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

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Chrystia Freeland Liberal University—Rosedale, ON

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair. I'd like to personally thank the member opposite for the very specific role that he plays in our country today on this issue. It is important. Actions are important. So is standing on the right side and I'm very proud that's what the Prime Minister did on Friday.

The member opposite points to questions we all must have today about policing, including the RCMP.

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Jagmeet Singh NDP Burnaby South, BC

People across the country—people across the world—are calling for the defunding of the police. They're saying that there has to be a better way to prioritize the spending of our limited resources. They're saying that instead of spending money on policing, in many cases we should be spending that money on mental health.

Will the government commit to shifting resources to mental health workers and mental health services over the police?

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Chrystia Freeland Liberal University—Rosedale, ON

The member opposite has asked some important questions about the RCMP and about policing in Canada. Let me be clear about a few things. There can be no tolerance for racism or bias of any kind within police forces in Canada. We absolutely are aware that systemic discrimination, systemic racism, is real in Canada and that unconscious bias—

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Rota

We'll now go back to Mr. Singh.

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Jagmeet Singh NDP Burnaby South, BC

D'Andre Campbell in Brampton, Regis Korchinski-Paquet in Toronto, Chantel Moore in Edmundston, were all black or indigenous. They had mental health concerns. Police responded and they were killed.

Clearly something is wrong. Will the government accept, and just admit right now, that we need to be spending more money on mental health workers instead of police, that mental health workers should be responding to requests for wellness checks, not the police?

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Chrystia Freeland Liberal University—Rosedale, ON

Mr. Chair, I absolutely agree with the member opposite that these are tragedies and I agree that we must act and do everything we can to ensure they are not repeated.

Acting includes anti-bias training in all of our police forces, including the RCMP. Acting includes, as the Prime Minister said, body cameras for police, and acting absolutely includes focusing even more on mental health. That has been a focus for our government and I agree so strongly with the member opposite that we must redouble our efforts. These deaths—

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Rota

Back to Mr. Singh. We have 45 seconds left.

12:40 p.m.

NDP

Jagmeet Singh NDP Burnaby South, BC

Thank you very much, Mr. Chair.

The Liberal government has spent and continues to spend nearly $10 million a day on the RCMP. That's more in a day than the Liberal government has spent in an entire year on mental health services and funding for the black community.

Will the government fix this massive imbalance and start backing up the symbolic gestures with real concrete action?

12:40 p.m.

Liberal

Chrystia Freeland Liberal University—Rosedale, ON

Mr. Chair, as the member opposite knows, mental health has been a focus of our government from the outset. It was something that we campaigned on in the election in the fall. As all Canadians have been suffering through coronavirus, we have redoubled our efforts there.

But I agree with the member opposite. We have to do more. We have to do better. We are committed to doing that, and I hope we can work with the member opposite, with the NDP—

12:40 p.m.

Conservative

Andrew Scheer Conservative Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Mr. Chair, the Deputy Prime Minister just invited the opposition to clearly state its position, so allow me to do that.

Conservatives are clearly and unequivocally opposed to racism in all its forms and support calls to eliminate it. We are also clear on calling out hypocrisy, the hypocrisy of a government led by someone who wore blackface so many times that he lost count; a Prime Minister who fired the first indigenous Canadian to hold the position of Minister of Justice because she refused to go along with his interference in a criminal court case; a public servant who was disciplined because they dared to speak out against the government's handling of the blackface controversy; and, of course, the Minister of Public Safety, the chief of police who introduced card-checking in the city of Toronto.

We will absolutely and unequivocally call out the hypocrisy of this government when it comes to these kinds of issues. So, one more time, I will point out that Canadians have been told that they have to endure great hardship watching loved ones die alone, missing graduations and watching their life's work and small businesses evaporate. Is the government now telling Canadians that they can pick and choose which health advice they follow?

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Chrystia Freeland Liberal University—Rosedale, ON

Mr. Chair, let me start by saying that I welcome the clear and unequivocal statement against anti-black racism by the leader of the official opposition.

I think we in Canada need to understand that we are at a watershed moment for our country and the world. We are at a moment when we all have to take a stand. We have to take a stand either against racism, against anti-black racism...we have to say something that is painful for many of us to admit—

12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Andrew Scheer Conservative Regina—Qu'Appelle, SK

Yeah, you guys. Your boss—

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

Chrystia Freeland Liberal University—Rosedale, ON

—which is that systemic discrimination exists in our country.

