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Criminal Code and Controlled Drugs and Substances ActGovernment Orders

December 13th, 2021 / 12:30 p.m.
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NDP

Randall Garrison NDP Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, BC

Madam Speaker, let me start by thanking the voters of Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke for sending me back to the House once again, this time for a fourth mandate. In particular, I would like to thank my partner for more than 20 years, Teddy Pardede, for his constant and enduring personal and political support. My role as an MP is now taking up more than half our relationship and I will never be able to repay him.

As I said during the campaign, I very much wanted to come back to the House to be able to deal with unfinished business from the last Parliament. Indeed, there were lots of things we made progress on that were cut short by the early and unnecessary election. That is why I was pleased to see the quick passage of the ban on conversion therapy, Bill C-4, unanimously no less, both here and in the other place.

There are other examples of bills on which this House had held hearings, had achieved a broad consensus on moving forward and is now able to do so. Those include my Bill C-202, to make coercive and controlling behaviour and intimate partner relationships a criminal offence and Bill C-206, which would remove self-harm from the military code of conduct as a disciplinary offence and instead make sure that self-harm is treated as the mental health challenge that it truly is. I hope we can find a way to move forward on both of those bills that were left undone in the last Parliament.

Today, here we are debating Bill C-5. I am frankly surprised to be up on Bill C-5 so soon because its predecessor was not one of those bills which had been to hearings and it was not of those bills where we had lots of discussions about how to come to a consensus on what needed to be done. Normally, I would be glad to see the House moving quickly to get stuff done that sat on the back burner for far too long. That would be especially true of the issue of systemic racism in the justice system and it would be even more true of the opioid crisis on our streets today.

However, Bill C-5 is a virtual carbon copy, to date myself with an archaic phrase, of Bill C-22, which the government introduced at the eleventh hour in the last Parliament. At that time, we New Democrats clearly told the government we found Bill C-22 to be weak sauce. After its introduction, there were only very limited discussions before Bill C-22 was reintroduced in this session as Bill C-5. In those brief talks I made it clear that New Democrats wanted to see a bill with a few more teeth. We have a crisis of over-incarceration, we have a crisis of opioids on our streets, and the bill is not strong enough.

I am not sure how happy I am to be rushing forward on a bill that remains a half measure, especially when it is not even very clear what it is a half measure of. Here is the first and most important question I have for the government about Bill C-5: Is this a bill to address systemic racism in the Canadian justice system? If so, why is its focus so limited? We know mandatory minimum sentences are one of the causes of the over-incarceration of racialized Canadians and indigenous people. Then why does the bill restrict itself to only removing mandatory minimums for some offences, namely personal possession of drugs and some firearms offences?

We have years of experience now with mandatory minimums. We know they do nothing to reduce crime. We know that they only result in the incarceration of people who have no place in the prison system.

As the over-involvement in the justice system is a real problem for indigenous and racialized Canadians every day, I still have my doubts of some of the provisions in Bill C-5, like introducing those diversion programs instead of more fundamental reforms. In the absence of tackling the thorny question of reform of the RCMP, again I still have some doubts about increasing police discretion in drug cases as Bill C-5 proposes.

If Bill C-5 is actually about racism in our justice system, then there is surely much more it could do. I will return to this question later in my remarks. If Bill C-5 is not about tackling the broad issues of systemic racism in the criminal justice system, then is it really about something else? In fact, the heavy focus on removing mandatory minimums for drug crimes might lead us to believe that Bill C-5 is actually about the opioid crisis. If that is the case, then once again, it makes it hard for me to be excited about quick action on the half measures to confront the opioid crisis that we have in the bill, especially when we have known for so long what is needed.

As an elected official, I first spoke in favour of decriminalization of personal possession of all drugs more than a decade ago as a city councillor in Esquimalt. At the time, I argued that decriminalization provided the most effective path, along with safe injection sites, to tackle the emerging problem of deaths from drug overdoses in my community.

Even then, I was able to point to early signs of success in Portugal where decriminalization was adopted in 2001. Since then, Portugal has seen an 80% reduction in overdose deaths. It has seen the proportion of people who use drugs fall from 52% to 6% when it comes to new HIV and AIDS diagnoses. It has seen a decrease of incarcerations for drug offences by over 40%. Instead, in Canada over the last decade, we have seen so many preventable deaths and now this problem has accelerated into a full-blown crisis across the country.

Last month the Province of British Columbia announced a record number of people had died so far this year from overdoses. There were 201 deaths in the month of October alone, the highest ever in a single month. Think of all the families we are talking about, all 201 families affected by the loss of loved ones in a single month in a single province. This is a crisis.

Numbers released by the B.C. Coroners Service show a death toll in the first 10 months of 2021 in British Columbia being 1,782, surpassing the 1,765 deaths recorded in all of 2020. B.C.'s chief coroner, Lisa Lapointe, was direct in her assessment of the situation in B.C., a situation no different than any other jurisdiction. “Simply put, we are failing,” she said. With six people dying every single day in British Columbia, the status quo cannot be accepted.

That is why recognizing the stark reality of the opioid crisis, the City of Vancouver, the Province of British Columbia and now the City of Toronto have all three applied to the Minister of Health for an emergency exemption from the provisions of the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act that criminalizes personal possession of small quantities of illegal drugs. They are asking that we recognize that criminalization only adds more harm to the toll addiction takes on its victims.

Where are the Liberals on decriminalization of so-called “hard” drugs, either as a temporary exemption or permanent strategy to shift our response to addiction from punishment to health care? One might be surprised to learn that decriminalization is the official policy of the Liberal Party, endorsed more than three years ago at its 2018 convention in Halifax. Perhaps some will be even more surprised to learn that the government was advised to move on decriminalization of personal possession of drugs before the last election.

The previous Minister of Health appointed a commission of experts to advise on drug policies well before that election. Don MacPherson, executive director of the Canadian Drug Policy Coalition at Simon Fraser, was part of the task force that simply said that charging people with simple possession and seizing their drugs makes no sense.

In a CBC Radio interview, MacPherson said, “There's mountains of evidence that show it's a bad thing. It's harmful, it hurts people and there is not really an upside to it.” He continued saying, “So the task force...came fairly quickly to the conclusion that the federal government should immediately start work on putting forward a plan to decriminalize simple possession of drugs across the board.”

The task force submitted that report before the election and has since followed up with the new Minister of Health and the new Minister of Mental Health and Addictions, but MacPherson reports they have yet to hear anything back.

Since we returned to Parliament last month, MPs have been increasingly vocal in raising their concerns about the opioid crisis. Certainly, my leader of the New Democratic Party, the member for Burnaby South, has repeatedly called on the government to commit to moving quickly on decriminalization. This call has come from all parties and all parts of the country, urban and rural.

Last August, during the election campaign, even the Conservative leader added his voice to those calling for shifting our approach from punishment to treatment as the way to respond to the opioid crisis, though he did not go quite as far as decriminalization.

Last week, the new member for Yukon, who was previously the Territories' medical health officer before running for the Liberal Party, rose in this Commons to acknowledge that the Yukon has the highest rate of opioid deaths in the country. The new Green MP, the member for Kitchener Centre, made a moving statement in this House on the scourge of opioid deaths in his community.

Indeed, when the new cabinet was appointed, we saw the appointment of the first Minister of Mental Health and Addictions at the federal level, which many of us took as encouragement and acknowledgement of the urgency and seriousness of the opioid crisis.

Therefore, when we know the severity of the problem and we know the solutions, it surely becomes incumbent upon all of us in the House to ensure that we act. Therefore, where is that action? It is not in Bill C-5.

Unfortunately, when it comes to the three emergency decriminalization applications from Vancouver, B.C., and Toronto, we have no indication that things are moving quickly. Under the leadership of Mayor Kennedy Stewart, a former member of the House, Vancouver submitted its preliminary application for an exemption on March 3, and its final application June 1. British Columbia's application was submitted November 1 and Toronto's December 1. It is not like the government has been taken surprise by these requests, yet all the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions is reported to have said is, “We are looking at these proposals very, very seriously.”

At the same time, the minister refused to set a timeline for a decision on these applications. Instead, the minister veered off into an argument that decriminalization alone would not solve the opioid crisis, as if anyone ever thought decriminalization by itself was a solution to addiction rather than an important measure of harm reduction.

The minister said that other options were being considered, including establishing a safe supply of opioids to give injection drug users an alternative to the increasingly toxic fentanyl now on the streets. She indicated the federal government was also looking at setting up more safe injection sites and making more counselling available. Yes, that it is all good, but there is no need to wait on decriminalization while putting together a more complete package.

What was especially disappointing to hear was the minister in one interview referring to these ideas as “innovative”. She should know that these are not new ideas, but rather tried and true harm reduction strategies with a track record of nothing but success.

When it comes to the temporary decriminalization applications, the B.C. minister of mental health and addictions, Sheila Malcolmson, also a former member of this House, told reporters last week that Health Canada staff had identified no barriers to speedy processing and approval of B.C.'s decriminalization application.

Where are we? On the one hand, we see no real sense of urgency on the short-term exemption applications and, on the other hand, that leaves us with Bill C-5, which reflects none of that necessary urgency to move toward permanent and complete decriminalization of personal possession of drugs. The narrow scope of Bill C-5, as drafted, certainly means that, for technical reasons, we cannot likely add decriminalization through amendments at the committee stage.

