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

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Chrystia Freeland Liberal University—Rosedale, ON

Let me be clear about something the Leader of the Opposition said in his previous question. I strongly support the action that our Prime Minister took on Friday in joining the anti-black racism protest. The fact that our Prime Minister was there sent an essential message to Canadians and the world. He was also wearing a mask, which is very important.

In my own comments last week—

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Rota

We'll go back to Mr. Scheer.

12:25 p.m.

Conservative

Andrew Scheer Conservative Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

It was sending a message, Mr. Chair. It was sending a double-standard message. The government has been telling small business owners that they have to watch their life savings disappear. It has been telling Canadians that they cannot visit their loved ones in hospital and have to say goodbye over Skype to relatives who are dying.

Are all of those precautions and public health advice now ended? In other words, is it okay for people to start gathering in large public gatherings, patronizing restaurants and visiting relatives?

12:25 p.m.

Liberal

Chrystia Freeland Liberal University—Rosedale, ON

Mr. Chair, I think it is essential for us to honour the right of Canadians and, indeed, of people around the world to make their political views known by peacefully protesting. That is an essential element of democracy and of people fighting for equality.

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

Andrew Scheer Conservative Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

No one is denying that Canadians have the right to protest, but what is at question is Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on the one hand telling Canadians that they have to follow public health advice and on the other hand attending a large public gathering.

Is the Deputy Prime Minister now saying that Canadians should pick and choose when they listen to public health advice?

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Chrystia Freeland Liberal University—Rosedale, ON

Mr. Chair, in my comments last week and in the comments from our chief public health officer last week, clear advice was offered to Canadians who wanted to exercise their right to peaceful protest. The advice was to wear masks. The advice was to bring hand sanitizer. The advice was to be careful. That is very important, so is the—

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Rota

We'll go back to Mr. Scheer.

Mr. Scheer.

12:30 p.m.

Conservative

Andrew Scheer Conservative Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Chair, there have also been very clear messages to the public public regarding advice.

I think it’s extremely important that Canadians continue to behave as we have largely in social distancing and staying home, in keeping ourselves, our loved ones, our families, our extended families, our seniors, our health care workers, and our essential workers safe from rapid spread of COVID-19.

Do you know who said that? Justin Trudeau said that, and yet on the weekend he attended a large public gathering, flying in the face of his own advice.

Also on the weekend, a local business here in Ottawa received an $880 ticket for providing takeout food to customers who then were seated on a patio just near, blocks away, from where thousands of people were gathering in close quarters with each other.

Does the government think that the ticket to that business was fair?

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Chrystia Freeland Liberal University—Rosedale, ON

Mr. Chair, I would like to be extremely clear about our government's position, and I would like to invite the official opposition to be equally clear about its position.

Now is a time in the world when all of us have to state our views. All of us have to be clear on whether we stand against anti-black racism or not. To be silent is to be complicit.

In attending that protest, in being visible for Canadians and the world, the Prime Minister sent an essential message to everyone in our country.

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Rota

Before we go on to the next question, I just want to point out that there's a five-minute period to ask questions, so keep your questions within that five-minute period.

One thing we talked about the last time was about the last question, cutting the question off when I see that half of the time has been consumed before the end. I'm afraid I'm going to have to go to that, because it seems that sometimes some members ask their question in a lot longer time than what is allotted. Hopefully we won't have to enforce it, and it'll happen very well.

The other thing that was brought up was normally, if there are only 15 seconds left, we won't go to another question because there is not enough time.

I just wanted to clarify how things work so that everyone respects the parameters set by the House.

I now give the floor to Ms. Normandin.

12:30 p.m.

Bloc

Christine Normandin Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

At the beginning of April, the Bloc Québécois more or less predicted the situation. Unfortunately, and we take no pleasure in saying this, we predicted what is happening now.

While the Bloc Québécois was advocating prevention and a sense of accountability, the government shunned its responsibility to protect seasonal migrant workers by putting the burden of protection on the backs of farmers. It has also abandoned the farmers by telling them to deal with their problems themselves.

