Evidence of meeting #131 for Health in the 42nd Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament’s site, as are the minutes.) The winning word was witnesses.

A recording is available from Parliament.

On the agenda

MPs speaking

Also speaking

Abby Hoffman  Assistant Deputy Minister, Strategic Policy Branch, Department of Health
Valerie Gideon  Senior Assistant Deputy Minister, First Nations and Inuit Health Branch, Indigenous Services Canada
Tom Wong  Executive Director and Chief Medical Officer of Public Health, Indigenous Services Canada
Robert-Falcon Ouellette  Winnipeg Centre, Lib.
Bob Benzen  Calgary Heritage, CPC
Clerk of the Committee  Mr. Alexandre Jacques
Marlisa Tiedemann  Committee Researcher

5 p.m.

Liberal

Ramez Ayoub Liberal Thérèse-De Blainville, QC

Would you let me finish. You did put some words in my mouth.

5 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

You misinterpreted me, Mr. Ayoub.

5 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bill Casey

It's okay.

Mr. Davies, you have the floor.

5 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

I'm going to read the motion again. To give the benefit of the doubt to my colleagues, this could be a result of my not passing around the motion—which, by the way, I do have in writing. It might have been easier. Listen to the motion. It reads:

That, pursuant to Standing Order 108(2), the Committee invite representatives from Maurice Law Barristers and Solicitors, the DisAbled Women's Network of Canada, the Native Women's Association of Canada, Amnesty International, the BC First Nations Health Authority, and the Minister of Justice, to appear before the Committee at the earliest opportunity to provide evidence with respect to the forced sterilization of women in Canada.

It does not call for a study. It does not call for a report. It's no different from the motion that provided for these witnesses here. It's simply to hold another meeting with some more witnesses who could provide us with information.

What happened, then, is that as people started describing all of the difficulties of whether we should have a report and other witnesses and those sorts of things, we got off on a tangent. I was trying to be collegial to Ms. McLeod, recognizing that we could add some further witnesses to the ones I suggested, but the motion does not obligate us to do this immediately. It does not obligate us to have a report. It's not a study that we'd be undertaking; we'd just be hearing from some more witnesses.

While I have the floor, that's the most charitable interpretation of what I've heard. If I'm less charitable, I want to go on the record to note that I'm a little offended by the comments or any notion by Mr. Ayoub about this not being collegial, or of it being partisan or of it being done on a whim. I had the motion drafted in writing prior to the meeting; it was not done on a whim.

Number two, there's nothing uncollegial or partisan about this. It was based on testimony. When this issue came up, we had discussion and we put motions forward to hear from the minister. The Liberals shot that down; we can't hear from the minister. We discussed having a multi-committee panel, because this issue involves Status of Women, Indigenous Relations, and Health, as we recognize. That was shot down; the Liberals didn't want that. We proposed having a subcommittee of our Standing Committee on Health to look at this. That was shot down. Finally what we had was a briefing from ministerial officials who were hand-picked by the Liberals. These are the people here. This wasn't a decision of the committee. This was a decision by the Liberals to put these people in front of us.

Now we know from the testimony we heard today—and again, I have enormous respect for all of the people here; this is not a comment on them—that they just don't have the information we need. We're here looking at this to get a briefing, and so far I've heard Ms. Hoffman say that one could just “imagine” the situation that's there.

By the way, I received a message while we were talking. The lawyer from Maurice Law Barristers & Solicitors said she would be happy not to come, but knows dozens of women who said they would be happy to come if it were the only way to give voice to victims. I'd like to have some people come before this committee who can tell us what happened. I don't want to have to imagine a homeless person who has no.... No, I want to hear what went on.

I think it's a little disingenuous. I keep hearing that everybody wants to get to the bottom of it, but there's always a reason, from the Liberal side, for us not to get people before this committee who might actually know. If the Liberals on this committee really believe this is a serious issue that we should get to the bottom of, then let's have one more meeting, or two, and hear from some other witnesses who might be able to give us more information. That's all the motion is calling for.

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bill Casey

Mr. Lobb, you're up.

5:05 p.m.

NDP

Don Davies NDP Vancouver Kingsway, BC

By the way, I just want to say that we're not calling for the RCMP either, or the justice committee, which I think I heard Mr. McKinnon mention. With respect, I realize he didn't have the motion in front of him in writing. It was just the justice minister.

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bill Casey

Mr. Lobb.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Ben Lobb Conservative Huron—Bruce, ON

I'm prepared to have a vote. I like Robert quite a bit and admire him, and I think if we're going to have a vote, he should vote today because I'm pretty sure the whip's office is going to pull him off the committee after this meeting, so he may want to have the vote today while he's still on the health committee.

5:05 p.m.

A voice

I don't think the whip has much control there.

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Ben Lobb Conservative Huron—Bruce, ON

He might be back on the Library of Parliament committee after today's vote.

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bill Casey

All right. The motion is only in English, so we need unanimous consent if we're going to accept the motion only in English. Is that right?

5:05 p.m.