That brings me back to the question of what is Bill C-5 really about. It seems that in the government's mind, this must be a bill primarily about tackling systemic racism in our justice system. If that is the goal of the bill, is there enough there to support?

Clearly removing mandatory minimums for drug offences would be a step forward. Even better would be removing mandatory minimums for all but the most serious violent offences. That is not there, not in Bill C-5. The frustration with the ineffectiveness of mandatory minimums has gone so far as to see a provincial court judge in Campbell River last week substituting probation for a mandatory jail sentence for a woman convicted of dealing fentanyl to support her own addiction. The judge said that she could see no positive impact of a jail sentence in that case.

Not only does Bill C-5 fail to address cases like the Campbell River case, but as well Bill C-5 is missing other elements that would help right the wrongs caused by systemic racism in the justice system. Let us make no mistake about how serious this problem is.

Correctional investigator Ivan Zinger reported in 2020 that while indigenous people made up 4.9% of the total population of Canada, they made up just over 30% of the people in Canadian prisons. Approximately 3.5% of Canadians identified as Black in the last census, yet Black Canadians make up more than 7% of those in prison.

When we look at indigenous and racialized women, the figures are even more stark. Zinger reported that Black women made up just over 9% of women incarcerated and indigenous women made up a shocking 42% of the population in women's prisons. This is the result of mandatory minimums.

The injustice does not end with incarceration as then there is the legacy of a criminal record. Not only have indigenous and racialized Canadians been disproportionately targeted for investigation, prosecution, diversion, fining and imprisonment, the most marginalized among us then end up stuck with criminal records, criminal records that make getting a job almost impossible, criminal records that often restrict access to affordable housing. Bill C-5 lacks any provision for automatic expungement of criminal records for drug possession, something for which the NDP has been calling for more than two years.

Automatic expungement is clearly what is needed after seeing the failure of the government's program for expedited pardons for marijuana convictions, a program that has granted pardons for less than 500 people of the estimated 10,000 eligible in the two years it has been operating. We need something better; we need automatic expungement of these records.

Again, the narrow drafting of Bill C-5 means, for technical reasons, we likely cannot add those elements we really need to tackle racial injustice to the bill. Certainly we cannot add expungement. It is likely we cannot even add additional offences where mandatory minimums now apply to the removal list.

Therefore, I have a question for the government, one I had already been exploring with it before we rushed into this debate. Is there not a way we can make this bill do more to address both racial injustice and the opioid crisis?

The New Democrats are ready to talk, but we probably need to do so before we reach the conclusion of this second reading debate. There is one possibility I will put forward right now to get the ball rolling, and I have to credit the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which put forth the following recommendation in call to action 32 more than six years ago. This call to action states:

We call upon the federal government to amend the Criminal Code to allow trial judges, upon giving reasons, to depart from mandatory minimum sentences and restrictions on the use of conditional sentences.

This proposal would allow judges to ignore mandatory minimums where there are good reasons to do so, including the good reason that mandatory minimum sentences are, in and of themselves, most often unjust. This call to action to restore discretion to judges over sentencing for offences where mandatory minimums have been imposed is clearly doable, it is just not in Bill C-5.

A way to put this call to action into legislation has been provided in what is now Bill S-213. Again, it is probably not possible to add restoring discretion for judges when it comes to mandatory minimums to Bill C-5 in committee, because this idea is far beyond the scope of the existing bill.

What I am asking of the government is whether we can think about using the relatively rare process of sending Bill C-5 to committee before the vote at second reading. This would allow the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights to alter the scope of the bill and to add missing provisions like the TRC call to action 32 to Bill C-5, and to add expungement to it. That would put some teeth in this bill.

Sending Bill C-5 to committee before a second reading vote would require a motion from the minister, and he has that opportunity later today when he speaks.

Let me conclude with this offer to work with the government on Bill C-5. This is renewing the offer New Democrats made when the bill was originally introduced in the last Parliament. I make this offer pointing to the progress we were able to make on bills like Bill C-4 and Bill C-3, when we were able to work together on common goals and purposes.

If sending Bill C-5 to committee before a second reading vote is not the way forward in the government's view, then let us work together to find other ways to strengthen the bill.

Am I optimistic about the chances of Bill C-5 proceeding? With the bill as it stands, can the government actually convince the New Democrats that there is enough in Bill C-5 to justify proceeding quickly or even proceeding at all? As I have said, I have good ideas about how we can ensure that is true.

I know there are misgivings in other parties about certain provisions of the bill, but I also know that no one in the House is unaware of the systemic racism in our justice system and its impact on racialized and indigenous Canadians. As well, I know no one in the House wants to turn a blind eye to the suffering imposed on families by the opioid crisis.

I also know we will not get a lot of opportunities to address systemic racism in the justice system in this minority Parliament and will not get many, if any, other opportunities anytime soon to respond effectively to the opioid crisis. Let us not waste the opportunity we have before us now with Bill C-5 to do one, the other or both—

December 13th, 2021 / 12:15 p.m.
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Conservative

John Brassard Conservative Barrie—Innisfil, ON

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I respectfully disagree with my colleagues. I think it is important. Obviously when the last session of Parliament ended, it ended unceremoniously with the June summer break and then the election being called.

I expect that there should be members around this table who look to us to determine this level of accountability, transparency and open government when it comes to this type of spending. Some of these measures have continued over the summer, and the work this committee was doing in the past Parliament looking into the conflict of interest and lobbying is the role of the ethics committee.

I'm asking that not only do we look back at the report, but also at what's happened in advance of the election being called and then subsequent to that. I think this is important information.

Similarly, if you look at what we did in the House of Commons when the government reintroduced Bill C-4, it passed through all stages of the House, went back to where it was before and the Senate passed it. So I think there's already precedent as it relates to that piece of legislation for this committee to look back to determine what new information is available to us and then allow us to consider not just the information from the past, but also any new information to be presented to Canadians.

That's what this is all about and I think it's important given, as I said, Mr. Chair, the amount of money that has been spent, the level of lobbying and the potential of conflict of interest. That is the role of the ethics committee, and I think we could spend at least a few days looking into that.

Thank you.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

December 10th, 2021 / 10:45 a.m.
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Conservative

Dane Lloyd Conservative Sturgeon River—Parkland, AB

Madam Speaker, it has become more and more apparent that this is a Liberal government that has run out of steam and run out of ideas. We are now nearly three months away from what was supposed to be, in the Prime Minister's words, “the most...[consequential] election since 1945”, yet Canadians still have little clue about what direction the Liberal government is taking our country. Canadians can be forgiven, I think, for a profound sense of déjà vu as they read the latest throne speech delivered by the Governor General. In many ways, it reads exactly like the throne speech from 2020, so much so that Canadians are wondering just why we needed to have an unnecessary, reckless and expensive $600-million pandemic election.

To be sure, there are some important points in the throne speech, such as fighting the pandemic and getting Canada back to normal. There are promises to address reconciliation with first nations, to take action on climate change, to strengthen the middle class and to grow the economy. These are all important promises, but when we look at the record of the Liberal government, particularly over the last three years, we see a lot of talk, but little action. Conservatives believe that the purpose of winning elections is so we can legislate to fix problems and seize opportunities for our country. For the Liberals, it is the other way around. They legislate and make promises so that they can win elections and seize opportunities for themselves.

This abdication of leadership has led to a country that is dealing with more than one crisis, where the government can say the right thing, but action is rarely forthcoming. One columnist recently wrote that the Prime Minister is the return of the infamous Mr. Dithers character. Someone who has “hit the ground running at a sloth-in-slow-motion speed.” This is no longer the government of idealists elected in 2015. It is a government that desperately wants to hold onto power, divide and conquer Canadians, and take the bare minimum of action required to safely remain in government.

This has resulted in a terrible situation in our country, where very real problems are not being addressed with the seriousness they deserve. In the throne speech, I was disappointed to see little or no mention of the significant issues Canadians care about right now. For example, in Canada, we are undergoing the most significant period of inflation since I have been alive. For decades, Canadians could rely upon fiscal and monetary policy that maintained an inflation rate close to 2%. This meant that Canada’s economy could grow at a solid rate, while ensuring that prices for goods did not drastically increase. Now we are seeing very significant increases across all sectors, with food, fuel, housing and vehicles all seeing steep jumps in prices.

One recent report also indicated that almost every investment asset class, when calculating for inflation, is returning a net negative real return. The consequences of letting inflation run at these levels will impact families for generations to come. It will mean less money saved for retirement, more resources dedicated to just the essentials and less resources for achieving Canadians’ dreams. It will mean eroded standards of living for retirees on fixed incomes, who will look at the value of their nest eggs shrink as the money supply expands exponentially. The government promises that it will find a way to make Canadians whole, but we saw the consequences in the past of government trying to control wage and price inflation. It only exacerbated the problems further.

The most significant actions that have worked historically to address runaway inflation have been for the government to get its fiscal house in order and for the Bank of Canada to raise interest rates. These are bitter pills to swallow for Canadians who have grown used to massive government largesse and artificially lowered interest rates. The Liberals, I fear, will try and win politically by forestalling this inevitability by increasing spending and allowing the Bank of Canada to let inflation run even higher, thus forestalling the need for increased interest rates.