Unfortunately, today, we are seeing the consequences. A damning report has revealed racism, overwork, wage theft and inadequate housing conditions due to the quarantine requirements.

Can the Minister of Agriculture look both seasonal workers and farmers in the eye today and tell them that she has done an impeccable job handling the situation?

12:30 p.m.

Liberal

Chrystia Freeland Liberal University—Rosedale, ON

I would like to thank my colleague for her very important question.

I think this crisis has highlighted for all Canadians and all Quebecers the importance of the people doing essential work in our country. That absolutely includes seasonal farm workers.

I absolutely agree that we need to do better to protect them and ensure healthy and clean working conditions. This is obviously the obligation of employers, but it is also the obligation of all Canadians.

I want to thank the seasonal farm workers for their important and hard work.

12:35 p.m.

Bloc

Christine Normandin Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

The work of seasonal workers and farmers is actually so important that they should not have been responsible for implementing quarantine and monitoring measures.

A private group, the Migrant Workers Alliance for Change, is currently telling us that some workers are in absolutely deplorable situations.

Why isn't the government giving us a status report rather than a private organization?

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Chrystia Freeland Liberal University—Rosedale, ON

I have a few answers for that. First, organizations and civil society have a role to play in raising key issues. It is an essential part of our democracy. I also want to thank those who work in civil society.

When it comes to seasonal farm workers, our government is very aware of the importance of the issue. We are working in close cooperation with the provinces and public health authorities across the country—

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Rota

Ms. Normandin has the floor.

12:35 p.m.

Bloc

Christine Normandin Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

Unfortunately, the government's close cooperation has obviously been limited to sending $1,500 to farmers, who have to fill out a phenomenal amount of paperwork to qualify.

Other than that, the government has done absolutely nothing to ensure compliance with the health regulations among seasonal workers and farmers.

Can the government tell me how many inspectors were sent out in the field to perform proper checks?

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Chrystia Freeland Liberal University—Rosedale, ON

I must say there are some inconsistencies in the member's question. On the one hand, she says that the poor employers have too much paperwork, and on the other, she says that we need more inspectors to make sure that everything is fine with seasonal workers.

I share her view that it is very—

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Rota

Ms. Normandin, you have 36 seconds left.

12:35 p.m.

Bloc

Christine Normandin Bloc Saint-Jean, QC

I maintain that the government has completely abandoned its role in protecting seasonal workers and supporting farmers. It was not their responsibility to put those procedures in place.

The government did nothing. It did not issue directives and it did not do any checks after the fact.

Once again, can the government say to both seasonal and agricultural workers that it has managed the crisis responsibly?

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Chrystia Freeland Liberal University—Rosedale, ON

Absolutely. This is a very important issue for us. We are working hard to ensure that the working conditions are healthy and clean. We are working with the workers themselves, with the provinces, with—

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Rota

I must give the floor to Mr. Singh.

June 8th, 2020 / 12:35 p.m.

NDP

Jagmeet Singh NDP Burnaby South, BC

Thank you, Mr. Chair.

I often say that the time for talk is over, and the time for symbolic gestures is also over, especially when the Prime Minister has the power to take meaningful action.

What meaningful action is the Prime Minister going to take to fight systemic racism against black people?

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

Chrystia Freeland Liberal University—Rosedale, ON

Mr. Chair, I thank the hon. member for his important question.

In response to the questions we have heard today in the House, I must say that symbols are also very important. Symbols are very important to our Prime Minister—

12:35 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Rota

Mr. Singh, you have the floor.

12:35 p.m.

NDP

Jagmeet Singh NDP Burnaby South, BC

It's absolutely not enough for the Prime Minister to take a knee. He needs to take a stand. The Prime Minister has the power to actually change things for the better. Now, will the Prime Minister commit to concrete changes, like for example, with the RCMP, which is fully under federal jurisdiction? Will the Prime Minister commit to ensuring there's legislation that ends racial profiling by the RCMP?