her. They refused permission for the passengers to leave the ship, saying it had not arrived via direct passage from India and most of the passengers did not have the $200 required to enter British Columbia. They repeated their demand that the ship leave. The passengers refused.

They were denied food and water, but local supporters managed to supply the men, women and children aboard the ship. Desperate, the passengers seized control of the vessel. Attempts by local mobs to expel them were met by a hail of bricks from the people aboard. (One of those bricks—made, incidentally, in Japan—is preserved at the Vancouver Museum.)

Vancouver mayor Truman Baxter organized an anti-Asian rally, and the first speaker was the prominent politician H.H. Stevens. “I have no ill-feeling against people coming from Asia personally,” he told the crowd, “but I reaffirm that the national life of Canada will not permit any large degree of immigration from Asia...I intend to stand up absolutely on all occasions on this one great principle—of a white country and a white British Columbia.” Stevens' speech was followed by “thunderous applause.” In June a board of inquiry found all the passengers inadmissible. But without supplies for the return voyage, the ship would not leave.

The Vancouver Maritime Museum picks up the story: “In the early morning hours of July 19, 1914, Sea Lion, with 35 specially deputized immigration officers, armed with rifles borrowed from the Seaforth Highlanders, and 125 Vancouver Police officers, approached Komagata Maru to force the vessel from Vancouver harbour. The enraged passengers resisted any effort to board their ship. Manning the rail, an armed group shouted and threatened to board the tug if she made fast. Nonetheless, Sea Lion's captain brought her in close, grappled and then tied on to Komagata Maru. Passengers and police then battled, as one man with an axe chopped at Sea Lion's line. Finally, as a gunman aboard the ship opened fire on the tug, the line was cut and the tug retreated ‘looking as if it had run under a coal chute.'”

Finally, the new Royal Canadian Navy—in its first official task—was called in. Its ship, an elderly training vessel, HMCS Rainbow, entered Burrard Inlet July 21 and trained its six-inch guns on the Komagata Maru. (This was the first appearance of an RCN vessel in Vancouver.)

On July 23, 1914—exactly two months after she had arrived—the Komagata Maru was forced to leave the city. Some 20 of its passengers who already had resident status had been allowed to disembark. The more than 300 others had to return.

It goes on. I would encourage members to do some research. What I found most interesting in the article is in regard to the tragedy that followed.

The article goes on to state:

On September 26, 1914 the ship, with its passengers now having been aboard for a miserable four months, approached Calcutta. A British gunboat stopped the ship and held the passengers as prisoners. Then they were taken to a place called Baj Baj, a Calcutta suburb, and told they were being sent to Punjab on a special train. “Many of the passengers,” says one website www.sikhpioneers.org about the incident, “did not want to go to Punjab. They had business to attend to in Calcutta, some wished to look for work there, and most importantly, the passengers wanted to place the Guru Granth Sahib, which they had taken with them on their journey, in a Gurdwara (Sikh place of worship) in Calcutta.”

The Guru Granth Sahib could be described as the scripture of the Sikhs. They hold the book in great reverence and treat it with the utmost respect.

The British officials refused this request and repeated their insistence that all the passengers would be put on the train to Punjab. The passengers rebelled and began to march toward Calcutta. They were forced back to Baj Baj and ordered to board the ship again. Led by Gurdit Singh, they refused. A police officer attacked Singh, but was stopped by another passenger. Then gunfire broke out. Twenty passengers were killed, another nine were wounded.

I found this story to be of great interest. I have a much better appreciation in terms of Canada's past. We need to recognize that we have made mistakes. This is a classic example of how it does not take much for the Prime Minister of our country to stand in his place inside the House of Commons and make that formal apology. For me, it is only a question of time before we see that happen, whether it is the present Prime Minister or, hopefully, a Liberal prime minister if the government refuses to do it. We are committed, as a political entity, we recognize what has gone wrong and we want to make that formal apology.

I look at this issue as one that is hard to believe when we reflect on the facts of the past. It crossed all political parties, as well as business leaders and labour leaders. It is hard to comprehend how the ordeal in itself could have happened in our country, the country that we love so much.

I began my comments in terms of many of my friends who, when I attend the different Gurdwaras, I call brothers and sisters from within and, in particular, the Indo-Canadian community, the people who have been to Punjab and those who emigrated from Punjab. They are now great Canadians who have children and they want to ensure their children are aware of this.

However, this goes beyond the Indo-Canadian community. This is about our past, our history. One of the ways in which we can learn from our history or get a better appreciation of our history is to pick up on the whole educational file. As I made reference to earlier, the leader of the Liberal Party of Canada, who is in Vancouver, made note of today being a special day and is hopeful that the government will see the merit in passing this resolution. He is making the effort to go out to the Komagata Maru museum. I think we should all make an attempt to go to the museum because we could all benefit.

As members of Parliament, we have the opportunity through mailers and householders to communicate what took place back in 1914 to our constituents, and I encourage people to do just that.

It is a very important file. For me personally, it is a little ironic to a certain degree, but more so a privilege to have been able to talk about this issue both inside the Manitoba legislature and now today inside the House of Commons.

Earlier today I asked the government if it would be prepared or when it would be prepared to make that formal apology inside the House. The Prime Minister has said that he has already apologized once, and the current Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism says that is all that is necessary and that, as far as he is concerned, the issue has been put to rest.

For those individuals who believe what the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism is saying, I would recommend that they talk to members of the Indo-Canadian community. They will find that there is support for an official apology to be made on the floor of the House of Commons. This is where the legislation that caused the problem back in 1914 became law. I think there would be a great deal of satisfaction from not only within the Indo-Canadian community but people outside of the community who would welcome the apology from—

Opposition Motion--Komagata Maru Incident
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12:40 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

Questions and comments, the hon. member for Surrey North.

Opposition Motion--Komagata Maru Incident
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12:40 p.m.

NDP

Jasbir Sandhu Surrey North, BC

Madam Speaker, the Liberal record is pretty clear on this. It had a majority government for 13 years and petitions were presented during that time. It had a chance to provide an official apology in the House of Commons and it failed to do so. However, I do welcome the fact that the Liberals will support this motion that there should be an official apology in the House of Commons. I welcome the change in their policy.

The Conservatives are calling the announcement in the park an apology. Why will the Conservatives not offer an official dignified apology to the South Asian community that has been demanding this apology for many years so that we can close this chapter, put it to rest and reconcile this tragic event in our history?

Opposition Motion--Komagata Maru Incident
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12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, out of respect for the issue that we are debating today, I will try to be as high road as I can. When the member asked why the Liberal Party did not provide an apology, one could also y ask why the Brian Mulroney government did not provide one. Why did the NDP in the province of British Columbia not make that apology when it was in government years ago? My understanding is that the first time there was a motion brought to the House of Commons, it was not the NDP that brought it, even though it had membership in the House of Commons. It was brought to the House by Liberal MP Ruby Dhalla, someone who, ironically, comes from Winnipeg North, a very proud resident of Winnipeg North at one point.