The consequences of this will mean exponentially more pain for Canadians in the future as the government loses its ability to finance deficit spending and the Bank of Canada loses its ability to control inflation. Canadians deserve a government that will make the tough choices to ensure future generations can have a better life than the one we have. I know from hitting the doors in my community that the cost of living was top of mind for many families. Canadians need to see leadership from the government and they are not seeing it right now from the Liberals.

There is also nothing in the throne speech to comfort the anxiety of my constituents in Alberta. In my region, we rely on the agriculture, forestry, oil and gas, and service sectors to put food on the table. On the agriculture front, there was only one mention in the Speech from the Throne, and that was about creating a Canada water agency. What about a plan to ensure that Canadian farmers can continue to access world markets? What about a plan to address the rising cost of agricultural inputs, such as fertilizer and fuel, which are threatening global food security? These are serious issues, but there was no mention of them by this government.

Where is the plan to fight the Americans on the unjust doubling of softwood lumber tariffs? Where is the plan to ensure that our oil and gas sector can continue to sustain our economy for generations to come while reducing and eliminating greenhouse emissions?

I see company after company from Alberta pledging billions of dollars in combined resources to implement revolutionary and effective carbon capture technology. Where is their willing partner in the federal government? Where is the tax credit for enhanced oil recovery, which will sustain new, low-carbon jobs and investments for decades to come? It is not to be found in the throne speech. Instead, we just see ideological talking points and promises to shut down our jobs and our industries.

The words “just transition” have become a nightmare for Albertans. Many people in my riding lost their jobs when coal-powered plants were phased out a few years ago. Communities and workers were promised by this Liberal government that they would have compensation and a just transition. The last promise in the 2019 budget said $100 million for coal communities.

Well, we have not seen any funding from this Liberal government, and it has been two years. Folks in my area know exactly what a “just transition” means. It means fewer jobs, less prosperity and more “just inflation”. It is time for the Liberal government to take co-operative action with the oil and gas sector to ensure the prosperity of all Canadians, not just those who are represented by Liberal MPs.

The Speech from the Throne also failed to address the elephant in the room in Canada right now. One of our most important institutions has been on the news on an almost daily basis, and not a lot of it has been good news. I am talking, of course, about the Canadian military and the numerous scandals that we have seen.

As someone who represents a large military community and CFB Edmonton, I know that my constituents are extremely proud of our Canadian Forces members, but every day they lose confidence when they see the Liberal government fail to act and fix problems. An institution as important as the Canadian military deserves far more attention from this government than it received in the throne speech, where it was not even mentioned once. Sadly, this is just another case of the Liberal government failing to tackle the important issues that Canadians want to see solved.

The Liberals' rhetoric has, yet again, failed to match the reality of action. When the Prime Minister said this was “the important election since 1945”, he clearly was not talking about its importance to Canadians. Instead, he was talking about its importance to his own ambitions for a majority government.

We are seeing bills being passed today that would have been, and could have been, passed if we had not had an election, such as Bill C-2, Bill C-4 and Bill C-6. We see legislation that was passed with unanimous support, like Bill C-3 last night, which fulfilled the promise from all the way back to May 2020 to implement paid sick leave.

This is legislation the Prime Minister said would be implemented without delay, but it took a year and a half to produce a mere page of legislation. In fact, it was not even important enough to merit its own legislation. It had to be merged together with a Criminal Code amendment. We are seeing a recycled throne speech. I praise the government for its commitment to recycling, but the throne speech largely repeats the promises and agenda of the government from last year in 2020.

It is clear, as I said at the beginning of my speech, that this Liberal government has run out of steam and out of ideas. Canadians are growing more disappointed each and every day as they see the priorities they talk about around their kitchen tables with their families every night not being reflected in the policies and action of this government. I hope for the sake of all Canadians that this government can get its act together.

December 8th, 2021 / 4:10 p.m.
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Liberal

The Speaker Liberal Anthony Rota

I have the honour to inform the House that a communication has been received as follows:

Rideau Hall

Ottawa

December 8, 2021

Mr. Speaker,

I have the honour to inform you that the Right Honourable Mary May Simon, Governor General of Canada, signified royal assent by written declaration to the bill listed in the Schedule to this letter on the 8th day of December, 2021, at 10:49 a.m.

Yours sincerely,

Ian McCowan

Secretary to the Governor General and Herald Chancellor

The schedule indicates the bill assented to was Bill C‑4, An Act to amend the Criminal Code (conversion therapy).

Conversion TherapyPetitionsRoutine Proceedings

December 6th, 2021 / 3:50 p.m.
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Conservative

Garnett Genuis Conservative Sherwood Park—Fort Saskatchewan, AB

Mr. Speaker, the next petition highlights concerns associated with the definition of conversion therapy that was used in Bill C-6, in the last Parliament. Those concerns persist with respect with Bill C-4. The petitioners call on the House of Commons to ban all practices designed to coerce or degrade persons into changing their sexual orientation or gender identity. It also calls on the government to ensure that the definition is accurate, reflects the correct definition of conversion therapy and does not ban, for instance, private conversations that would take place that are not related to conversion therapy.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

December 3rd, 2021 / 1:35 p.m.
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Conservative

Kelly McCauley Conservative Edmonton West, AB

Madam Speaker, what a joy it is to be back in the House and be here for the rare occurrence of hearing the member for Winnipeg North speak. It happens about as often as a full eclipse of the sun. It is amazing. I am going to tell my grandkids that I was here to hear the member speak. It is actually disappointing that the Liberals have so many new members, yet time and again it is the same chap who stands up, as much as I do understand.

I will be sharing my time today with the member for Cumberland—Colchester, who is one of the new members we are allowing to speak.

We are talking about Bill C-3 today. I am glad to get a chance to get a word in edgewise, with the member across the way, but also to speak before the Liberals perhaps prorogue Parliament, call another snap election or use any other of their usual ploys to avoid accountability.

Bill C-3 is probably a needed bill, but it is an odd bill. Half is related to justice and the other half to the Canada Labour Code. I am not sure why the Liberals have put the two of them together instead of presenting them to the House separately. I hate to think doing it this way is a typical Liberal ploy, or that they are hoping someone will object to part of it, so they can scream and yell and say we are anti-health care workers. I know I am being cynical because there is no way in the world they would ever consider doing that. They would never try to wedge folks.

We have heard repeatedly from the government, and our colleagues from the NDP and the Bloc, about how much this bill is needed. Why now? Why not a year ago? Why not six years ago with the Canada Labour Code? Why have the Liberals waited? They have had the backing and support of all the parties during the COVID crisis to put through almost everything with unanimous consent. Why would they wait so long?

The labour changes the bill mentions easily could have been brought in before. Their delay reminds me of a great Seinfeld episode in which Newman, the postal worker and Seinfeld's nemesis, helps to kidnap Elaine's neighbour's dog and eventually gets caught. When a policeman comes to arrest him, he, à la son of Sam, asks what took him so long. I have to ask the same of the government. If it was such a priority, why would it wait?

We could have had this before the House, debated it and sent it to committee long ago. The election took place on September 21 and we waited two full months to sit in the House again. In the U.K., Boris Johnson was able to re-form the House and get its Parliament back to work in six days. It took the government two months just to get us here.

We could have easily dealt with Bill C-2. In the House today during question period, we heard the Liberals tell the Conservatives to get on side and pass Bill C-2. We heard them say in debate that we should help small businesses and pass Bill C-2. Why did they not convene Parliament to get us back to work immediately so we could pass Bill C-2? It is the same with Bill C-3.

With respect to Bill C-4 on conversion therapy, people thought it was Bill C-6 or Bill C-8, because it was brought to the House several times. It was killed when the government prorogued Parliament. It was killed again when it called an early election, which no one really wanted and was not needed, as we ended up the same. If it were that important, why did the Liberals not try to pass the conversion therapy bill earlier? They had six years to bring it in.

One bill I remember they brought through in 2017 as a higher priority than the conversion therapy was Bill C-24. At the time, and I was using another Seinfeld quote, I called it “a bill about nothing”. Basically, the bill changed the bank account the old ministers of state were paid from in the estimates process. I think it also changed the official name on the cheques from Public Works to PSPC.

This was a bill we debated in the House and tied up the committee with. Somehow the government decided that was more important than a conversion therapy bill. They had been paid that way since Confederation. The ministers of state were paid out of one small bank account, and the other ministers, technically the government, were paid out of another. We could have continued doing that and brought the conversion therapy bill then.

The reality is this: The government is not serious about how it puts forward its legislation. It delays, obfuscates, throws it out and then demands that opposition parties get on board and hurry up to pass it, when it could have done that a long time ago.

Generally, everyone supports the first part of the bill, on criminalizing threats toward health care workers. We have all seen, during the election, the blocking of ambulances from getting to hospitals and the harassing of health care workers. We have heard the horrible stories from my colleague for Timmins—James Bay, where a small-town doctor, vitally needed, was chased out of his community by these threats. We just heard from him about the single mother who was horrifyingly harassed just for getting a vaccine.

Therefore, perhaps we need this legislation, but I would like to hear more details. Apparently, a lot of this is covered already under provincial or other laws. I would like to see how the bill would strengthen the protection for our doctors and nurses and, as my colleague mentioned, for people who are just going for a vaccine. There are the doctors and nurses we have to protect, but we also have to protect Canadians who are trying to access health care facilities.

