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House of Commons Hansard #114 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was health.

Topics

CommunicationsStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Charles Hubbard Liberal Miramichi, NB

Mr. Speaker, the province of New Brunswick and my riding of Miramichi take great pride in our leading role in the field of computer technology and communications.

The premier of New Brunswick, Frank McKenna, together with the New Brunswick Telephone Company and Fundy Cable have co-ordinated their efforts to provide services and opportunities for the people of our province. The New Brunswick Community College, Miramichi, has received national recognition for its leadership in developing programs in multimedia technology, imaging, animation and virtual reality.

There is no secret to New Brunswick's success in attracting leading edge companies and call centres. NB Tel has digital equipment and some of the best fibre optics communications systems in the world. Our province has the economic environment to pursue and attract industries in the 21st century. I would like to inform the House that New Brunswick and the Miramichi are opened for business.

Gun ControlStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.

Liberal

Warren Allmand Liberal Notre-Dame-De-Grâce, QC

Mr. Speaker, tomorrow is the national day of remembrance and action on violence against women. It is also the seventh anniversary of the massacre of 14 women at the École Polytechnique in Montreal. On that occasion, Marc Lepine, a deranged young man without a criminal record, not a professional criminal, was able to obtain a semi-automatic rifle and kill these innocent women. He was able to do this because there were gaps, weaknesses in our gun laws.

Parliament has now closed these gaps and tightened the law, but the provinces of Alberta, Ontario, Manitoba and Saskatchewan are contesting this law in court, supported by the Conservative and Reform parties.

This law may not be perfect, but whenever access to guns is limited, the rate of crime with guns is reduced. The charge that guns do not kill, people kill, is ludicrous. It is much easier and effective to kill with a gun.

With more restrictions on guns there would be fewer homicides. Canadians should send a message to their provincial governments on this issue.

Violence Against WomenStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Liberal

Gurbax Malhi Liberal Bramalea—Gore—Malton, ON

Mr. Speaker, on December 6, 1989, 14 young women were killed in Montreal. Today I wish to reflect on the struggles of all women affected by violence.

December 6 is Canada's national day of remembrance and action on violence against women. Violence against women has serious economic, health and social costs attached to it for individuals, families and society.

The Government of Canada is committed to working to eliminate violence against women. Everyone in society must become more involved, be it in their homes or communities in the fight against women's inequality. Violence against women is clearly a direct result of women's inequality in society.

Status Of WomenStatements By Members

December 5th, 1996 / 2:10 p.m.

Reform

Sharon Hayes Reform Port Moody—Coquitlam, BC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday two members from the other side attempted to justify the government's status of women portfolio.

The member for Halifax mentioned the department's commitment to women's health. But at the recent Canada-U.S. health forum, Canadian breast cancer advocates found themselves unaware of the conference's objectives and were shocked to discover their American counterparts had not even been invited.

The member for Halifax also spoke of the role status of women played at the UN Conference on Women in Beijing. What she did not mention was Canada's support for the marginalization of many Canadian women in order to advance its narrow agenda.

The official Canadian facilitating committee report classified the Vatican, pro-life groups and REAL Woman as fundamentalist groups and went on to say that: "Constant criticism of fundamentalist discourses is a collective responsibility because they endanger the rights of women all over the world".

I would like to know if the Secretary of State for the Status of Women, while standing on Canadian soil in front of Canadian citizens, including her own constituents, will defend this statement.

NatashquanStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Bloc

Bernard St-Laurent Bloc Manicouagan, QC

Mr. Speaker, next Saturday, December 7, an extraordinary event will take place in my constituency, when the highway between Havre-Saint-Pierre and Natashquan will be officially opened. After several years of hard work by the offices of both politicians and local administrators, the communities of Baie-Johan-Beetz, Aquanish, Pointe-Parent and Natashquan will finally be linked to the rest of the North American road system.

The poet, songwriter and singer Gilles Vigneault, who made this small area of our country famous, will honour us with his presence.

Natashquan is now a tourist destination accessible to everyone. With its breathtaking scenery and the warm hospitality of its residents, the region is now ready to share its beauty and its treasures with the rest of the world.

Everyone is welcome.

Ecole PolytechniqueStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Liberal

Eleni Bakopanos Liberal Saint-Denis, QC

Mr. Speaker, December 6 always reminds us of the 14 young women who were robbed of their future and brutally killed at the Ecole Polytechnique on this day seven years ago.

This tragic incident will serve as a constant reminder of the violence that is inflicted on women. In order to ensure safe homes and safe streets for all Canadians, and in particular women, the government has passed important legislation on issues like gun control, high risk offenders and other amendments to the Criminal Code.

But we need to do more if we are to honour their memory and eradicate violence against women.

May their deaths not have been in vain. Let us get to the roots of the problem of violence against women, first by increasing our social education efforts and by constantly promoting fundamental values, like respect and tolerance.

I encourage all my colleagues in this House to light a candle tomorrow in memory of the young victims of the massacre at the Ecole Polytechnique.