The Indo-Canadian community is more mature than that. It just wants a more formal apology given in the House of Commons. It may be best to leave it at that. I truly believe that it is only a question of time before members of the Indo-Canadian community get a formal apology, and for me, the sooner the better.

However, I firmly believe that it is only a question of time before a formal apology will be made on the floor of the House of Commons.

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12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Parm Gill Brampton—Springdale, ON

Madam Speaker, this is a bit rich coming from the Liberal Party, which, as my colleague from the NDP mentioned, were in power the majority of the time since this tragedy took place in 1914 and was, most recently, 13 years in power. Also, the member who brought forward that motion was part of the Liberal government. The Liberal Party could have done it however it wanted. It could have apologized in the House, in B.C. and in every corner of the world if it wanted to but it chose to ignore it.

Were the Liberals not aware of this tragedy when they were in power?

The current Prime Minister has officially apologized in front thousands of Indo-Canadians for the incident. It is time for the community to move on. I also have a Sikh background and belong to an Indo-Canadian family. I talk to thousands of people all the time and, as far as they are concerned, this issue is over. It is time for us to move on. We need to look at the bigger picture rather than using these issues for our own political advantage.

Opposition Motion--Komagata Maru Incident
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12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, actually, I was first elected back in 1988. I represented Inkster and my colleague, Dr. Gulzar Cheema, represented Kildonan. Dr. Gulzar Cheema kind of baptized me into the Indo-Canadian community and, in particular showed me the different Gurdwaras and Sikhism as a religion and faith, for which I have an immense amount of respect.

Over the years, I have gained friends who have become very close to my family and my children. My feelings toward the Indo-Canadian community are much like my feelings toward other communities. Where I can play a role by being helpful and where I can reflect and try to make a difference, I do that.

When the member asks why the Liberal Party is talking about it now, the incident occurred before John Diefenbaker and Brian Mulroney. If the member wants to play pure politics on this, every political party, whether it is the New Democratic Party, the Liberal Party or the Conservative Party, they can all share in the blame. One needs to put things in the proper perspective of time.

Over the last short number of years there has been a request that this particular issue be addressed here in the House of Commons.

I am responding to an opposition motion that was raised in part just a few years back. I think there is merit for it. Some provincial legislatures have now recognized the need for it, but not all of them. Maybe in time other provincial legislatures will do likewise and recognize it. It is just in the last—

Opposition Motion--Komagata Maru Incident
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12:45 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

Questions and comments. The hon. member for Bourassa.

Opposition Motion--Komagata Maru Incident
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12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Bourassa, QC

Madam Speaker, I thank my colleague for his speech.

I find it rather sad today that people in the House are trying to make political hay by pointing fingers at certain political parties.

We know that recognition by the House of Commons, by Parliament, is important. I would like to hear what my colleague has to say about that. Why is it important today to pass a motion and to have the House of Commons recognize this incident?

Opposition Motion--Komagata Maru Incident
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12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, this is a relevant motion. Over the last five to eight years the issue has been talked about in provincial legislatures. I refer to two specifically, British Columbia and my home province of Manitoba, where resolutions were passed. In Manitoba specifically, we were asking for the government to recognize it. There have been other motions brought to the floor of the House of Commons raising the issue.

When the Prime Minister made an apology in British Columbia, there were a number of Indo-Canadian community leaders who asked why the apology could not be made on the floor of the House of Commons?

I think the timing is right. The opportunity is still there for the Prime Minister to offer an apology. I do not quite understand why we would not do it here in the House.

As I said earlier, I suspect it is only a question of time before we actually hear that formal apology inside the House of Commons. I look forward to it and hope to be here on the day that occurs. I know it would mean a lot for a number of the constituents I represent.

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12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Parm Gill Brampton—Springdale, ON

Madam Speaker, I would once again like to remind all members of the opposition to please do us all a favour and stop using this issue for their own political gains.

The fact is that the Prime Minister has apologized and the community has accepted the apology. Overall, I believe the opposition would have still—

Opposition Motion--Komagata Maru Incident
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12:45 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

Order, please. I must give the hon. member for Winnipeg North 30 seconds to respond.

Opposition Motion--Komagata Maru Incident
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12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, there are many from within the Indo-Canadian community today who believe it would be a wonderful thing to see the Prime Minister of Canada stand in his place here in the House of Commons where the problem originated when we passed some of the laws many years ago. So, to bring some conclusion to it, making the effort would go a long way and would put the issue to rest.

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12:50 p.m.

NDP

Rathika Sitsabaiesan Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Madam Speaker, on May 23, 1914, the ship, Komagata Maru, arrived in Burrard Inlet near Vancouver with 376 passengers aboard from British India. At that time, Canadian immigration officials enacted regulations to block immigrants from India from being admitted to Canada. Immigrants were required to come by continuous journey from their country of birth and enter with at least $200 cash each. This continuous journey regulation did not mention race or nationality and, on the surface, seemed fair and applicable to all immigrants. However, it was an open secret that the regulation was intended to be applied primarily to people from British India.

When the Komagata Maru arrived onshore, Canadian immigration authorities did not permit passengers to leave the boat, claiming that they could not be admitted until officials had determined if they met the requirements of the continuous journey regulation. Since they were refused permission to land, the passengers lived aboard the ship for two months, like prisoners, continuously threatened by famine and disease. For the entire two months, the passengers of the Komagata Maru, the Indian community in British Columbia and Canadian immigration authorities were engaged in a heated legal battle about the passengers' right to enter Canada.

At the end of the two months, only 20 passengers were given permission to stay in Canada and, on July 23, 1914, the Komagata Maru was forced to leave Canadian waters. When it returned to Calcutta, India, 19 passengers were shot by the British Raj.

This tragedy was a major embarrassment for the Canadian government of the day, and even today it reminds all Canadians and particularly Canadians of South Asian heritage of past injustices.

The Komagata Maru tragedy is a reminder of a policy of exclusion for immigrants based on the unjust basis of culture, religious belief and skin colour.

Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the member for Newton—North Delta.

Despite the prejudice and hostility in Canada that the Komagata Maru story exemplified, the South Asian community has survived and prospered in Canada. The community emerged in the 1980s with a positive and confident outlook, and today in a more tolerant and compassionate Canada, the Komagata Maru remains a powerful symbol of unjust discrimination.

Despite Canada's proud tradition of protecting refugees, the country has not always been generous toward those in need of protection. However, we have learned painful lessons from our history and, since then, Canada has set an international gold standard for how we treat and welcome asylum seekers and refugee claimants.