During the election, we Conservatives had, as part of our election plan, the critical infrastructure protection act. This would provide additional security from those protesting vital infrastructure, such as our hospitals and our rail and pipelines. We saw what just happened in B.C., with its supply chain devastated because of the cuts to the CN and CP rails. That was obviously an act of nature as opposed to protests, but protests can be just as devastating, and we have seen it be just as devastating to our health care when we do not have consequences. I hope my colleagues in the House will eventually adopt a law that would protect other vital infrastructure besides our hospitals, and also our supply lines.

Unfortunately, from day one, we have had mixed messaging from this government regarding vaccines and the COVID crisis, and it has led to confusion, fear and anger. None of this, nothing this government or anyone else has done, excuses the violence and harassment of our health care workers, doctors and people trying to access health care. However, what the government has done has not helped. When Canadians needed certainty, leadership and consistency, we got false information from the government, like we saw with the Deputy Prime Minister being admonished for fake news on Twitter.

It is funny. We heard earlier that my colleague, the member for Winnipeg North, when he was out door-knocking, was surprised by the anger from the vax versus the anti-vax people. I felt the same thing. We had people threatening us with a shotgun if we dared come with that. We have all felt it, but he was surprised. I want to read something from the National Post for the member. It said that in January, the Prime Minister had argued against mandatory vaccines as “divisive” in our “community and country”. It said that in March, he mused about the inequality and inequity of vaccine passports. In July, he said there would be no mandatory vaccines. However, two weeks later, apparently led by internal polling that showed he could divide the country for political gain, he announced a mandatory vaccine, cynically just in time.

The article goes on to say that the Prime Minister's “flip flop on vaccine mandates” exemplifies “a governing philosophy based on political calculus”.

This is not governing based on bringing us together, or on trying to get the unvaccinated vaxxed by convincing them of how good vaccines are and how they will lead us out of the troubles we are in. There is nothing about that. It is using it based on polling to create divisiveness in Canada for political gain.

The Prime Minister, when speaking out against protesters, used the term “you people” when describing the protesters. Now, I might perhaps, against some of the people who are blocking hospitals, have used harsher language, but he used the term “you people”. Now, I note for our feminist Prime Minister that the website everydayfeminism.com says “you people” is a racially coded phrase. Again, nothing the Prime Minister has done excuses the protesters and their actions, but nothing the Prime Minister has done has gone to alleviate the divisions in Canada. He has used this to divide the country.

Apparently I am out of time, so I will let it go and perhaps leave it open to questions and comments to address the second part of the bill.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

December 3rd, 2021 / 12:20 p.m.
See context

Bloc

Luc Desilets Bloc Rivière-des-Mille-Îles, QC

Mr. Speaker, I would like to begin by thanking my esteemed colleague from Rimouski‑Neigette—Témiscouata—Les Basques for his speech.

We are here today to talk about Bill C-3, an act to amend the Criminal Code and the Canada Labour Code. We are at second reading of this bill, which was introduced by our colleague from St. John's South—Mount Pearl.

Bill C‑3 proposes harsher sentences for people who intimidate health care workers or their patients or who block access to a hospital or clinic in order to impede people from obtaining health services.

The bill also proposes forcing federally regulated employers to grant their employees up to 10 days of sick leave.

Bill C‑3 is good for Quebec, so the Bloc Québécois supports it. The amendments proposed today are in keeping with the legitimate demands of major unions and will greatly benefit employees. As my colleague said, whether it be yesterday, today or tomorrow, the Bloc Québécois has and always will side with workers in Quebec and across Canada.

At the same time, our party has already spoken out many times against the anti-vaccine protests that took place near hospitals and clinics during the election campaign.

The Bloc Québécois is opposed to all forms of intimidation, violence or interference directed at health care workers or anyone seeking care or a vaccine. Bill C‑3 will give police and prosecutors more tools to prosecute offenders who directly or indirectly attack health care workers or patients seeking care.

As it stands, Bill C‑3 contains eight clauses amending two acts, namely the Criminal Code and the Canada Labour Code. One of the clauses would add intimidation of health care workers to the invasion of privacy offences. Another proposes imprisonment for up to 10 years for anyone attempting to impede the delivery of health care by provoking a state of fear in a patient, professional or support person.

One paragraph prohibits intentionally obstructing or interfering with access to a place at which health services are provided, such as a hospital or clinic. That is one of the things we will have to examine in detail, because we do not want to interfere with health care workers' right to protest.

Another clause states that committing an offence to impede a health care worker in the performance of their duties could be considered an aggravating factor. In short, it is a good piece of legislation, but it really makes few substantive changes.

For one thing, the offences that Bill C‑3 would add to the Criminal Code already exist, because it is already a criminal offence to block access to a hospital. It was not a lack of legal authority that was required to enforce this provision of the Criminal Code, but rather a lack of political will.

In short, the amendments proposed by Bill C‑3 provide a few more tools to prosecutors and the police, and that is a very good thing.

Although the Bloc Québécois is in favour of Bill C‑3, we have to admit that it is more of a PR stunt, as my colleague mentioned earlier, intended to fulfil the Liberals' election promise, than a truly constructive piece of legislation.

It is also important to note that Quebec acted on this matter some time ago. In September, the National Assembly of Quebec passed a bill providing for very stiff fines for anyone protesting against vaccination within 50 metres of a school or health care site. These fines range from $6,000 for a first offence to $12,000 for subsequent offences.

On a different note, the bill before us would amend the Canada Labour Code to add 10 days of paid sick leave for all workers.

According to Employment and Social Development Canada, the Canada Labour Code covers 955,000 employees working for about 18,000 companies. Of that number, roughly 63% of all federally regulated private sector employees had access to fewer than 10 days of paid sick leave, so this will be highly beneficial.

The Canada Labour Code currently provides for 17 weeks of unpaid sick leave, but only 5 days of paid sick leave. It is worth noting that this provision led to a number of regrettable situations during the pandemic. Many employees kept going to work sick, even with COVID-19, instead of staying home, so that they would not miss out on pay. This decision undoubtedly helped the virus spread, with tragic consequences, as we know. Other people became infected, and some died.

That said, many employees are covered by collective agreements that already guarantee them sick leave. Bill C‑3 will obviously not change anything for them. Furthermore, there will be little impact on the lives of Quebec workers, since Quebec currently offers more paid sick leave than anywhere else in Canada.

In addition, it is quite surprising that the bill is trying to accomplish two things at the same time. No matter what the Liberals claim, there is nothing in Bill C‑3 that connects these two aspects of the legislation. They are packaging one uncontroversial topic that most people agree with, sick leave, with a rather complex amendment to the Criminal Code.

I think it is likely that the Liberals and the NDP will want to get this bill passed the easy way, like we did with Bill C‑4, which would ban conversion therapy. However, we are talking about an amendment to the Criminal Code, which requires a serious, in-depth study. This bill would have implications for freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. I sincerely believe that we must not cut the parliamentary process short on a topic like this. We are hearing from the other side that they want to fast-track Bill C‑3. If someone objects, will they be accused of stonewalling?

Whether the Liberal and NDP members like it or not, the Bloc Québécois will be sure to ask the relevant questions in the House to ensure that the legislators can clarify their intentions as to the amendments to the Criminal Code. We want to make sure that they do not encroach upon health care workers' right to protest.

As usual, we will propose amendments to the bill, as needed, to improve it. The Bloc Québécois is always in favour of new, innovative ideas, and we will continue in that direction.

Despite the fact that this bill smacks of cynicism and will have a relatively minimal impact, it does contain some elements that will benefit Quebec workers, especially health care staff.

With that in mind, of course the Bloc Québécois will support Bill C-3.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

December 2nd, 2021 / 5:05 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Pam Damoff Liberal Oakville North—Burlington, ON

Madam Speaker, I would like to acknowledge that I am speaking today from the unceded territory of the Algonquin people.

I will begin by thanking the people of Oakville North—Burlington for the confidence they have placed in me by electing me for the third time to this place. Our riding was created in 2015, and it has been my greatest honour to be its first and only member of Parliament.

I also want to thank my incredible team of volunteers and donors, without whom I would not be here, and my staff, who I would argue, are the best on the Hill. I thank them very much.

Last but not least, I would like to thank my family, who have been beside me every step of the way. My son, Fraser, knocked on doors when he was nine years old when we were trying to save a local pool from being closed, and now in this past election, more than 20 years later, he brought his son, my grandson, Cameron, out to campaign with his nanny.

I was motivated to enter politics to make my community better. I continue to be motivated by the desire to leave the world better than I found it. Our government's throne speech lays out a number of priorities that will do just that.

Climate change is the greatest challenge of our time. As a climate leader, Canada has put in place measures to reduce pollution and achieve a net-zero economy by 2050. To create a more resilient economy, create jobs and grow the middle class, Canada must take strong and bold climate action. That is why we are moving forward to cap and cut oil and gas sector emissions, invest in public transit and mandate the sale of zero-emission vehicles.

The federal government has already worked in partnership with Oakville Transit and Burlington Transit to deliver over $60 million in federal funding over the past five years to modernize and electrify our public transit fleets. It has also worked with the Ford Motor Company of Canada by investing $295 million to make its Oakville plant the hub for electric vehicle manufacturing in Canada.

Since elected, I have advocated for a strategy to get more people active, encouraging them to use their feet and their bikes to get around. I am thrilled that our first-ever active transportation strategy was announced this summer, with $400 million in funding over five years. I look forward to working with Oakville and Burlington to help them access this funding to better connect our communities and expand our already beautiful trails system.