Violence Against WomenStatements By Members

2:15 p.m.

Liberal

Dianne Brushett Liberal Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to pay tribute to those 14 young women who died tragically seven years ago at École Polytechnique in Montreal.

This day reminds us that we must continue to take action to eliminate violence against women in all its forms in all of society.

Statistics show that 51 per cent of Canadian women have experienced at least one incident of physical or sexual violence since the age of 16. We must remember that all violence is an assault on the sanctity of human life. Violence against women not only violates the body, it robs women of their dignity and scars their souls.

That is why the government has worked extremely hard in the past three years to introduce measures that address not only violence against women but violence against all persons.

Still, there is more work to do and we must all work together, in government, in communities and in homes across this country to ensure that women, men and children are truly free from the threat and fear of violence in Canadian society.

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, yesterday we realized that the Minister of Human Resources Development excelled in French composition, seemed to revel in discussing the philosophy of social reforms but had trouble answering specific questions. He seemed to have a poor grasp of his subject. Today, since people are interested in philosophy but also in their immediate future, I want to ask him a very simple question.

There are people who had weeks of insurable employment in 1996. I would like to ask him how these weeks of insurable employment, which made them eligible for benefits, will be converted into hours so they can qualify for benefits as of January 5? On what basis will these weeks be converted? This is a very simple question. I expect an answer, and easy on the philosophy.

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Papineau—Saint-Michel Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew LiberalMinister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, the Canadian public is also interested in the quality of a reform, in the spirit behind it, in modernizing a system that has become obsolete. I am always very grateful to the Bloc for giving me a chance to talk about this excellent employment insurance system.

To answer the hon. member's question, this was in the legislation from the very beginning. In the case of any person who worked a certain number of weeks during the last 26 weeks of 1996, each week will be deemed to have been a 35-hour week.

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

That took some doing. Mr. Speaker, I imagine the minister consulted one of his officials who has a good head on his shoulders, and there are always a few. However, I have a problem for him, since he is in an answering mood today.

A person who, for instance, worked eighteen 40-hour weeks qualifies for benefits, not only under the former legislation, but also under the legislation that will come into effect. So if a week is supposed to be worth 35 hours, does this mean that under the new standards, this person will not be able to receive benefits? I would appreciate an answer.

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Papineau—Saint-Michel Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew LiberalMinister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, the reform will encourage this person to go on working a little longer in order to have the number of hours required. In the case of a new entry, provided the number of hours totals 420, that person will be covered or, in the case of re-entry, eighteen 35-hour weeks will bring him to the 420-hour threshold.

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Bloc

Gilles Duceppe Bloc Laurier—Sainte-Marie, QC

Things are getting better all the time, Mr. Speaker. I think we have got the minister into the habit of consulting his officials. Obviously he had not done so yesterday. Maybe on our third try, we will get a third answer.

Yesterday the minister referred to a father in East Montreal who had three jobs, in each of which he worked a 14-hour week, and who will now be covered under the new standards.

However, I have the following question. Since according to one of the standards under the new system, someone who quits his job loses all his privileges, will this father from East Montreal, if he quits one of his jobs, meaning he would no longer work 42 hours but 28, qualify for unemployment insurance, and I will let the minister consult his parliamentary secretary who seems to have all the answers.

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Papineau—Saint-Michel Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew LiberalMinister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, this employment insurance reform makes it far more attractive to go back to work, compared with the old system which the opposition is so keen on preserving, an opposition that voted against coverage for part time workers, an opposition that voted against modernizing a system to adjust it to the modern labour market. I think that is entirely unacceptable.

Under the new system, the same presumptions will apply, that is, someone who quits his job for no valid reason is not insured, but if someone quits his job for a valid reason, a decision is made on a case by case basis. We can then determine whether he qualifies for benefits.

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Human Resources Development.

I would start off by saying that our laughter is not because there is anything funny. For more than three weeks now we have been asking questions of the minister and he has been responding like someone who was not familiar with the issues-and, indeed, he is not. We are delighted to have played a part, on behalf of all Canadians and Quebecers, in getting him to consult others.

Can we be sure, then, that the minister will be in agreement with the recommendations of the employment insurance commission,

which, contrary to what he says, have not been adopted, and are on the agenda of the employment insurance commission?

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Papineau—Saint-Michel Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew LiberalMinister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, this opposition provides me with one surprise after another. These things are part of the reform as soon as they are in the act, so I cannot understand why suddenly, three weeks later, they wake up and notice a subject that has been very widely covered, as they well know.

On this matter, I can assure you that the minister is totally in agreement with this interpretation, and we shall be on the workers' side. Each of the weeks worked in the last 26 weeks of the year 1996 will be deemed to have been 35 hours in length. We are giving them the benefit of the doubt, taking the workers' side.