This was our reputation until the current government began to reform our refugee and immigration system and change the way we treat asylum seekers to a regressive level similar to what was seen at the time of the Komagata Maru. By ramming through Bill C-31, people who flee a country and arrive by boat, like the Komagata Maru, would not be permitted to land in Canada. However, once they step foot on Canadian soil, they would be detained, some in provincial prisons, and treated like common criminals.

This tragedy of the Komagata Maru shows us where we went wrong and where we should never return. However, as we are witnessing with Bill C-31, it is becoming yet another example of Canada failing to learn from the mistakes of the past. This is one perfect example of immigration laws gone wrong and resulting in the unnecessary loss of human life.

As a country, we need to ensure that immigration reform will not result in any more loss of human life. Unfortunately, I do not think this will be the case should Bill C-31 pass.

The tragedy of the Komagata Maru is a dark chapter in Canadian history and this dark chapter must finally be closed. The people of the South Asian community deserve closure for this trauma so that the process of healing and reconciliation can begin. What better time to acknowledge this fact than during the month of May, Asian Heritage Month, and mere days before the anniversary of this tragic event?

In 2008, the Prime Minister attended an outdoor cultural festival in Surrey, B.C. where people were led to believe that he would announce the date of a formal apology. Rather than listening to the festival organizers who advised that an apology from the state would be ill-received at this park, the Prime Minister chose to issue an apology anyway. This apology was widely regarded as rude, insincere and disrespectful.

A dignified official apology for the Komagata Maru tragedy is long overdue. By refusing to formally apologize for the Komagata Maru incident, the Conservatives have essentially created two different levels of apologies for historic wrongs. This is wrong.

Without an apology in Parliament, there is no official acknowledgement that what Canada did was wrong. The South Asian community in Canada deserves a respectful acknowledgement of this historic wrong.

Today, as we remember how Canada treated the Komagata Maru in 1914 and we commit to learning from our past, we ask the government to officially apologize in the House of Commons to the South Asian community and to the individuals impacted in the Komagata Maru incident.

Opposition Motion--Komagata Maru Incident
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12:55 p.m.

NDP

Randall Garrison Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Madam Speaker, I am very pleased today to rise and add my voice to those who call for an official apology for the Komagata Maru incident and to begin on real reconciliation among all Canadians as a result of this tragic incident in our past.

At the same time I want to acknowledge how pleased I will be this Sunday to be attending the 100th anniversary celebration of the Khalsa Diwan Society in my own riding, along with, I assume, the Deputy Speaker who will also be helping to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the temple on that site, and the great contributions, despite the Komagata Maru incident, that the Sikh community has made in my community.

I think we all need to acknowledge those contributions, despite this lack of an apology.

Opposition Motion--Komagata Maru Incident
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12:55 p.m.

NDP

Rathika Sitsabaiesan Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Madam Speaker, my colleague's comments show how much commitment the South Asian community has shown to Canadian communities.

Since the Komagata Maru, we have given so much to the economic well-being, the cultural well-being and the growth of this country, and have contributed so much to what this country is known and cherished for around the world, which is diversity and inclusion of all immigrants to this country.

That is why the members of the South Asian community and the people who were affected by the Komagata Maru deserve an official apology in this House of Commons, not just a public political speech in a park.

Opposition Motion--Komagata Maru Incident
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12:55 p.m.

Conservative

Parm Gill Brampton—Springdale, ON

Madam Speaker, I understand that the members of the opposition are trying to make this a political issue, which it is not.

They need to understand that they are playing with the emotions of people who were affected by it, a community that is trying to put this tragic moment behind them. They have accepted the apology of the Prime Minister delivered in 2008 and yet members of the opposition are trying to bring this back again and it hurts feelings.

I am also a member of the Sikh family. I was also born in India. I also came here as an immigrant. I have thousands of friends and family members who live here who were affected and who feel the pain that all South Asians felt with regard to the Komagata Maru. I believe it is the opposition members who are playing with the feelings of people.

Even if the Prime Minister had apologized in the House at the time, I think the opposition would still have criticized the Prime Minister for not apologizing in B.C. in front of thousands of Indo-Canadians where the apology took place.

Once again, I urge all opposition members to stop this game and move on.

Opposition Motion--Komagata Maru Incident
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12:55 p.m.

NDP

Rathika Sitsabaiesan Scarborough—Rouge River, ON

Madam Speaker, it saddens me that the member, who is also a member of the South Asian community, speaks along the same lines of the current Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism. He said, ”This was a single incident that affected about 350 non-Canadians of some 90 years ago”. He said that we should forget about it and move on.

That is very hurtful. I would like to quote the editor of the Asian Journal who said:

No matter how much money any government spends on monuments and other projects, it is all MEANINGLESS if the government fails to apologize in Parliament for the Komagata Maru incident.

This is what the South Asian community wants, not this new creation of a two-tier apology system for official wrongdoings by a government. Because this was an official wrongdoing by the Canadian government, it t needs an official apology, and that can only be done if it is officially done by the House, which is recognized as a place for official apologies in this country.

Opposition Motion--Komagata Maru Incident
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1 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims Newton—North Delta, BC

Madam Speaker, I sat here today listening to the debates and questions. At times it has been hurtful and emotional for me. I, too, am an immigrant with roots in the Indian subcontinent.

I want to remind everybody that the people who were on the Komagata Maru that was turned away were not only Sikhs, they were Hindus and they were Muslims. If we all remember our history, at that time the Indian subcontinent was one country and it was under British rule.

All of those citizens on that ship were British citizens. They were just coming to another part of the British Empire. An order in council prevented them from coming here for no other reason than the colour of their skin and their religious background. I would say that is a shameful aspect of our history, and because it is part of our official history, nobody is denying it, not the Conservatives, not the Liberals, not the NDP. We all accept that it was a shameful part of our history. Therefore, I believe that we must also accept that if the wrong was done by a government through orders in council, then the apology must also be in the hallowed halls of Parliament today.

If the Prime Minister has already acknowledged, in a speech on a platform in a park, that it was wrong, I would say it would not be a big step for him to sit in his seat on the Monday after we come back and to read out a statement in this House. The fact of the matter is, this is the House.

I want to just reflect a minute, and I would really appreciate it, Madam Speaker, if some of the chatter to the right of me could stop. It is interfering with my train of thought. It is very disrespectful, because I really try to pay attention when other people are speaking.

I have to be honest that because I grew up in England my knowledge of the Komagata Maru was not that great. I have learned more about this incident. Being a social studies teacher, I tried to reflect the cultural diversity of our communities and tried to teach a little bit about the Komagata Maru.

I only became personally attached to some of the stories once I was running to be a member of Parliament. During that time, I had many members of the riding come up and speak to me about this incident. The emotions that were involved were really overwhelming. I had read about it, so I had the historical aspect, but I did not appreciate at that time, as I do today, the emotional baggage people were carrying as a result of this.