Together, we need to go further and move faster on climate action, not just to protect our environment, but to grow our economy in a way that leaves no worker behind.

Building a better future starts with getting the pandemic under control and finishing the job on vaccines. It is because of the efforts of all Canadians that more than 86% of us over 12 years old are fully vaccinated, and children between the age of five and 11, like Roisin and Tiernan O'Meara, are getting the vaccine.

Halton Region has done outstanding work distributing vaccines in our community. The leadership of our medical officer of health, Dr. Meghani, has been exceptional, and I want to thank her and her colleagues for their work to keep our community safe.

To build a healthy future, however, we must do more than get needles in arms. We must strengthen our health care system and public health support for all Canadians, especially for seniors, veterans, persons living with disabilities, vulnerable members of our communities and those who have faced discrimination by the very system that is meant to heal. There is much work to be done on mental health and addictions treatment, on improving long-term care and accessibility, and integrated data collection to inform future decisions and get the best public health results possible.

Over the last year and a half, I have heard from businesses and individuals who have told me that they do not know how they would have survived without supports from our government. I have heard repeatedly about the labour shortage in Canada. Each of us in this place can be leaders in our communities by talking to business and our chambers of commerce about the untapped potential of people living with disabilities. Twenty-five percent of Canadians are living with a disability, and about 70% of those are unemployed or underemployed. What an opportunity for employers to bring on someone in a wheelchair to their law firm or an individual with an intellectual disability to their assembly line or child care centre.

We are moving forward on safe, affordable, inclusive child care for all, with nine provinces and territories already signed on. When my son was born, I had four months maternity leave, which was the law at the time. When it came time to return to work, the cost of infant care was more than we could afford. I almost did not return, but thanks to an incredible boss who doubled my salary, gave me an extra month at home and promised that I could take whatever time I needed for my son, I did return.

My life would be very different if it were not for Ken Field, and I know my experience was the exception not the rule. Women should never have to decide between having a child and their career. Our plan for $10-a-day child care, which we still need Ontario to sign on to, will not only be good for children and families, but will grow the economy by billions of dollars when women are able to fully participate.

Canadians were horrified by the discovery of unmarked graves and burial sites located near former residential schools. As a country and a government, we must continue to tell the truths of these tragedies so we can right past wrongs and move forward in the spirit of reconciliation for everyone.

I have heard about home ownership for young people repeatedly, and that is why we are going to be putting home ownership within reach for first-time homebuyers with a first-time homebuyer incentive, a new rent-to-own program, and by reducing closing costs.

Indigenous women are the fastest-growing prison population in Canada, and have been for some time. Most of these women are in prison because of poverty, trauma, mental illness, addiction or gender-based violence. Recently I visited Grand Valley Institution for Women and spoke to some of the women there. Sadly, because so many indigenous women are entering the criminal justice system, we have run out of room for them at institutions near their communities, and they have been transferred out of their home communities. Sixty-five indigenous women are now held at Grand Valley, while a few years ago it was just 13.

We must implement changes to mandatory minimum sentences and other reforms to the criminal justice system, including restorative justice, to stem the tide that is disproportionately sentencing indigenous women to federal prison. It has been said that when they sentence a woman to prison, they also sentence the child. While the mother-child initiative at Grand Valley is outstanding, too many of the children of these moms are in foster care. We must do better.

During the election campaign, I was once again targeted by the gun lobby. I have been a vocal advocate for enhancing public safety through gun control, from extended background checks in Bill C-71 to banning military-style assault rifles. Over 80% of Canadians support these measures, but the Conservative Party and Canada's gun lobby do not. From depicting me in demeaning and misogynistic cartoons, to distributing flyers door to door in my riding, the gun lobby and the Conservative Party are becoming more and more intertwined and more and more out of touch with the concerns of Canadians. I know my constituents overwhelmingly support our efforts on gun control, and I am looking forward to continuing to work with our government on the issue.

I heard repeatedly at the doors that Canadians want us to work together in Parliament. They appreciated the early pandemic response when we all worked together. It is my sincerest hope that we can set aside partisanship when we are in this place, as we did yesterday in passing Bill C-4 to end conversion therapy. When we disagree, which we will, let us disagree agreeably. Canadians expect no less.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

December 2nd, 2021 / 4:05 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Arif Virani Liberal Parkdale—High Park, ON

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the chance to speak for the first time in an intervention in this House of Commons in the 44th Parliament.

I am speaking from my riding in Parkdale—High Park, which is situated on the traditional territory of the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, Haudenosaunee, the Huron Wendat and, most recently, the Mississaugas of the Credit. Toronto is well known as the home of many diverse first nations, Inuit and Métis peoples today.

As I speak for the first time in this chamber on legislation in the 44th Parliament, I want to thank some important people who have brought me to this situation.

First and foremost is my family, my two sons, Zakir and Nitin, and my wife, Suchita, who, when she is not supporting me in these political endeavours, is actually keeping our country safe from COVID-19 as a member of the incredible team at the Public Health Agency of Canada that works on border health and quarantine controls. Thanks very much to Suchita for everything she is doing to keep our country safe.

I want to thank the countless volunteers who helped me get to where I am today.

I want to thank all of the family members and friends who came out to knock on doors, put up signs and do all of the work behind the scenes that made the campaign possible.

It is a humbling thing for a person to be asked by the members of their community to be their voice in Parliament and to have this honour bestowed upon me for the third straight occasion. It is a privilege and responsibility that I do not take lightly. My priorities in this Parliament remain those that my constituents speak to me about and those that I am passionate about. Those are climate action and housing affordability, subjects of key concern for the residents of Parkdale—High Park and things that I have my life work, which are promoting human rights abroad and domestically, and secondly, fighting discrimination and racism wherever they rear their ugly head.

In terms of the Speech from the Throne, what I would say is that in electing this government for the third straight occasion, I believe Canadians made clear their priorities for the 44th Parliament. That is, most fundamentally, to finish the fight against COVID-19 and to build back our economy in a way that is more inclusive than before we had ever heard of the term “coronavirus” or the term “COVID-19”.

Let me turn to health care first in terms of my intervention today, because we are now in the midst of yet another variant, omicron.

In terms of health care and COVID-19, I want to first of all start by echoing some of what we heard in the Speech from the Throne. My condolences to not only the family of the senator who passed because of COVID, Senator Forest-Niesing, but also to the families of 29,714 individuals who, as of early December of this year, have lost their lives due to COVID-19.

We have, by international accounts, one of the most successful vaccination campaigns in the world as of right now: 86% of all Canadians who are 12 and over are fully vaccinated. In my city of Toronto, it is 85% and that surpasses many other major cities such as London, England; New York City; Chicago; and Los Angeles. We will continue as a government to build off the fact that we have provided 60 million vaccination doses thus far, including boosters and first doses to young people.

In terms of young people, members heard me mention Zakir and Nitin. My boys are age 10 and 7, respectively. They got their first dose last Sunday at a walk-in clinic in Toronto, making me and their mom, Suchita, very proud of those two little guys. Instead of exhibiting vaccine hesitancy, they exhibited vaccine restlessness and fought with each other over who would get to go first.

My parents, both nearly 80, are being vaccinated for the third time this week. Now that I am of the tender age of 50, apparently in Ontario I will be eligible for my third dose because that is what is happening with boosters for those who are over 50. I am now part of that little group.

I think what is important is that we have a track record as a government of providing vaccines for free to all Canadians who want vaccines. I am proud of that record and our record of making vaccines mandatory for federal civil servants, federally regulated industries and interprovincial travel.

I am also very proud that one of the first acts that we have taken as the Liberal government was to table legislation, Bill C-3, which would create a new offence for those who intimidate health care workers or seek to prevent someone from accessing health care treatment. I am not just speaking about my wife here. I am speaking about thousands and thousands of other health care workers who have done so much to keep us safe from COVID-19 in these past 22 months. Those individuals deserve our praise and our gratitude, not our scorn or our abuse.

However, I know that ending this pandemic requires investing in our health care systems and dismantling barriers for vulnerable populations. I am thinking about Joyce Echaquan and the indigenous experience in health care in this country. It is also about clearing the backlog of COVID-19 cases. It is about reducing delays, strengthening the protections in our long-term care homes and protecting seniors in care, improving access to mental health and addictions services and I am proud that we now have a minister devoted to just that, and preventing privatization from entering our health care systems.

Members heard me speak about climate as one of my priorities and one of the priorities of my constituents. Climate change was top of mind for voters in this fall's election, not just in my riding, but around the country. Obviously, our thoughts, prayers and hopes go out to all of our neighbours in British Columbia who are, in the span of several months, dealing with wildfires and now dealing with tragic mudslides. Tackling climate change is not a B.C. issue. It is a Canadian issue. It is a global issue. We were elected with a mandate to move on this and that is exactly what we are doing. We heard that outlined in the Speech from the Throne.

We are increasing the price on pollution and the climate rebate, which allows Canadians to make changes in their own personal lives. We are banning single-use plastics. We are making it impossible to buy a new car or light-duty truck that is not electric by 2035, and we are making that more possible by providing generous federal rebates for the purchase of such vehicles and by providing more vehicle charging infrastructure. We are putting a cap on oil and gas sector GHG emissions and moving the entire country to net-zero emissions by 2050 on legislated five-year increments. We are ending fossil fuel subsidies by 2023.

