Evidence of meeting #18 for COVID-19 Pandemic in the 43rd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was chair.

A video is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

1:30 p.m.

Conservative

Tamara Jansen Conservative Cloverdale—Langley City, BC

If Canadians are allowed to take a knee in a large protest, they should be allowed to take a knee in prayer. If we do not see a COVID-19 outbreak in seven to 10 days following these protests, will the minister commit to allowing Canadians from all faith communities to go back to their places of worship for open air services, as long as they don't sing too loudly?

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

Patty Hajdu Liberal Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

The member opposite is very confused about who actually places restrictions on local activities. In fact, the federal government does not have any jurisdiction, nor has it put any restrictions on people's activities in terms of what is and isn't allowed in a particular jurisdiction.

I would refer her back to her local public health unit, and she can ask those questions of her local public health unit. It is very important to follow local public health advice to members of communities on how to—

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Acting Chair (Mrs. Alexandra Mendès) Liberal Alexandra Mendes

We are now going to Mr. Harris.

1:30 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Madam Chair, like most Canadians, I'm shocked, horrified and angry after seeing the video of an RCMP officer using his truck door to attack and knock down a 22-year-old Inuk man in Nunavut. The officer is then joined by several other members as they jump on him and pin him to the ground, an outrageous act of brutality.

Sadly, this is not news to the people in the north. Nunavut's legal aid agency says that Inuit, especially women, suffer systemic police abuse, including excessive violence and persistent racism.

What is the Minister of Public Safety doing to eliminate indigenous racism and police misconduct within the RCMP?

1:30 p.m.

Liberal

Chrystia Freeland Liberal University—Rosedale, ON

Regardless of where they live, all Canadians deserve to feel safe in their communities. That very much includes our Inuit community, and it includes all indigenous Canadians.

I am aware of the graphic video that is circulating online. It's shocking and deeply disturbing. Immediately upon review, the officer was removed from the community and an independent investigation was launched.

We all must and will do better.

1:35 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Madam Chair, the Inuit in Nunavut live with mistrust and fear of the RCMP. They exist to serve and protect all Canadians, including this man, yet this officer appears to act, in front of other officers, without any fear of repercussions.

The legal aid allegations include repeated and systemic instances of unnecessary violence in the 25 communities policed by the RCMP in Nunavut. A systemic problem requires a systemic solution. What is the minister's systemic plan to address this clear evidence of over-policing and abuse?

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Chrystia Freeland Liberal University—Rosedale, ON

Madam Chair, let me truly thank the member opposite for raising this essential issue in this House. He is absolutely right that systemic racism does exist in our country, and that does require a systemic solution.

In order to resolve this, we need to acknowledge the problem. We need to talk about it in this House, which is what we are doing. We are absolutely committed to doing whatever it takes to ensure that these behaviours do not happen in the future.

The Prime Minister today spoke about his own commitment to work with the premiers on body cameras. That is one step—

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Acting Chair (Mrs. Alexandra Mendès) Liberal Alexandra Mendes

We will go back to Mr. Harris.

1:35 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

It's certainly good to acknowledge that indigenous racism exists in our police force, and particularly our national police force, which has been policing indigenous people for nearly 150 years with its predecessor.

We've had, since 2018-19, nearly 3,000 complaints about the conduct of RCMP officers to the review and complaints commission. That is a 13% increase over the previous year, and excessive use of force is one of the most common complaints.

What do the government and the minister plan to do to address this rise in complaints and solve the problem we currently have in the RCMP, the national police force?

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

Chrystia Freeland Liberal University—Rosedale, ON

Madam Chair, I would like to thank the member opposite for drawing attention to this very important issue. The member said in one of his questions that this is a long-standing issue that indigenous communities, Inuit communities and legal aid lawyers have been pointing to for a very long time.

I am very aware of that, because throughout my childhood my mother was a legal aid lawyer in northern Alberta. I can still remember some of the horrific stories she told us about the abuse of her clients.

It is long past time for us to ensure that all indigenous people in Canada and all Inuit people in Canada do not fear the police, do not fear the RCMP, but see Canada's police as serving them and working for them, which is their job.

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Acting Chair (Mrs. Alexandra Mendès) Liberal Alexandra Mendes

Mr. Harris, you have about 10 seconds.

1:35 p.m.

NDP

Jack Harris NDP St. John's East, NL

Madam Chair, I don't know what kind of question I can ask in 10 seconds, but I can say that we've had 150 years of the RCMP imposing race-based laws on indigenous people, and something very, very significant has to be done to change that. I think we have to treat it as a crisis and try to find a crisis-based solution for this systemic racism.

1:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Acting Chair (Mrs. Alexandra Mendès) Liberal Alexandra Mendes

We are now going to pause to allow our technical experts to do the necessary changes. We are suspended for a few minutes.

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Acting Chair (Mrs. Alexandra Mendès) Liberal Alexandra Mendes

We will recognize the honourable member for Battle River—Crowfoot.

June 8th, 2020 / 1:40 p.m.

Conservative

Damien Kurek Conservative Battle River—Crowfoot, AB

Thank you very much, Madam Chair.

I have a simple question. Do the Liberals believe that access to information is an essential service in Canada?

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Acting Chair (Mrs. Alexandra Mendès) Liberal Alexandra Mendes

I'd like the member to repeat the question, please.

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

Damien Kurek Conservative Battle River—Crowfoot, AB

Sure. I would ask that my time also be restarted.

Again, I have a simple question. Do the Liberals believe that access to information is an essential service in Canada?

1:40 p.m.

Québec Québec

Liberal

Jean-Yves Duclos LiberalPresident of the Treasury Board

Madam Chair, I failed to hear the question the first time around.

Of course the answer is yes. Access to information is absolutely key in all normal circumstances, and absolutely essential in the emergency circumstances in which we are living currently.

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

Damien Kurek Conservative Battle River—Crowfoot, AB

Thank you, Madam Chair.

Actions speak much louder than words. In fact, we heard in committee last week that the infrastructure minister, Catherine McKenna, refused to reveal whether or not 20,000 projects even exist, and the Information Commissioner has launched an investigation into the government's processing of access to information requests, also known as ATIPs.

Why doesn't the government back up its words with action when it comes to ATIPs?

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Jean-Yves Duclos Liberal Québec, QC

Madam Chair, again I would like to assure all members of this House that access to information is absolutely key to the working of our institutions. It's also absolutely key for Canadians to understand the impact of this important investment we're making to help them go through the crisis.

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

Damien Kurek Conservative Battle River—Crowfoot, AB

Madam Chair, this is stunning hypocrisy. The Liberals claim to care about transparency, but, as in almost every aspect of the way they govern, their words simply do not represent reality, and no number of deliverology consultants seem to be able to fix that. It's always “do as I say, not as I do”, and that is nowhere more true than in the case of transparency and improving access to information processes.

Over the last five years, outcomes for transparency have not improved, and in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, they have gone from bad to worse. According to the government's own ATIP website, only 12 departments or agencies out of more than 250 that are subject to the Access to Information Act are currently accepting ATIPs.

The question is simple. Was Minister Duclos aware that about 95% of government agencies and departments are not accepting ATIPs during a time when they have nearly doubled government spending and shut down Parliament?

1:40 p.m.

Liberal

Jean-Yves Duclos Liberal Québec, QC

Madam Chair, I would first like to thank the public servants who are working extremely hard in the context of emergency circumstances that have big impacts on both their personal and their professional lives. All the public servants that I know of understand as well that their work is important, not only in terms of the emergency but also in terms of the transparency of their actions. I would like to congratulate them and thank them, and I would like to encourage them to keep doing the essential work that they do, including the work they do in providing essential information to Canadians.

1:40 p.m.

Conservative

Damien Kurek Conservative Battle River—Crowfoot, AB

Madam Chair, we thank the public servants. It's the Liberals who have a problem with accountability.

There are reports that ministerial staff have indicated that submitted ATIPs will simply not be followed up on. This is not only a stunning lack of transparency but also a contravention of the act. It's illegal and goes against a government bill, Bill C-58.

Has the minister issued a directive, or has the TBS issued direction to its department, regarding how essential it is to ensure that ATIP requests are fulfilled?

1:45 p.m.

Liberal

Jean-Yves Duclos Liberal Québec, QC

Thank you for the opportunity to also thank someone else, the Information Commissioner, who I've had the chance of working with and talking to in the last few weeks. We both agreed very quickly on the importance of public information and of making it easier for all Canadians, including members of Parliament, to have access to the important information they need in the current crisis.

I will keep working with all members of the House and other colleagues across the government to make sure this information is easily and freely accessible.

1:45 p.m.

Conservative

Damien Kurek Conservative Battle River—Crowfoot, AB

Again, the words simply do not represent the reality, even as to what the Access to Information Commissioner has said, so I encourage the minister to listen more carefully.

Is the minister aware that provinces don't seem to have the same issue when it comes to ATIPs that the federal government does?