I had a gentleman in my riding, whose name is Jasbir. He is the grandson of a Komagata Maru passenger. He asked if he could have a meeting with me before he would decide who he was going to be supporting. He told me of the struggles he has had with the Liberal government and the Conservative government, getting them to apologize.

He said that he had a great deal of respect for Jack Layton, because Jack Layton said that when the NDP formed a government, it would apologize. This motion is here today. Our party is saying that when we form government, there will be an apology. We will not be like the Liberals, who sat with majority governments, year in and year out, and it just was not an issue then. They did not issue an apology when they had the chance.

Why is this so important when there are so many other critical issues surrounding us right now? As a counsellor, I know the importance of truth and reconciliation. The families I have met personally will not find closure, nor will the community, unless and until there is an apology in this Parliament.

I also beg to disagree with my respected colleague from Brampton—Springdale when he says that this is not an issue in the community. I invite him to come with me to my riding, have a debate and discussion and hear from the people.

The Prime Minister talked about the consultations that occurred with the Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism. I just finished a conversation during the break with a gentleman who helped to facilitate the consultations. He was at both consultations, Toronto and Vancouver, He said that not one person at either of those well-attended consultation meetings said anything other than the apology has to be in Parliament.

There are some things that overwhelm us. I know how important it has been for other communities. I am very proud that the government apologized to the Japanese for the internment and to the Chinese for the head tax. It was my privilege the other day to read a statement. This is the wonderful thing about our communities. There was a comment made by a small business owner, Gabriel Yiu, in Vancouver, who stated, “I believe that with solidarity among the ethnic groups there is hope that a dignified apology could be issued before the centennial of the Komagata Maru incident”. This is the country we have built. Canadians from other cultures absolutely recognize the need for this apology.

There are other comments. For example, in B.C. the Liberal-Conservative coalition government apologized in the legislature. I will read what Carole Taylor said in Hansard, not in some public park announcement. She apologized on behalf of the province and stated:

It is a shame for all of us to remember that our country did this, but I think that part of the healing process is to go through this, where we apologize for it. To those individuals who have been affected directly or indirectly, to those in India whose future was determined by this policy of discrimination and to the world who watched Canada with dismay as we perpetuated this whites-only policy — to everyone — we say: “We apologize.”

I have only one plea to my colleagues on every side of the House. It would take a nanosecond for the Prime Minister to stand in his place on Monday morning or any other day in the near future to say we apologize. One thing I have taught my children is that saying sorry means a lot. It sends a message. There are hundreds of thousands of South Asians, Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus who are looking to for us to make that apology in these hallowed halls.

It was just over a year ago when I first sat in my seat in Parliament that I was overwhelmed with emotion. I was born in India, grew up in England, now live in Canada. I am sitting in a seat where other people sat before me and made motions to keep people from my ancestry out of this country and to keep women from the vote. I was very proud that we are moving forward. This apology is a necessary step for truth and reconciliation.

Opposition Motion--Komagata Maru Incident
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1:10 p.m.

Conservative

Parm Gill Brampton—Springdale, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to point out that while the NDP only talks, our government has already taken action. On August 3, 2008, the Prime Minister took the historic step of recognizing and apologizing on behalf of the Government of Canada for the Komagata Maru incident of 1914.

Jack Uppal, who is a very prominent member and one of the most recognized figures in the South Asian Canadian community, has commended the apology and accepted it. Is the hon. member saying that Mr. Uppal is not a member of the South Asian community?

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1:10 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims Newton—North Delta, BC

Madam Speaker, it is not my place to say whether Mr. Uppal is a member of any community or not. We are not here debating who is more Indian, who is more Sikh, who is more Hindu, who is more Muslim. We are debating here today a wrong that was done by the government. All we are asking is that the government make an apology in this House.

If the Prime Minister can say he is sorry out there, then surely it would not be that much more difficult to stand up in this House and apologize, put an end to this story so we could all move on, so the residents in my riding and across Canada could say there has been closure.

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1:10 p.m.

Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Madam Speaker, we need to recognize that sometimes our greatest enemy is from within. I believe, in the case of the Prime Minister, that this might be an issue of pride. Sometimes pride will prevent one from doing the honourable thing.

The Prime Minister has made an apology outside the House and the current Minister of Citizenship, Immigration and Multiculturalism has said the government is not going to reopen the issue. It has apologized once, it does not feel it has to apologize again. The government wants to keep that door shut.

There are people even beyond the Indo Canadian community who are aware of this particular issue. They understand and appreciate that what caused the issue in part was legislation that had passed many years ago here, on the floor of the House of Commons. They would see closure to the issue by having the Prime Minister or the government of the day stand up and apologize in the place where a previous government had originally passed the law.

Opposition Motion--Komagata Maru Incident
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1:10 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims Newton—North Delta, BC

Madam Speaker, I want to thank my colleague for his support of an apology. I always welcome people who have a change of mind. He has deep roots and connections with people in the South Asian community.

This is a very simple request that is coming to this House from hundreds and thousands of people of South Asian descent. All they are asking for is an apology in the House. An announcement in a park does not cut it. An apology in the House will go a long way to heal.

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1:15 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies Vancouver Kingsway, BC

Madam Speaker, we have asked the Conservative government to make an apology in the House of Commons. It refused.

When the NDP forms the government in 2015, what would an NDP government do with respect to this issue, if and when it is in power?

Opposition Motion--Komagata Maru Incident
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1:15 p.m.

NDP

Jinny Sims Newton—North Delta, BC

Madam Speaker, when the NDP forms government in 2015, we will issue an official apology from this House, if the Prime Minister does not have the courage to do it.

Opposition Motion--Komagata Maru Incident
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1:15 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

It being 1:15 p.m., it is my duty to interrupt the proceedings and put forthwith every question necessary to dispose of the business of supply.

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

Opposition Motion--Komagata Maru Incident
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Opposition Motion--Komagata Maru Incident
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Opposition Motion--Komagata Maru Incident
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Opposition Motion--Komagata Maru Incident
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

All those opposed will please say nay.

Opposition Motion--Komagata Maru Incident
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Opposition Motion--Komagata Maru Incident
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

In my opinion the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 45, the division on the motion stands deferred until Monday, May 28, at the ordinary hour of daily adjournment.

The hon. chief government whip.

Opposition Motion--Komagata Maru Incident
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Conservative

Gordon O'Connor Carleton—Mississippi Mills, ON

Madam Speaker, I ask that you see the clock at 1:30 p.m.

Opposition Motion--Komagata Maru Incident
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

Is that agreed?

Opposition Motion--Komagata Maru Incident
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

Opposition Motion--Komagata Maru Incident
Business of Supply
Government Orders

1:15 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

The House will now proceed to the consideration of private members' business as listed on today's order paper.