On the electricity grid, we are phasing out coal as a source of energy across the country by 2030. This is something that we, as Liberals, were successful in doing in Ontario over a decade ago by phasing out coal. How does this impact my constituents? In ridings like mine in Parkdale—High Park, we have increased bike shares and bike lanes. There are nine new bike shares to promote active transport. We have provided funding for green infrastructure to the High Park Zoo and the High Park Nature Centre to the tune of almost $4 million for sustainable energy projects.

On housing, we are strengthening our economy by ensuring that housing is affordable. I heard repeatedly on the campaign trail from all sectors about supportive housing, rental housing and those who want to buy. We are delivering for communities like mine through things like the NHS, the national housing plan, subsidies for co-op renters in federal co-ops and $1.2 billion put into TCHC to maintain, repair and renovate units. We have also implemented a rapid housing initiative and expanded it, which has delivered $14 million to constituents in my riding to ensure that new housing is being built. This is critical to that inclusive recovery.

I also talked about human rights and fighting discrimination. I came to this place as a Constitution and human rights lawyer in 2015. The orientation that I have and commitment to protecting fundamental freedoms has not wavered. In these past six years, I have been very privileged to work on many aspects such as settling Syrian refugees, reenacting a national anti-racism strategy, fighting Islamophobia, securing legal aid for refugee claimants and tabling legislation to combat online hate in the last Parliament.

This is important human rights work and it must continue. I pledge to my constituents to continue to be a strong voice for human rights for those in Eastern Europe who are facing aggression by Vladimir Putin and Russia, including Ukrainians and Poles. I also redoubled my commitment to my Tibetan constituents who seek nothing more than the basic permission to speak their language and practise Tibetan Buddhism from the Government of the People's Republic of China. The Middle Way approach, advocated by the Dalai Lama, can help secure this and I will continue to advocate for that approach.

Domestically, advocacy for human rights must include renewed commitment to reconciliation. I learned so much about where we are and how far we have to go when I was privileged to work on the Indigenous Languages Act in the 42nd Parliament. My constituents, like me, were horrified by the discoveries of the unmarked graves at residential school sites. I have committed to my constituents publicly and I will commit to them here today that my work on fighting discrimination will focus on fighting anti-indigenous discrimination. There is so much more work to be done in terms of boil water advisories and ending discrimination in the child welfare system.

Finally, I commit to the work that is needed to be done with the LGBTQ2 community. We had a historic day in Parliament yesterday with Bill C-4 receiving unanimous consent, but the work is not done until that bill passes through the Senate and becomes law through royal assent. Only then will the equality rights of LGBTQ2 Canadians and all Canadians be fully protected.

This is the work I am committed to in terms of climate action, housing action, fighting against inequality, and fighting against discrimination and for human rights, domestically and abroad. The Speech from the Throne outlines what we will be doing as a government and I am very proud to be partaking in that work.

Conversion TherapyStatements By Members

December 2nd, 2021 / 2:15 p.m.
See context

NDP

Blake Desjarlais NDP Edmonton Griesbach, AB

Mr. Speaker, I rise to acknowledge the historic event that took place in this chamber yesterday. As a two-spirit person and newly elected member of this House, seeing my colleagues put aside our partisan differences to pass this long-overdue ban on conversion therapy fills me with hope.

Kinana'skomitina'wa'w, members of this House. In particular, I would like to thank the Minister of Justice for tabling this landmark legislation, the member for Fundy Royal for his unanimous consent motion, and the NDP member for Esquimalt—Saanich—Sooke, whose years of tireless work made this bill possible.

Most importantly, I wish to thank the survivors from the 2SLGBTQI community, who never gave up the fight to ensure this harmful practice was banned. This is their victory.

Conversion therapy is wrong; it is harmful and it needs to be banned. I call on our colleagues in the Senate to now move just as quickly to pass Bill C-4 into law.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

December 2nd, 2021 / 1 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Adam van Koeverden Liberal Milton, ON

Mr. Speaker, as this is my first time to rise in this House in the 44th Parliament, it is my honour to congratulate you on your re-election to that Chair and to congratulate all of my colleagues from every party for their election and re-election. I am excited to work with everybody here in this House to build a better country.

I would also like to take a moment to thank the great people of Milton for entrusting me once again to be their voice here in Ottawa. I would not be here without their continued support, and I will spend every day on this job standing up for them and their priorities, making sure their insights and perspectives are heard in this House and that their needs are met.

I also would not be standing here without the incredible work of my campaign team, our amazing volunteers, my friends and my family. I want to give a shout-out to my mom Beata, my dad Joe, my brother Luke, my amazing girlfriend and best friend Emilie, as well as my dog Cairo, because he does a lot of hard work on the campaign as well.

It is the privilege of my life to be able to work here on behalf of my neighbours. They can count on me.

They have sent me here to focus on the issues that matter most to them. In my community, particularly for the youth of Milton, that means standing up for the environment. We need to fight climate change to ensure that the health and safety of our planet for ourselves and for future generations is upheld. The terrible flooding in B.C. and other extreme weather events have given us a sharp reminder about the urgent need to prioritize a green, clean and sustainable future for all of us. We may not get another chance to get this right.

We must also continue walking the path of truth and reconciliation with indigenous peoples. As my work on the indigenous and northern affairs committee in the previous Parliament emphasized for me, we must ensure that while we work to address the wrongs of the past, we also must focus on building stronger, more collaborative bonds in the future.

Milton is one of the most diverse communities in Canada, but diversity is the fact and inclusion is the act that will ensure that no Canadian anywhere will be targeted by violence or hatred because of their race, religion, who they love or how they live. These are not small tasks. Achieving them will require a renewed focus, a strength of purpose and a spirit of collaboration. As yesterday’s unanimous passing of Bill C-4 showed, we do have the capacity to come together and improve the lives of our neighbours and Canadians.

If this pandemic has taught us anything, it is that there is nothing in this world more valuable than our collective health and well-being. The good news is we have all the tools necessary to defeat this pandemic and build a healthier Canada for this and future generations. The best tool to fight this pandemic has been vaccines. I want to take a moment to thank Halton’s Medical Officer of Health, Dr. Hamidah Meghani and her team for helping to make Halton region one of the most vaccinated communities in Canada. Now that seniors over 70 and kids five to 11 are eligible, I encourage everyone to continue making appointments. I also want to thank everybody who worked at a clinic, volunteered at a clinic, shared a vaccine selfie or chatted with or encouraged a hesitant neighbour or family member to get the shot. It has been a team effort.

The reverberating impacts of COVID-19 have gone well beyond the disease itself. We have work to do on finding solutions for delayed procedures, ensuring there are more ways and more services available for the mental health impacts of these last two years. They have had a devastating impact on families, kids in particular, and, of course, we must continue to build a more resilient long-term care system in this country.

It will not surprise too many of my colleagues to know that I would like to talk a bit about the role that physical activity and recreation must play in our “build back better” strategy. Canada was experiencing a crisis of inactivity before this pandemic and COVID-19 has made it much worse. I want to highlight the call to action led by Participaction to tackle the inactivity crisis and add my name to the long list of supporters who champion solutions to this issue.

The solutions are not as simple as just telling everybody to go outside, ride their bike and go for a walk. While those things are helpful, important and the right thing to do, not everyone has the ability to make those decisions. Vulnerable and under-resourced Canadians lack the infrastructure, the time and the freedom to simply take an hour to get a workout in. Improved access to programs that teach physical literacy to kids and families is an essential aspect of the solution to this complex challenge. Physical literacy is defined as “the motivation, confidence, physical competence, knowledge and understanding that establishes purposeful physical pursuits as an integral part of our daily lifestyle.” Moving our bodies is essential for our physical health, our mental health and the health of our communities and relationships.

I am on my soapbox and I could talk for hours about how sport, physical activity and recreation can build more resilient communities. It is time to move on to talk about the current challenges that this country is facing with respect to the economy. The challenges that our neighbours are facing with respect to inaffordability are both real and complex. The labour shortages and challenges with regard to supply chains and inflation are easily worth a 10-minute speech of their own, so I would like to narrow my focus to two campaign commitments that also represent tangible solutions: child care and affordable housing.

In the previous Parliament, I met with dozens of child care stakeholders to discuss building a $10-a-day child care program to save Canadian families money and rebuild our economy in the most equitable way possible. That list included MCRC, the Milton Community Resource Centre. I want to acknowledge the hard work of Tina and Rebecca and their team at the MCRC for providing Milton families with care, resources, solutions and products that have contributed directly to the healthy development of kids and the ability for parents to go to work, earn a good income and pay their bills.

As an Ontario MP, I am also thrilled that the provincial government is in talks with our federal government to make $10-a-day child care a reality for families in my riding and across the province.

Moving on to housing, it is a complex ecosystem, so I am going to narrow my focus once again on non-market solutions for the housing crisis.

I am a proud co-op kid. I lived at Chautauqua Co-op with my mom and brother throughout my childhood and even after university. My mom still resides at Chautauqua. She is a co-op builder who works at Briarview Co-op in Mississauga. I know I am biased, but nobody in Canada knows more about co-op housing, its past and its place in our potential future in Canada than my mom. The last time we built meaningful co-ops in this country was 1994, and that needs to change today. When Canadians are paying their rent, they should not be paying off somebody else’s mortgage or contributing to huge profit margins and shareholder value.

Access to secure housing is a human right, and it should not be out of reach for anyone.