Conservative

Cathy McLeod Conservative Kamloops—Thompson—Cariboo, BC

No.

5:05 p.m.

The Clerk

No. If you want to pass it around.... If it's clear to everybody—

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bill Casey

Okay. If everybody's clear about it.... Is it clear, Robert? You asked for it in writing. Is it clear to you in English?

5:05 p.m.

Winnipeg Centre, Lib.

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bill Casey

You are? Okay. That settles that.

We have an amendment to the motion.

5:05 p.m.

Liberal

Ramez Ayoub Liberal Thérèse-De Blainville, QC

I want to make a few comments, Mr. Chair.

I want to choose my words carefully and I'll speak in French, even though the motion is only in English.

I've stated my support from the start, as long as the debate is orderly and sensible and the committee goes beyond the simple choice of two or three witnesses. Moreover, I never said that the study requires a report at this time. I'm fully aware that the study doesn't require a report. However, I said that the motion was introduced quickly. So much the better if you say that you prepared the motion and that you didn't submit it on the spur of the moment. That said, I'll make my first comment. If the motion had been prepared, it could have been translated into French.

I'll move on to my second comment. If the motion had been prepared and we had been able to discuss it, I could have been ready to submit suggestions for additional witnesses. We're being called upon, if I may say so, to vote on a well-intentioned but hurried motion.

I've always worked well with you, Mr. Davies. I don't see why we're at this point today. We're saying the same thing and we have very similar intentions. However, we're ultimately proposing different ways to achieve the same result.

Sometimes, we want to move faster, but we end up moving slower by going too fast. In the effort to move things forward, intentions are attributed to colleagues who have absolutely no desire to stand in your way. I'm as horrified as you are to have heard what was said and to not have obtained the answers that I would have wanted. Therefore, don't attribute intentions to me and don't put words in my mouth. I'm fully aware of what I said. We can check the preliminary transcripts.

I don't want to argue with you, because we get along well. I want us to work together to find a way to do better, because we can do much better. The important thing isn't us, here at the table, but the women who are currently waiting and being mutilated or tortured, as you were saying.

Unfortunately, we have only partial answers. I want to hear from the proper witnesses. There are more than three witnesses. Rest assured that we'll need more than three or four additional witnesses to really carry out work that does credit to the current Standing Committee on Health.

I'll stop here.

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bill Casey

Mr. Ouellette.

5:10 p.m.

Winnipeg Centre, Lib.

Robert-Falcon Ouellette

Thank you very much.

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bill Casey

As quickly as you can, Mr. Ouellette.

January 31st, 2019 / 5:10 p.m.

Winnipeg Centre, Lib.

Robert-Falcon Ouellette

Yes, of course, as quickly as I can.

I think the whip's office will be quite kind with me.

5:10 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh!

5:10 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bill Casey

The whip's office is used to him, so don't worry.

5:10 p.m.

Winnipeg Centre, Lib.

Robert-Falcon Ouellette

They're getting used to it.

Mr. Davies, why not actually do a study and call it a study, with a report and some recommendations? If we're going to hold information sessions and are planning to put out some information, I don't understand why we wouldn't put out recommendations as well. Let's do something that might make a bit of a difference in this whole situation.

The reason I'm interested in a study is that if we look at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, we see there haven't been a lot of charges to come from that. We had thousands of hours of testimony from thousands of witnesses, and much of it was public. Yet I haven't seen many charges come out of it. It's one of the sad things concerning how the justice system has allowed that to be swept under the rug. It reminds me of this. There are positions of power, which we have heard from testimony, and we know this in anthropology, about people's relationships and who has the power—the certificate, the degree—when people are vulnerable, as you mentioned, Mr. Davies.

I'm concerned. I really want to do this in a good way. To be honest, I'm not sure.... We're having an information session right now, a briefing, as per the agenda: “Pursuant to standing order 108(2), briefing on Briefing on the Forced Sterilization of Women in Canada”. So it's a briefing on briefing. I'm not interested in that.

I'm interested in putting out concrete recommendations saying that if we find, after hearing witnesses...to tell the executive branch of government, whether it's in the RCMP or the Justice Department, to go out and actively hold people to account for the serious violations of human rights that have occurred in Canada. I'm not sure if a briefing on a briefing would do that. I'm not sure if we're going to have recommendations after that.

Maybe the chair can inform me.

5:15 p.m.

Liberal

The Chair Liberal Bill Casey

It seems to me we're all saying the same thing—except that maybe we want to do more than what Mr. Davies said. That's what it sounds like. That's what everybody over here is saying, that they want to do more than what Mr. Davies has proposed. We've always been able to sort these things out.

Mr. Davies, is there some way we can put this together and come up with a study? This side is saying that they want a study. You're saying that you want some witnesses. This side over here is saying, let's have more witnesses.

Let's have another look at this whole thing. Nobody knew that your motion was coming. Maybe that caught us by surprise. Everybody seems to want to do what you want to do, only more. Isn't there some way we could turn your motion into something more profound?