The House resumed from April 3, 2012, consideration of the motion that Bill C-326, An Act to amend the Canada Pension Plan and the Old Age Security Act (biweekly payment of benefits), be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Canada Pension Plan
Private Members' Business

1:15 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

The hon. member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin had seven minutes left from his previous speaking time. The hon. member for Marc-Aurèle-Fortin.

Canada Pension Plan
Private Members' Business

1:15 p.m.

NDP

Alain Giguère Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Madam Speaker, Bill C-326 is as simple a request as can be. It simply seeks to turn monthly payments into biweekly payments. This would enable people to plan their spending and would also minimize the crowds at the pharmacy at the beginning and end of the month.

This is so simple that it should not even need to be debated. This very simple request is very easy to grant. Still, we have to debate this issue because the government is opposed to the idea. Those opposed to this idea are refusing to debate the importance of accommodating people who are entitled to services.

We have to wonder why the government is turning down such a simple request. Personally, I think the answer is to be found in the government's record. This government was in power when Nortel and Bowater went under, but it refused to amend the legislation to give pension funds preferred creditor status. That would have been easy to do too.

Tens of thousands of workers have seen their pension funds disappear. They were entitled to that money and they worked hard to earn it, but the government decided that the workers' pension funds would not be given preferred creditor status.

The government refuses to allow people who lost money in their pension funds to claim it as a capital loss on their income tax returns. That would not have been hard, either. When anyone who owns shares in Alcan, Suncor or any other company loses money on the stock market, they can deduct this capital loss from their income.

However, workers who have spent their entire lives investing in a pension fund that collapses as a result of poor performance by the stock market or, more specifically, poor performance by the managers of the companies for which they work, do not have the right to this tax deduction. This also shows what must be done and what has not been done.

The government had the choice but it decided not to renew the $200 million that was supposed to be used to build social housing for seniors. A number of units could have been built with that amount, even though it was insufficient for the entire country. Two hundred million dollars was better than nothing, of course, but the government reduced that amount. In fact, that $200 million is no longer available.

Unfortunately, the government did not stop there. What does it want to do in the future? It wants to increase the age of eligibility for old age security benefits and the guaranteed income supplement from 65 to 67. This move will save the government $10 billion. The government could cover this $10 billion because Canadians have always paid their taxes and been responsible. Yet, once again, the government is cutting $10 million. Cuts are being made to Service Canada staff, which will cause more delays in processing claims. It is never-ending. People are efficient and consistent in filing their claims. They were not asking for much: a payment every two weeks rather than once a month. It is not hard to make a transfer or to press a button twice a month so that the money is transferred directly into people's bank accounts. Yet, the government is refusing to do something so small and simple.

When the government is asked to guarantee safe and affordable housing for seniors, they do not answer the call.

When the government is asked to guarantee eligibility for prescription drugs, once again, it there is on one home to take the call. This drug coverage already exists in Quebec and we would like to extend it to all of Canada in order to ensure that drugs are accessible at a low cost. There would be economies of scale. When it comes to real financial security for seniors, the Conservatives are playing hide and seek.

Canada Pension Plan
Private Members' Business

1:20 p.m.

Conservative

Dick Harris Cariboo—Prince George, BC

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I appreciate the member bringing a bill like this forward. I understand it is a very simple bill talking about bi-monthly payments. He is straying in so many different areas; I am trying to get the gist of his argument. I would appreciate learning why this would be a benefit, particularly this. Also, he has not talked about the financial obligation of the government, how it is going to pay for the extra and how much it would cost. I would like to know all of this.

Canada Pension Plan
Private Members' Business

1:20 p.m.

NDP

Alain Giguère Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Madam Speaker, basically, you are responding to the problem with your point of order.

You are doing nothing to help seniors, absolutely nothing. You are never there. The Conservatives do not want to respond to these requests. To them, seniors cost a lot of money and costs must be cut. So when anyone asks for any tiny service, no matter how insignificant, they always say no.

Well, in a few years, they will be told no by Canadian voters.

Canada Pension Plan
Private Members' Business

1:25 p.m.

Liberal

Wayne Easter Malpeque, PE

Madam Speaker, I am most pleased to rise and support Bill C-326, An Act to amend the Canada Pension Plan and the Old Age Security Act (biweekly payment of benefits).

It has been put forward by the member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor, and I support my colleague.

Basically, in summary the bill enacts and amends the Canada Pension Plan and the Old Age Security Act to

...provide that any benefits that are required to be paid on a periodic basis under those Acts shall, on the request of the beneficiary, be paid on a biweekly basis.

In order to do that, it amends the Canada Pension Plan such that any benefits that are required to be paid on a periodic basis under this act shall be paid on a biweekly basis if the beneficiary submits a written request to the minister that the benefits be paid on a biweekly basis.

It basically states the same thing in the amendment to the Old Age Security Act.

Simply put, as my colleague, the member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor said, this bill is unique, it is not complicated, and it basically allows pensioners and seniors the freedom and flexibility to budget on their own.

To back up concerns on costs, my colleague did a fair bit of research. He ran the bill by the Parliamentary Budget Officer, who said that the costs of administration of this bill are “not fiscally significant”. However, with even such a simple change such as this and with costs not fiscally significant, the government did not do its own cost analysis but came out quite strongly against this bill.

I will quote what the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development and to the Minister of Labour had to say:

Mr. Speaker, I will start by underscoring our government's commitment to improving the well-being of seniors and our continued efforts to address their needs now and into the future.

After making that statement, she went on to say:

However, our government's priority is reducing administrative costs to ensure the maximum amount of seniors benefits.

Then comes the kicker. She said:

As a result, the government cannot support a bill that would increase the administrative costs of government by tens of millions of dollars in this time of fiscal restraint.

The fact of the matter is that the government did not do an analysis to come up with that figure of tens of millions of dollars. It is opposing this bill before it even gets to committee to be discussed properly. Let us find out what those costs are.

Can the bill be amended in such a way that it would only be utilized by those who want the payment to be made biweekly? There are many who would, but in some cases it is not that they want to but that they need to.

Many seniors are living in poverty in this country. Some of them are getting old age security, some get the supplement, and some get the CPP. When we talked to them, they told us that when they get their cheque, they know they have to try to budget that cheque for the next 30 days.

These are mostly people who are between the ages of 65 and 80. Many of those who are over that age are in retirement homes, and the monthly payment works fine. However, those who are living in their own homes, which is where we want them to stay, have to take out money for their rent, electricity, telephone and maybe Internet for a computer, if they have one. They try to take enough money to purchase their drugs for the month. Then they allocate the rest for groceries. Some are very low in terms of what they can get for groceries.

Then something happens two weeks in, and they have no emergency money to buy medicine for a cold or a flu or whatever because they have run low on funds by that time.