Co-ops create a pathway to home ownership for some by allowing young people, students, newcomers and families to live within their means, invest in their futures and, if they want, save up to buy a home one day. However, home ownership should not necessarily be the only ambition of the housing continuum. Secure housing should be, and those who want to live in non-profit housing for their entire lives should be able to. It allows for fuller participation in the economy. For my mom, it made sure that my brother and I had access to canoe clubs, guitar lessons, summer camp and everything we ever needed.

Social housing is not the only solution to this crisis, but it has to be part of our plan for the future.

Both of my parents are immigrants to this country. By increasing immigration levels and reducing wait times for new immigrants and citizens, while supporting family reunification and delivering a world-leading refugee resettlement program, we will continue supporting the growth and diversity of our nation. I met with members of Milton's Afghan community before the election and have done so since, and I am very confident that 40,000 Afghan refugees will feature prominently in the growth of our economy and future.

Milton is an environmentally forward-thinking community. We are a proud home to groups like Sustainable Milton, Halton Environmental Network and Fridays for Future Milton. Our local CA, Conservation Halton, provides our region with solutions for recreation, education and flood mitigation; support for species at risk; and so much more. It is also my best tree-planting partner, with over 50,000 trees planted locally last year.

I am confident in our ambitions to cap and cut oil and gas sector emissions while accelerating our path to a 100% net-zero electricity future. These are world-leading ambitions. I know that investments in public transit, electric vehicle infrastructure and subsidies will lead to greener communities and cleaner air.

I am also certain that our plan will create more good, green jobs, and that together we will build a more resilient, sustainable and competitive economy. By protecting more land, waterways and coastlines, and creating the Canada water agency, we will safeguard our most vital natural resource, clean fresh water, which will also protect our farmers. Milton has one of the best farmers' markets in the country, and we love to eat and shop local. We appreciate and rely heavily on our neighbours in agriculture, and they deserve to be acknowledged and supported in our transition to a greener future.

We know that climate change disproportionately impacts society's most vulnerable, and while we focus on the environment, our collective health and the resilience of our economy, we must also remain focused on ending violence and hate in our communities. I applaud this government for taking action on assault-style weapons and lifetime background checks, but we must go further. Handguns are so often used in gang and intimate partner violence. I join victims groups and the Canadian Doctors for Protection from Guns in advocating for more comprehensive gun control measures.

At the core of violence is fear and hatred. We must continue to fight racism, homophobia, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism and other forms of hate by taking swift action on anti-hate legislation.

I represent one the most diverse communities in the country. When the Afzal family was brutally murdered in London, Ontario, this past year, people in my riding were scared to go out for a walk at night. That is unacceptable. We have work to do, and I commit, on behalf of my friends and neighbours in Milton, to ensuring that Canada is safe, inclusive and compassionate. I would like to thank and acknowledge the hard work of Tabassum Wyne and the Muslim Advisory Council of Canada for their hard work on this.

We have to understand that teamwork is the only way to build a better future for Canada. Let us work together.

In closing, I will simply say that it is time for us to meet the moment, to make good on our promises to Canadians that we made at the doors and to take the incredible responsibility they have given us and turn it into positive, meaningful action that will lead to a brighter future for everyone.

I welcome questions from my colleagues.

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

December 2nd, 2021 / 11:30 a.m.
See context

Conservative

Ryan Williams Conservative Bay of Quinte, ON

Madam Speaker, it is my pleasure to stand today to represent the people of the Bay of Quinte. I am extremely proud to have been elected the first Conservative member for my riding. I want to thank all the volunteers who worked hard putting their time into the election, especially my campaign manager Susan Smith. We know how much work it is, especially to manage me.

As many members of the House know, it is also a family affair. My mother Heather was one of the greatest volunteers. She is an Atlantic Canadian. She was born in Fredericton and grew up in Prince Edward Island. It is no surprise that door knocking is just easy for Maritimers. My kids were all involved as well. Jack is eight, Patrick is seven and Zooey is four. My biggest thanks go to my wife Allyson. Most of us know that the biggest sacrifice in this job is our families and especially our partners. I am not sure if this was meant to scare us, but our first training in this work was a work-life balance seminar, where I was told that 75% of MPs end up getting divorced. That is a big number. I moved right next to my father-in-law in Ottawa, which he has said is a blessing and a curse, so time will tell. It is a big sacrifice to have us away from our families. My biggest thanks and love go to my wife Allyson, who is home with my children right now sacrificing her time for us so that we can make this region and country a better place.

My wife and her family are from Thunder Bay, or T-Bay as they affectionately call it. Thunder Bay residents are extremely strong people. I went there once in the winter and can say that they are so tough because it is so cold in January. My wife lives by the motto “always choose love”. In 2015, we lost our son Teddy at birth to a congenital heart defect. Every year there are thousands of Canadians who experience the terror of infant loss or miscarriage. Allyson was instrumental in our region for being a voice to women who experience loss. She wrote a blog called alwayschooselove.net and she continues to be a tireless advocate for women. She is a light for so many, and I love her dearly.

I would also be amiss to not talk about my grandfather and father, who were both political candidates provincially, in 1975 and 2003 respectively, for the provincial Conservative Party and who did not get to represent their constituents. This proves that the third time is the charm. My grandmother Audrey said that she was happy to be alive to see a Williams elected to the House. Both have immensely contributed to our region. My grandfather Don Williams was an entrepreneur. He operated Stirling Motors from 1956 for 20 years and then successfully started Williams Hotels, which he still runs today. He raised awareness for organ donation in Canada, having received one of the first heart transplants in the first decade, in 1991. As well, he supported Camp Quin-Mo-Lac and many local charities. He would always tell people to sign their donor cards. My grandfather taught me tenacity.

My father John Williams became the mayor of Quinte West for eight years and then was the honorary colonel of CFB 8 Wing in Trenton. My father passed away in 2020, but would have loved to have been here. He lived by the motto “get 'er done”. My father, alongside long-time Liberal MPP Hugh O'Neil, created the Afghanistan memorial in Bain Park in Quinte West, having attended every repatriation ceremony during the Afghanistan war, and was instrumental in the creation of the Highway of Heroes on Highway 401 to commemorate those men and women of our military.

As an MP, I look forward to the challenge of representing my constituents in this House and feel very privileged to be here in this place.

Never before have we had the challenges we face in this country. We all know that we live in the best country on the planet. Our standard of living, history, culture and freedoms are among the most revered in the world. However, we have some persistent problems facing Canadians right now. Inflation is the highest in 20 years. I have had calls from seniors this week who cannot decide whether to pay for groceries or rent. We consistently hear that employment is back to pre-COVID levels, yet we have heard of well over a million job vacancies in this country. I can say we have 2,500 skilled jobs we cannot fill in the Bay of Quinte today. We have had restaurants shut down for up to two weeks.

Housing is a disaster right now, with prices doubling in the past year. Prince Edward County, in my region, had one of the highest jumps in housing costs in the last year, at 170%, with the average price last month at $1.2 million. How could anyone who is 25 or 30 years old afford a house at $1.2 million?

What are the solutions? I am a Conservative because I believe that Conservatives believe in the dignity of us as Canadians to be individuals, and that as Canadian individuals we have the right to be free, live free and pursue that which motivates us the most, not because man or government says it is the right thing to do, but because it is our God-given natural right. I also believe that to fix our inflation on housing and other things caused by the overprinting of our money, we need to be producing more of the things money buys. That means homes. It means freeing up home builders to build the things that Canadians need. It means unleashing Canadian innovation and making things in Canada.

I come from rural Canada. If we are to fix the persistent problems facing Canadians and build the next decade into a time when Canada can lead the world, then we need to focus on urban and rural Canada producing more of the things that money buys. To fix our inflation nation, we need to become an innovation nation to produce more wealth. That means allowing individuals to pursue what motivates them and ensuring that the government assists individuals to make, grow, dream and do things in Canada so that individuals making things in a free and enterprise-motivated economy will create wealth and jobs, reversing inflation and ensuring Canada does not see any more decline.

This is not just in urban Canada, where there are 94 cities with over 100,000 people, but in rural Canada, where there are over 3,700 municipalities. The key to Canada's growth is not just in urban Canada, but in rural Canada. An innovation nation includes all 3,700 municipalities, its regions and its more than 600 first nations, Métis and Inuit reserves.

In 2018, I was part of Canada's first Canadian Rural Innovation Summit in Belleville, at which we hosted the thinkers, dreamers and doers to talk about empowering Canada's rural regions, accelerating businesses and growing our Canadian innovation share. We have an alarming rural out-migration number. Eighty per cent of our youth in rural areas end up leaving the rural areas to go to urban centres because that is where the jobs are. I lost many of my friends growing up, as they left for bigger city centres. We need youth in our regions and in our rural regions. Some say youth are the voice of tomorrow. I believe that youth in this country are the voice of today. How can we truly listen to our children if they continue to leave the place we call home? How can they stay in the place we want them to call home when they cannot afford the home?

We need a great rebuild of what will make Canada thrive: its rural regions. These are regions like the Bay of Quinte that have so much potential. It is potential I know how to unlock and potential we saw in 2018 when we hosted Canada's first Canadian Rural Innovation Summit. We need to start demanding the best from Canada and that specifically means the best from rural Canada.