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Bloc

Francine Lalonde Bloc Mercier, QC

Mr. Speaker, here we are with one surprise after another for, in reality, everyone in the employment centres is waiting for the decision to be made. What was set out in the act was for there to be transitional arrangements, and we have been calling for these for weeks, so there is no reason to make fun of us.

My question to the minister is this: In these transitional measures, will someone who has worked more than 35 hours, say 40 hours, in 1996 be credited for 40 hours weekly, or for a maximum of 35?

Employment InsuranceOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Papineau—Saint-Michel Québec

Liberal

Pierre Pettigrew LiberalMinister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, the weeks worked in 1996 will be deemed to have been 35-hour weeks. Starting January 5, 1997, we start with the new system, which is in the workers' best interests. It will cover a potential 500,000 additional workers not covered at present. The hours-based system starts on January 5, 1997, and this is a system the opposition voted against.

Krever InquiryOral Question Period

2:20 p.m.

Reform

Deborah Grey Reform Beaver River, AB

Mr. Speaker, the Prime Minister claimed yesterday in question period that the laws of the land prevent him from releasing documents to Justice Krever. That is simply not the case. The office of the information commissioner says that the Canada Evidence Act does not stand in the Prime Minister's way.

Michael Pitfield, a former clerk of the privy council, says that the cabinet can release whatever it wants to release.

Perhaps I will ask the Minister of Health. Why is the Prime Minister choosing not to release these 30 documents that Justice Krever is asking for?

Krever InquiryOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Windsor West Ontario

Liberal

Herb Gray LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Solicitor General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, it is my understanding that there is a constitutional convention that a current government does not have access to nor does it release the cabinet confidences of a previous government. This is a well established practice and therefore a convention in the Canadian system of parliamentary government. It is also well established in other countries with similar systems of parliamentary government.

In that sense what the Prime Minister is talking about is part of our law. This convention is specifically backed up by section 39 of the Canada Evidence Act. Therefore what the Prime Minister said is quite consistent with our system of parliamentary government.

Krever InquiryOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Reform

Deborah Grey Reform Beaver River, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is fine for the minister to hide behind that, but I think the evidence shows frankly that this is discretionary in that the Prime Minister can do that if he chooses to do.

This looks weak. This looks like flimsy excuses. It looks like nothing more than a cover-up. There are people dying because of this and we need to get to the bottom of it. The only thing that stands in the way of Krever's quest for truth is the Prime Minister and the Prime Minister alone. He has the power to release the documents. He has the power to explain why legislation was shelved under the leadership of Mr. Turner and Mr. Mulroney in 1984.

Again, what is this Prime Minister trying to hide? Why will he not simply do the right thing and the honourable thing and let these documents be released to Justice Krever so he can do his work and get to the bottom of this?

Krever InquiryOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Windsor West Ontario

Liberal

Herb Gray LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Solicitor General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I categorically reject the unwarranted assertion that the Prime Minister is hiding something that he should be releasing. I want to further say, and I can be corrected if I am wrong, that the Deputy Prime Minister said she had been informed that none of the documents sought by Mr. Justice Krever were produced during the government of the Right Hon. John Turner.

The Prime Minister is in fact doing the right thing. He is following and acceding to the constitutional convention which is part of our parliamentary government that a current government does not have access to the confidences of a previous government nor does it release such confidences.

The hon. member, as in so many other instances where she has been wrong, is wrong on this one.

Krever InquiryOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Reform

Deborah Grey Reform Beaver River, AB

Mr. Speaker, it is easy for the minister to say that he categorically rejects my argument here, but frankly there are thousands of people in this country who have been infected with hepatitis C or have died from

AIDS who categorically reject this kind of nonsense from this government.

Justice Krever and the victims of tainted blood do not have time for the Prime Minister and this minister to keep waffling on this issue. Michael Pitfield, a former clerk of the privy council, said: "The government that wants to is the government that can".

For some unknown reason, the Prime Minister and his government are lacking the political will to help these 15,000 victims discover why the blood supply and the federal government have failed them for years and years.

I ask the minister once again, let us not play games here. This is far larger than a political or a partisan issue. Will the government release the documents to Justice Krever so that this full inquiry is something more than a sham? Let us get to the bottom of it. Release the documents.

Krever InquiryOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Windsor West Ontario

Liberal

Herb Gray LiberalLeader of the Government in the House of Commons and Solicitor General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, I am advised that the only exception to the convention I have mentioned is where specific criminal charges have actually been laid against a minister or a former minister.

I want to further say that it is my understanding that Mr. Justice Krever has other means to get at the information by summoning before him previous ministers.

Krever InquiryOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Reform

Deborah Grey Reform Beaver River, AB

They refuse to go.

Krever InquiryOral Question Period

2:25 p.m.

Liberal

Herb Gray Liberal Windsor West, ON

The hon. member says previous ministers refuse to go. I am advised that Mr. Justice Krever has the power of subpoena and if he wishes to use it then he is in a position to question former ministers. The only thing wrong here is my hon. friend's attempt to exploit this tragic issue in a way which is not founded on convention or the facts.