Going to a biweekly basis for those who need it and are willing to apply for it would make a huge difference in terms of insecurity and worry in their lives for several days or weeks.

I know people on the government side do not like the Parliamentary Budget Officer's analysis, because he tells the truth. He lays it out before them. He has laid out the cost of many of the issues that the government has not been willing to inform us on; as a result, the government is not too enamoured of any analysis done by the Parliamentary Budget Officer, although his analyses have been proven to be quite accurate time after time.

That said, the government, without having done a cost analysis, opposes a bill that could make a significant difference in some seniors' lives at practically no cost, and it will not even allow it to go to committee to be discussed. That is pretty sad.

If we talk to seniors, maybe they would accept that this be done only for those who use direct deposit. I understand mailing cheques costs money. There is no question. There is the postage, the service fee at the bank, and so on. However, if it was done by direct deposit, the cost would be very minimal. It would make a huge difference in people's lives, but the government seems to be rejecting this proposal out of hand.

As I mentioned, the parliamentary secretary said:

As a result, the government cannot support a bill that would increase the administrative costs of government by tens of millions of dollars in this time of fiscal restraint.

We just heard in the House today, in answer to a question on the gun registration issue, that the government is not going to require those registrations. It is going to have another amnesty. That money probably would have paid more than the administration costs for doing something for seniors, but the government operates on the basis of ideology, not on the basis of care and concern for the people of this country.

To put it quite simply, it is unbelievably sad that a government would be so uncaring as to not even allow a proper hearing on a simple proposal in a private member's bill to help seniors who may not just want but need biweekly payments.

Can the government just not accept to help, even just a little, seniors who request some help?

If the parliamentary secretary was speaking on behalf of the PMO, as she was, then I say to the other members in the party at least that it is time to stand up. It is a private member's bill. It is time to stand up and allow this issue to be discussed without being a puppet on a string for the PMO. It is time for those members to represent the constituents and the seniors in their ridings and allow the bill to be debated at committee.

We know the government has done a lot of damage to new seniors coming into the system. By changing the age requirement from 65 years of age to 67, it has basically stolen $30,000 from the new seniors coming on. Conservative members can at least help out by allowing the bill to go to committee to be analyzed properly, to be debated, and hopefully, at the end of the day, to help those seniors who want this to be done in their interest.

Canada Pension Plan
Private Members' Business

1:35 p.m.

Conservative

Costas Menegakis Richmond Hill, ON

Madam Speaker, our position regarding Bill C-326, an act to amend the Canada Pension Plan and the Old Age Security Act, is unchanged since the debate at first reading. We cannot support paying old age security and Canada pension plan benefits on a biweekly basis.

Please allow me to start by assuring everyone that the Government of Canada is committed to the well-being of seniors and continues to seek ways to address their needs now and into the future. I might add that I find it shameful that members of the opposition parties are using seniors as a political ploy, a tool, for a matter of such importance. I know that many seniors across Canada, and certainly in my great riding of Richmond Hill, appreciate the fact that they get their cheques once a month. They are used to it. I have not had, and we have not heard, an overwhelming number of seniors across the country saying that the payment terms should be changed.

I am certain that the notion of paying Canada pension plan and old age security benefits to seniors on a biweekly rather than a monthly basis was proposed with the best of intentions. However, our government's priority is reducing administrative costs to ensure the maximum amount for seniors' benefits. The less we spend on administration means more money in the pockets of seniors.

The government recently undertook a significant cost-cutting exercise to reduce duplication, overlap and redundant processes across government to ensure the greatest value for taxpayers' dollars. We recently implemented a one-for-one rule to reduce government red tape. Not only will this transformative measure reduce the bureaucratic administration of government, it will also reduce the cost to businesses and create jobs and growth.

Clearly, we are passionate about reducing the size of government and reducing redundancy within government. As a result, the government cannot support a bill that would increase the administrative cost of government by tens of millions of dollars in a time of fiscal restraint, nor is it something that Canadians want to see from coast to coast to coast, nor is it something in particular that our seniors are asking for or want to see from coast to coast to coast across our great nation.

As the first two pillars of Canada's retirement income system, the OAS and CPP are designed to provide a modest base upon which to build additional income for retirement. This year, our public pension system is projected to provide Canadians with close to $76 billion in benefits.

However, in regard to the public pension system, we cannot support Bill C-326, because it does not make sense from a financial administration perspective. In fact, making the change would result in additional costs and would increase the taxpayer dollars devoted to running the OAS and CPP. This type of increase is exactly what we are trying to avoid.

Let me underscore that our government has many good reasons for opposing a change in the frequency of payments to CPP and OAS.

To start with, monthly payments ensure an efficient administration of the OAS and CPP programs. The practice represents an efficient use of taxpayer dollars and serves the needs of seniors, and after all, that is what we are here to do. Monthly payments have the advantage of ensuring every senior receives what he or she is entitled to by allowing the department time to respond to any changes to the individual's eligibility status, such as marital status or income. By giving the department the time to respond to these changes, monthly payments help to avoid the subsequent complications associated with recuperating overpayments.

As the number of seniors increases with the coming demographic shift, we are focused on the effective, timely and efficient delivery of services for our seniors.

Our goal is to streamline processes, not complicate them. That is precisely why budget 2012 introduced the proactive enrolment of OAS benefits, to make it easier for many seniors to get their benefits.

Let me remind all members of the House that the first of Canada's baby-boomer generation have started to enter their senior years. Within less than two decades close to one in four Canadians will be over 65 years of age.

Governments have limited resources and Canadians expect programs to be delivered as efficiently as possible. Service delivery includes processing new applications, responding to inquiries, changing addresses, updating banking information, issuing millions of cheques and deposits, and more.

The practice of paying benefits at the end of each month was adopted to provide the best service possible and is consistent with the delivery of other income support payments both in Canada and in other countries.

To ensure the efficient delivery of not only CPP and OAS but all benefits payments, Service Canada works in partnership with Public Works and Government Services Canada, Canada Post and the banks to coordinate the financial transfer of benefit payments.

From a practical standpoint, the current payment schedule gives all the agencies involved enough time to note changes in a client's profile, determine the amount of benefit payable and coordinate the transfer of payments. Each of these organizations has developed work plans based on a payment date that is on the third last banking day of each month. A biweekly payment schedule would make it more difficult to process and issue the benefits in a timely manner.

During the last fiscal year, 90% of old age security payments were made through direct monthly deposit with the remainder being paid by cheque. The numbers were similar for CPP, with 87% of recipients receiving their benefits through direct deposit.

In a time of spending restraint, it would be difficult to justify the cost involved in changing the payment schedule for CPP and OAS. Were it to be universally adopted, a biweekly payment schedule would more than double the number of transactions for CPP and OAS benefits, resulting in increased administrative costs and difficulties processing and issuing benefits in a timely manner.