Right now we are not seeing entrepreneurs create the greatest wealth they can in Canada across all regions, rural and urban. We need to strengthen the innovation in this country and protect Canadian ideas and enterprise. Our intellectual property, the measure of intellectual ideas that translate into wealth in this country, is massively underperforming that of other nations. In 2019, prior to COVID-19, Canada produced $39 billion in IP. That is not bad, but compare that with the Americans, who produced $6.6 trillion of IP, or 169 times that of Canada, when they only have 10 times the population.

We are not protecting the stuff that creates the stuff that creates wealth and kills inflation: homes; technology; our natural resources, including our softwood lumber industry; and new world-leading clean energy, including our clean, ethical oil and natural gas and advanced manufacturing. Ontario made a great announcement this morning that a new modular nuclear power unit is being developed in the province. It is going to create a large amount of GDP for the province and Canada. Innovation means improving what we are doing in the world and here in Canada, and we can do so much more.

Members cannot see it but I am wearing red socks. I wear red socks because red represents the colour of our flag and the sacrifice that has been made by our soldiers to ensure that this is a free, democratic country, and because I believe that just like yesterday when the House came together on Bill C-4, the House can and will come together more often in Canada. Our people depend on it.

God bless Canada. Merry Christmas and happy holidays.

JusticeOral Questions

December 1st, 2021 / 2:50 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Julie Dzerowicz Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, since the recent election just over two months ago, community leaders, residents and groups such as Pride Toronto in my riding of Davenport have been writing to me and encouraging our federal government to rapidly reintroduce a bill that would implement a ban on the harmful practice of conversion therapy.

Can the Prime Minister update this House on Bill C-4 and the importance of banning conversion therapy for all Canadians?

Resumption of Debate on Address in ReplySpeech from the Throne

November 30th, 2021 / 5:35 p.m.
See context

Liberal

Julie Dzerowicz Liberal Davenport, ON

Mr. Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Mississauga—Malton.

It is a true honour and pleasure for me to rise for my first time in this 44th Parliament to respond to the Speech from the Throne on behalf of the residents of my downtown Toronto riding of Davenport. It is the honour and privilege of my life to be serving Davenport for a third time, and I want to thank the voters in my riding for putting their trust in me once again.

Before I go any further, I would like to acknowledge that we are gathered on the unceded territory of the Algonquin Anishinabeg people.

I was very moved when I heard our Governor General read the Speech from the Throne. It is a speech that reflects the unprecedented times we have lived through over the last almost two years. It outlines the challenges and opportunities of the current moment, and it articulates a great hope for our future.

Our federal government has laid out our priority areas: building a healthier society, growing a more resilient economy, taking bolder action on climate change, creating safer and more inclusive communities, moving faster on a path of reconciliation and fighting for a secure, just and equitable world. I will speak to each of these key areas, focusing on the priorities for Davenport residents.

Coming off of an election just over a couple of months ago, the concerns of the residents in my riding are still fresh in my mind. Members may not know this, but 43% of Davenport residents are first generation Canadians. They were born in another country. Davenport residents understand how lucky we all are to live in Canada, which offers free access to safe and effective vaccines that fight COVID-19, including boosters. Indeed, more than 86% of eligible Canadians over 12 are fully vaccinated, and I cannot tell members how many Davenport parents are so relieved that vaccines are now available for children ages five to 11. They support the standardized Canadian proof of vaccination for domestic and international travel. They also support the mandate of vaccinations for federal and federally regulated workers, as well as the mandatory vaccines for everyone travelling within Canada by plane, train and ship.

We of course are all worried about the latest variant, omicron. I am glad our government has taken a number of immediate steps to try to slow down the spread of this variant. These steps are needed until we can find more information about it and better tailor our actions. We do not know yet how fast it is spreading, but we do know that vaccines will make a big difference.

While our number one priority is to finish this fight against COVID-19, the Speech from the Throne also highlights our government's commitment to improving our health care system overall. For Davenport residents, this includes more focus and a lot more resources for mental health and addictions treatment, clearing the backlog of delayed procedures and testing, and much more funding and oversight for long-term care homes. We will and must deliver on all this vital and important work.

We cannot talk about spending on health care and/or the many programs and priorities we have without mentioning the need for a strong economy, one that works for all Canadians. There are a lot of positive signs in the Canadian economy as we try to move our way into the post-COVID world. Today, we heard from Statistics Canada that the third-quarter GDP growth in Canada was 5.4%, which is great. We also know that we recouped over one million jobs since the pandemic started, and that both small businesses and large corporations, who were able to pivot from the strong foundation our emergency supports provided, are working hard to adjust and adapt to a new global economic reality and to be competitive.

There are two key things that are important to Davenport as it relates to a resilient economy. One is for Ontario to join the national child care plan. We need parents to be able to get back to work and contribute their best selves. This cannot happen if child care is unaffordable and if they are worried about who will take care of their children. We know that affordable, accessible, quality child care increases women's participation in the workforce and improves Canada's overall economic growth and performance.

The other is ensuring that we tackle the current housing affordability crisis. This is also critical to the future economic success of our nation. The Speech from the Throne highlights our federal government's strong commitment to housing, including increasing affordable housing, ending chronic homelessness and giving Canadians hope that they can afford to live in our big cities and one day will be able to afford to buy an apartment, condo or home.

No matter what else happens, Davenport residents are steadfastly and unequivocally committed to faster and bolder action on climate change. I would say this is the number one issue raised at the doors during the last election. Urgent, aggressive climate action is at the very top of the list of priorities for Davenport. In Toronto, we worry as we see the devastating impacts of climate change on the west and east coasts of our country. Climate change is happening faster than was predicted, and we are scared for our lives, for our future and for our kids' and our grandchildren's futures.

Our federal government has committed $100 billion to implement a comprehensive and aggressive climate action plan, which includes over 100 measures. In six years, we have moved aggressively, but we have to go even faster, and we have to move even more aggressively. It will take the best efforts and hard work of every level of government, the private sector and of every Canadian to move to a low-carbon future and economy. There are tough times ahead, but as an eternal optimist and a believer that we can incentivize, educate and inspire each part of Canadian society to step up and do their part, I believe that we will emerge from this generational challenge a stronger and even more prosperous nation.

Davenport residents are proud of Canada's aggressive climate action plan, but there are key areas where they would like to see even more action. One is eliminating fossil fuel subsidies faster, and another is moving as fast as we can on creating a just transition act for workers, making sure that no worker region is left behind in this process. We must help high-emitting sectors transition if we want our climate plan to be successful and if we truly want to achieve our net-zero target.

Safer communities and a more diverse and equitable society are also important for Davenport residents. In terms of safer communities, three priorities are top of the list for Davenport. Luckily, all of them are highlighted and listed in our Speech from the Throne.

The first is to tackle gun violence. This means everything from addressing the root causes of gun violence to banning handguns, to ensuring our border security has the resources it needs to keep guns from entering our country.

Tackling violence against women is the second urgent priority. In the Speech from the Throne, our federal government has committed to a 10-year national action plan on gender-based violence and to continue to support organizations providing critical services. We have allocated $600 million over five years to achieve this plan and, since 2015, committed over a billion dollars to support violence prevention, create shelters for women and families, support crisis hotlines and many other steps.

The third priority is the need to continue our battle to fight hate, racism and discrimination. Davenport is home to so many different cultures and religions. We have a vibrant Muslim community, a growing Jewish community, a Caribbean community that has been in Davenport for over 40 years, and multiple Asian communities. We are so blessed. Diversity is indeed our strength, and it is one of the many reasons why Davenport is such a special riding. The commitment to continue combatting hate and racism with a renewed anti-racism strategy is an important one, and it is also included in our throne speech.

A final note is the importance of championing the LGBTQ2S+ community. I am proud that yesterday, our Minister of Justice reintroduced Bill C-4, a strengthened bill to ban the harmful practice of conversion therapy. Everyone in Canada should feel safe and be valued equally, no matter their background, race or religion.

As my time winds down, I want to speak about the importance of reconciliation to Davenport. My constituents ask me about our government's work, and they press me to make sure we are doing everything we can and moving as fast as we must. They want us to move fast to implement all 94 calls to action from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. They want us to move fast on implementing the recommendations of the calls for justice for missing and murdered indigenous women. They want us to eliminate every last long-term drinking water advisory in indigenous communities, and they want indigenous peoples to have control over their child and welfare services.

I will end by speaking on the final section of our throne speech, which is about the role that our country plays on the world stage. As our Speech from the Throne says, “In the face of rising authoritarianism and great power competition, Canada must reinforce international peace and security, the rule of law, democracy, and respect for human rights.” Our success as a nation and our future prosperity depend on open borders, unfettered supply chains, deep partnerships and engaging in the world in a way that promotes peace, equity and prosperity for all.

Canadians returned us to the House of Commons with a clear message to all Parliamentarians to work together. This Speech from the Throne presents an excellent plan and a way forward to a more equitable, compassionate and prosperous Canada.

JusticeOral Questions

November 30th, 2021 / 3 p.m.
See context

LaSalle—Émard—Verdun Québec

Liberal

David Lametti LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member for Longueuil—Charles-LeMoyne is absolutely right. Many survivors have described this heartbreaking process and the terrible physical and mental toll it took.

I hope all members of the House agree that no Canadian should be tortured in order to change who they are or who they love. That is why we have introduced a bill to ban conversion therapy, and I hope we can count on the support of all parties in the House to support Bill C-4.