I do have to say to the member opposite and to members of all parties here, this is such a monumental challenge. It is a challenge that calls on us to transform our society and our country, and I think we need to work together on that challenge and not fall victim, fall prey, not minimize it and belittle it with partisan bickering.

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Rota

Before we go to the next person, we're just going to take a short pause to allow our technicians, our technical backup, to rotate.

I noticed a few people shouting “time”. I do want to remind them that I do have an Apple phone here that I keep time on, and I think it's very accurate. I appreciate the help.

As a disclosure, I do not have any shares in Apple.

12:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

12:45 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Rota

In case any of you are wondering about what's happening and what everyone sees in the bird's nest, the crow's nest, up there, there's a quick changeover, but there's also a changeover where all the background stuff gets done, and there is some sanitization that takes place.

It is very important to give them the time they need to do the work in order to protect the health of our employees.

Now we will go to Mr. Paul-Hus.

You have the floor for two and a half minutes.

June 8th, 2020 / 12:45 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Paul-Hus Conservative Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Chair, last Friday the Prime Minister attended a huge gathering of 7,000 people on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. The Prime Minister did not observe physical distancing rules, none of the rules that Canadians are being asked to observe to stop the spread of COVID-19.

Did the Prime Minister receive approval from Canada’s Chief Public Health Officer, Theresa Tam, to attend the gathering?

12:45 p.m.

Waterloo Ontario

Liberal

Bardish Chagger LiberalMinister of Diversity and Inclusion and Youth

Mr. Chair, our government has been clear that we do not condone racism or discrimination in our country. We will speak out against anti-black racism, anti-indigenous racism and anti-Asian racism. Racism and discrimination exist in our country. It's important that we stand in solidarity, and that's exactly what our government is doing.

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Paul-Hus Conservative Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

Mr. Chair, I agree with the minister. The government is trying to play games with us.

One thing is clear right now: we are in the middle of a COVID-19 pandemic and the government has spent hundreds of billions of dollars trying to deal with it. Entrepreneurs from all over Quebec and Canada are going to go bankrupt because of COVID-19, including some of my friends.

They are now trying to deflect the debate, but we are talking about the COVID-19 pandemic, and the Prime Minister showed up at a demonstration and did not follow physical distancing guidelines, when he has been standing in front of Rideau Cottage for 70 days trying to make Canadians believe he is protecting himself.

Can you tell us whether the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada, Theresa Tam, gave him permission to attend the demonstration? It is a simple question.

12:50 p.m.

Thunder Bay—Superior North Ontario

Liberal

Patty Hajdu LiberalMinister of Health

Mr. Chair, it's very important for all people who have exercised their democratic right to protest the extreme experience of racism that many Canadians, and in fact, international citizens, have faced, to remember that when they're doing so they can do so safely. As the member opposite knows, we've provided advice through the chief public health officer that if people are taking part in protests, they do so while respecting physical distancing when possible, while wearing a mask to protect others, and ensuring that they use signs and not shouting so that we can reduce the amount of droplets that spread from person to person.

Finally—

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Rota

Mr. Paul-Hus, you have 20 seconds left.

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Pierre Paul-Hus Conservative Charlesbourg—Haute-Saint-Charles, QC

In conclusion, if I understood correctly what the Minister of Health has just told us, the Quebec City Summer Festival can go ahead if people wear masks and keep quiet at the shows. Did I understand correctly? If 7,000 people can demonstrate while keeping quiet, then live shows in Quebec can resume.

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

Patty Hajdu Liberal Thunder Bay—Superior North, ON

Mr. Chair, it's clear that in fact Canada is joining citizens around the world in fighting the pandemic of racism, which as you know also equally has terrible effects on people's health. As I've said—

12:50 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Anthony Rota

We'll now continue with a question from Ms. Bergen.

12:50 p.m.

Conservative

Candice Bergen Conservative Portage—Lisgar, MB

Thank you very much, Chair.

On May 25, the Prime Minister, together with the help of the NDP, shut down Parliament, replaced it with this committee. Next week, parliamentarians are going to be asked to approve $87 billion worth of spending with only four hours' worth of debate and oversight. That's $87 billion of spending.

Now, it's clear from the Prime Minister's actions that he believes it's okay to gather in a public setting if the cause is worthy. I believe, and I think most Canadians would believe, that Parliament is a worthy setting.

Why won't this government recall Parliament? We can wear masks, we can be responsible, so that we can provide proper oversight, so committees can reconvene and we can do the really important work of democracy in overseeing this spending.