Public Works and Government Services Canada estimates that the proposed bill would increase the total cost of payment administration and processing by about $18 million per year. This includes such direct costs as postage, banking fees, printing services and cheque reconciliation for both direct deposit and cheque payments.

The system's costs for information technology alone would be significant. Service Canada estimates the transaction cost could be as high as $30 million. It would also require amending both the OAS and CPP acts. This would mean additional and unnecessary costs.

Seniors have worked hard all their lives and they count on their pensions to be delivered consistently and in a reliable manner. It is incumbent upon us as a government to ensure that they get their payments on time reliably every single month.

We have reviewed the changes proposed in Bill C-326, and we believe they cannot be justified given our fiscal realities, nor can we justify the risk the changes pose to the efficiency of service delivery. We want to be as efficient as possible.

For these reasons our government cannot support the bill in a time of fiscal restraint. I urge all hon. members in this House to join me in opposing it.

Canada Pension Plan
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Denis Coderre Bourassa, QC

Madam Speaker, I rise on a point of order. I have a question for you.

Justice Thomas Lederer just made a decision and has declared the election in Etobicoke Centre null and void, on a challenge by our former Liberal colleague, Borys Wrzesnewskyj.

I would like to know what the status is of the member now. Since the election has been declared null and void, does it mean there is no longer a member of Parliament for Etobicoke Centre?

Canada Pension Plan
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

I thank the hon. member for his comments. According to the information I have, there is an appeal period. The question is whether there will be an appeal. We cannot answer that question here today. This should lay the matter to rest for now, until we have more information. We will revisit the matter as needed.

The hon. member for Montcalm.

Canada Pension Plan
Private Members' Business

1:45 p.m.

NDP

Manon Perreault Montcalm, QC

Madam Speaker, I am delighted to support Bill C-326, An Act to amend the Canada Pension Plan and the Old Age Security Act (biweekly payment of benefits), which provides that, on the request of the beneficiary, benefits be paid on a biweekly basis. For me, this is a simple question of being able to live in harmony with the rest of Canadian society, regardless of one's age.

This bill will allow seniors to better manage their budget and will help them make their benefits last throughout the entire month. It is a good idea, especially considering that more and more seniors are facing money problems. We need to give them as many options as possible to keep them from becoming victims of poverty.

We have good reason to worry about the increasing precariousness of seniors in Canada. As we know, they are being forced to turn to charity organizations and food banks more and more in order to meet their most basic needs. I find it appalling that people who have worked hard their entire lives to build our country must now turn to clothing donations, or even worse, to food banks to meet their basic needs in Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Social workers are continually condemning this situation, which they see every day on the ground.

The government does not seem to be taking this seriously. It should be leading the fight against seniors' poverty and making it possible for seniors to live in dignity. It is the least we could do for them after they have spent their lives in service to this country. Needless to say, the future of the pension system, as envisioned by the government, is very worrisome.

Some seniors would benefit from having bimonthly payments because they have difficulty managing their meagre financial resources.The end of the month would be more bearable and much less sad for many of them.

However, they only receive very limited benefits. That is why other measures are needed. The benefits provided by the Canada pension plan and the Quebec pension plan absolutely must be doubled. There is no question that increasing the guaranteed income supplement to an adequate level is another pertinent measure. It is fundamental to ending seniors' poverty. Why such hesitation when it is time to make such an important social choice?

The government's response is based on pure and simple ideology. We have seen this a number of times since 2006. The government prefers to scare the public with its usual fearmongering. We are told that the matter is urgent, that continuing in this way will lead us straight into financial disaster, and that old age security will no longer be financially sustainable.

This statement is really misleading because the only issue that is truly urgent is ending seniors' poverty for good. The experts agree that our public pension system is well funded, but the government does not want to listen and is blinded once again by ideology. We know that old age security represents 2.4% of GDP and that it will reach 3.1% of GDP in 2030. In light of these figures, it will not be impossible to manage the baby boomers' retirement. We need only look to the standards set by the OECD to realize that the Canada pension plan and the Quebec pension plan benefits are relatively modest.

To glance at the figures, we see how bad the situation is. Nonetheless, it is mostly on the ground that we see this reality, or at least part of this reality. If anyone is affected by isolation, it is seniors. If anyone is affected by poverty, it is seniors. If anyone is being neglected by this government, it is seniors.

In many cases, seniors have no social or family ties. Accordingly, old age security is a pressing matter. There will only be more and more of these dramatic situations. The conditions are ripe for a continuing upward trend in poverty rates among seniors in the years to come. How this government does not see the social disaster we are headed toward at high speed simply escapes me.

Let us be clear: by making such changes to old age security, the government is directly attacking the less fortunate, the most vulnerable in society. Low-income earners with no pension fund will be the biggest losers when the retirement eligibility age increases from 65 to 67.

There are 12 million Canadians who do not have a pension plan through their work. We know that the government did not ask itself the right questions when it was developing this policy. The most important question would have been this: what is the best way to provide a decent retirement for everyone and not just for those who have the means to contribute to pooled registered pension plans or RRSPs, as the government envisions? It has been shown that less than a third of the people who can contribute to an RRSP actually do.

In that context, increasing the retirement age from 65 to 67 will do nothing but keep many people in poverty for an additional two years. Those people cannot wait for their pension and the guaranteed income supplement, which will allow them to make ends meet every month.

It is important to recall that this is a minimum level of support and that it is a paltry sum compared to programs in other industrialized countries. Knowing that 1.7 million Canadians receive the guaranteed income supplement, the government should be asking itself what it can do to ensure a decent retirement for everyone.

The government does not seem to realize that two-thirds of Canadians do not have a private pension and are counting on assistance from the state to be able to meet their needs after age 65. We also know that those who really need it have problems saving money.

Accordingly, instead of delaying access to our public system by two years, why is the government not coming up with real solutions, on one hand, to put an end to the increasing precariousness facing seniors and, on the other hand, to address the problem that Canadians have when it comes to saving? These problems will not be solved by betting on volatile financial markets through voluntary defined contribution plans managed by the private sector. We already know where that would lead us, and that is not what most Canadians want.

On the contrary, Canadian workers need to have access to risk-free options with guarantees regarding the associated costs. It would be pathetic to make the same mistakes as other countries in this regard. We just have to look at Australia.

This government is making gross injustice the norm. Its goal is to prevent the cost of OAS from rising. Interestingly, it did not apply the same principle as strictly with respect to the F-35s or many other decisions.

Nevertheless, this is a good illustration of the government's priorities. It could not care less about guaranteeing retirement income security for all Canadians. Vulnerable seniors, such as single women, immigrants and people with disabilities, will have to bear this heavy financial burden themselves and make do with the meagre income they receive from the government.

The government has chosen to undermine the country's pension system despite the fact that it has proven its effectiveness over time. The only way to make the system more effective is to improve its fundamentals. Instead of merely subsisting, seniors in need would receive, at the very least, an adequate income. This measure is both necessary and financially viable.

Through its proposed measures and its lack of action during the past six years to ensure that Canadians have a retirement income, the government is jeopardizing the social contract we have given ourselves. Poverty among seniors is not without consequences. Dependency increases as health declines. The risk of malnutrition also goes up. It also has an impact on housing. The choice to age in place, at home, for as long as possible simply evaporates.

Is that what we want for our seniors: more and more uncertainty? What our seniors need are larger, public, guaranteed retirement incomes. They deserve more than the series of half-measures the government is serving up. Seniors deserve to have access to sufficient retirement income to maintain their standard of living and to grow old with dignity.

Canada Pension Plan
Private Members' Business

1:55 p.m.

Conservative

Scott Armstrong Cumberland—Colchester—Musquodoboit Valley, NS

Madam Speaker, I want to thank the hon. member who put this bill forward, the member for Bonavista—Gander—Grand Falls—Windsor. I know he did this in good faith.

On behalf of the Government of Canada, I want to start by expressing our appreciation for seniors who have worked hard to build a better country for future generations of Canadians. We commend each and every one of our seniors for all they have given and continue to give, and we recognize that they deserve a secure and dignified retirement that reflects on the contributions they have made.

I want to assure everyone that the Conservative Government of Canada recognizes financial security as a factor that has an obvious impact on the quality of life for seniors. In this regard, the government is taking a number of decisive actions to improve the lives of seniors on many fronts, including providing Canadians with almost $76 billion this year through Canada's public pension system.

We also introduced a new guaranteed income supplement top-up benefit to help Canada's most vulnerable seniors. This is the largest increase to the GIS for the lowest income seniors in a quarter century. This will improve the financial security and well-being of more than 680,000 seniors across Canada. These measures demonstrate that the Government of Canada is taking concrete action to help our seniors.

Of course part of helping seniors is the assurance that benefits will be paid in an efficient and timely manner. These are traits that would be hindered, not helped by this bill.

There are a number of critical problems with the bill. The first is the matter of cost. This is a significant issue in light of the current fiscal reality facing this global economy. The current system of monthly payments has been and will continue to be the most efficient way to administer the old age security and the Canada pension plan programs.

While we can never be sure exactly how many seniors would take advantage of a bi-weekly payment schedule were it universally adopted, a bi-weekly payment schedule would more than double the number of transactions for CPP and OAS benefits. This would significantly increase the administrative costs of processing and issuing benefits in a seamless and timely manner.

Public Works and Government Services Canada estimates that this proposed bill would increase the total cost of payment of administration and processing by about $18 million a year. That is $18 million that could actually go to seniors. This figure includes direct costs such as postage, banking fees, printing services and cheque reconciliation for both direct deposit payments and paper cheques.

When examining the proposed legislation, we must also consider the fact that the seniors population is also growing in Canada, and growing significantly. We need a more efficient and simple delivery method of benefits, not a more complicated one.

Canadians gave our government a strong mandate to complete Canada's economic recovery and return to balanced budgets. That is exactly what we are doing. We recently began to implement a significant deficit reduction strategy to ensure government programs are as efficient as possible.

Service delivery includes processing new applications, responding to inquiries, changing addresses, updating banking information, issuing millions of cheques and deposits, and cancelling benefits upon the death of a recipient. Payment processing already involves several different departments, all acting in conjunction to process these payments.

The processing cost of a single cheque or direct deposit may not seem like much when it is looked at in isolation, but when the government is issuing millions of cheques and deposits each month, this becomes a whole different matter.

As members of the House are likely aware, the first of Canada's baby boomer generation turned 65 in 2011. Within less than two decades, close to 1 in 4 Canadians will be over 64. Changing the payment schedule during this demographic shift would only increase expenses and create complications for the delivery of OAS and CPP benefits.

Canadians expect the programs to be delivered as effectively and efficiently as possible. The current system of monthly benefit payments for the CPP and OAS programs is the best use of taxpayers' dollars.

The real advantage of the monthly payment schedule is that it ensures the accuracy of payments by allowing the department time to respond to any changes in the individual's eligibility status, such as marital status or an increase or decrease in income. This important step is to make sure all seniors get exactly what they are entitled to when they are entitled to get it.

We must remember that the monthly payment schedule also serves the needs of seniors across this country. The practice of paying all benefits at the end of the month was adopted to provide the best service possible for our seniors. It is a commonly accepted standard for government benefits. This includes other federal benefits, such as those provided by Veterans Affairs Canada, as well as the universal child care benefit and the Canadian child tax benefit.

I would also add that most provincial and territorial benefits are also paid on a monthly basis. It is important to provide consistency across government so Canadians know exactly when they will be receiving their cheques and exactly what they will be owed.

If the government supported this bill, it would cause a ripple effect of increased program costs for both the provincial and federal governments.

Internationally, most of the OECD countries also provide monthly benefits for their seniors programs.

Ultimately, the change would be expensive and would further add to the complexity of a system that currently works well. It would also duplicate arrangements that could be made on an individual basis with financial institutions without the need for legislation.

In this kind of situation, our government strives to find a balance. We think we should maintain the monthly payment schedule as the most efficient system we can provide our seniors.

In this time of fiscal restraint, our Conservative government is committed to delivering the highest quality service in a way that is efficient, effective and focused on the needs of Canadians.

In conclusion, our government cannot support Bill C-326. It would be an irresponsible use of taxpayers' dollars. I encourage all members of this House to vote against it.

Canada Pension Plan
Private Members' Business

2 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

Is the House ready for the question?

Canada Pension Plan
Private Members' Business

2 p.m.

Some hon. members

Question.

Canada Pension Plan
Private Members' Business

2 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

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

Canada Pension Plan
Private Members' Business

2 p.m.

Some hon. members

Agreed.

No.

Canada Pension Plan
Private Members' Business

2 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

All those in favour of the motion will please say yea.

Canada Pension Plan
Private Members' Business

2 p.m.

Some hon. members

Yea.

Canada Pension Plan
Private Members' Business

2 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

All those opposed will please say nay.

Canada Pension Plan
Private Members' Business

2 p.m.

Some hon. members

Nay.

Canada Pension Plan
Private Members' Business

2 p.m.

NDP

The Deputy Speaker Denise Savoie

In my opinion, the nays have it.

And five or more members having risen:

Pursuant to Standing Order 93, the division stands deferred until Wednesday, May 30, 2012, immediately before the time provided for private members' business.

It being 2:05 p.m., the House stands adjourned until Monday, May 28, 2012, at 11 a.m., pursuant to Standing Orders 28(2) and 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 2:07 p.m.)