House of Commons Hansard #36 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was family.


Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.


Ian McClelland Reform Edmonton Southwest, AB

Madam Speaker, I appreciate the opportunity to expand on some of the difficult aspects of the approach I brought to this.

I want to make it clear that I am absolutely, totally and completely against the notion of discrimination to anyone. Anybody who knows me or my family knows this to be true. This is not something that just happened. It is the way I have lived my life. It is the way our family is and has always been.

It is not okay to discriminate, it is not right, but both sides of an issue must be given the opportunity to present their cases without being considered something less than human.

It is not wrong to question. It is not wrong to debate. It is not wrong to oppose even difficult legislation such as the situation in which I find myself.

The hon. member from Rosedale said I am not insulted by his use of the word sophistry, and how can I be on both sides of the issue at the same time. The Liberals opposite do it all the time. I have had a great teacher. This is not that simple a question.

I would get rid of the list in its entirety and make it the value that we do not discriminate, not against a list.

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

1:40 p.m.


Georgette Sheridan Liberal Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Madam Speaker, I will be sharing my time with the hon. member for Nunatsiaq.

It is with some impatience that I rise today to speak in support of Bill C-33. I say impatience because the policy embodied in this legislation has long been supported by the Liberal Party of Canada.

Some 20 years ago the Liberal Party of Canada agreed that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation should be prohibited. The Liberal Party passed a resolution in 1978 that urged a revised Canadian Constitution to guarantee fundamental human

rights in order to prohibit discrimination by virtue of, among other things, sexual orientation.

In 1985, just over 10 years ago, the Liberal Party participated in an all-party House of Commons committee that unanimously endorsed the resolution that this amendment should be made. More recently, at the 1994 biennial convention of the Liberal Party a resolution supporting this amendment was passed.

The amendment was promised during the federal election campaign. I campaigned on this promise. The Prime Minister has put his commitment behind this both during the campaign and in putting forward this legislation through the justice minister.

Speaking of the justice minister, he has repeatedly promised in the House that this commitment would be honoured. The Star Phoenix , the home newspaper in Saskatoon, wrote an editorial on March 26 with the caption that this protection was long overdue.

It also urged politicians to take the risk of doing the right thing even if it might not be the most politically expedient thing.

If everyone agrees that this is long overdue what has been the hold up? Why did this amendment not pass years ago? It is my belief that the biggest obstacle to this amendment is lack of information. Misinformation is sometimes deliberately put and it can be a complicated issue in terms of legislation and legalities.

Let me take this opportunity to set the record straight. Let us look at exactly what Bill C-33 does and does not do. This section applies to federal legislation. It applies to employment in and the provisions of goods and services delivered by the federal government and federally regulated businesses such as banks and airlines. These organizations employ approximately 10 per cent or 11 per cent of the workforce. Most employers such as schools, small businesses, religious and cultural organizations are regulated provincially and will not be affected by this proposal.

This proposal is not particularly earth shattering either. The amendment to the Canadian Human Rights Act merely brings the federal legislation into line with most corresponding provincial and territorial laws, with court decisions that have provided gays and lesbians with the same protection from discrimination under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms as other Canadians, and with the unanimous recommendations of the 1985 all-party parliamentary subcommittee report.

Eight provinces and territories, including my home province of Saskatchewan, have already amended their human rights legislation to include sexual orientation.

Why is the amendment needed? This is a question we constantly hear from the members of the Reform Party. Why do we need this protection for this group in society? As it stands right now there are two ways individuals can be protected from discrimination in this country. The first is under the Canadian Human Rights Act to the extent that it applies to the individual in question. The second is under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The difficulty is that when there is a gap in either of those pieces of legislation the Canadian who is a victim of discrimination must resort to the judicial system. We all know that resorting to the judicial system can be both expensive and risky.

I cite as an example two recent court decisions on the matter of sexual orientation. First, the Ontario Court of Appeal has suggested that sexual orientation ought to be read into the legislation when it is not present. Second, the Alberta Court of Appeal stated that is indeed not the case. The only way to resolve that discrepancy is through the Supreme Court of Canada which may or may not hear the case.

A more simple approach would be to codify this protection in federal legislation, which is what this bill is here to do today.

No one in this country should suffer discrimination because of their sexual orientation. This is a matter of fairness and fundamental justice. It is not up to us to judge people's homosexuality or heterosexuality, but we must protect all Canadians from discrimination in our society.

Both the courts and the people of Canada have recognized that gays and lesbians are a group at risk. They have been disadvantaged historically, stereotyped, they have suffered considerable prejudice and discrimination in our society. No one should be considered any less than a full member of society because of their homosexuality.

As I said earlier, the greatest impediment to passing this legislation is ignorance of the facts. The controversy surrounding this issue particularly in the media, which is fuelled by the party opposite, has resulted in many of my constituents being confused. They have written to me with questions about what this legislation will do. We cannot be disrespectful of the emotional side of this issue or of the deeply held feelings of many Canadians, including some within my own caucus.

However, my belief as a mother and as a teacher has always been that the best antidote to misinformation is information. Let us have a look at the bill to see what it will do. In framing my responses I will refer questions in a generic form that I have received from my constituents.

The question most often asked is related to the special benefit issue. This question is fueled by the Reform Party, that somehow Bill C-33 is to give special benefits to this group in our society.

The proof is in the pudding. Sexual orientation has been consi-dered prohibited grounds of discrimination under provincial law since 1977.

No one could credibly argue that the provincial legislation has conferred special rights on any other groups protected by that legislation. Although each of the characteristics is now expressly covered by the existing statute, it is obvious that no special rights are conferred. It will be no different for sexual orientation. The amendment will prohibit discrimination in areas of federal jurisdiction, including employment and access to goods and services.

Another type of question I have often received from constituents has to do with whether the amendment will lead to benefits for same sex partners. That is unlikely to be the case. In fact, it will not be the case given the experience we have had with a similar provision in provincial legislation.

Another question is will the legislation not lead to adoption by same sex couples. The answer is no. Matters of adoption are primarily under provincial jurisdiction, not federal. The amendment does not in any way deal with matters covered in Bill C-167 proposed by the Ontario government in 1994.

The amendment deals with discrimination in employment, accommodation and provision of services and nothing else. It does not condone or condemn homosexuality or heterosexuality.

Section 2 of Bill C-33 simply adds to the existing legislation sexual orientation as a grounds of prohibited discrimination. I highlight that because a question related to the same sex adoption question concerns the impact this legislation will have on the family.

There is a belief that protecting gays and lesbians from discrimination will bring about the end of the family as we know it. I am offended by the implication that somehow gays and lesbians are not part of the Canadian family. Let us not forget the human side of this issue. Gays and lesbians are not aliens from outer space. They are our brothers, sisters, grandchildren, sons and daughters.

Will Bill C-33 lead to the destruction of the family? No, it will not. The proof lies partly in the application of existing provincial laws, but also in the preamble to Bill C-33. The second part of the preamble states:

And whereas the government recognizes and affirms the importance of family as the foundation of Canadian society and that nothing in this act alters its fundamental role in society;

Another question of great concern to many of my constituents is what impact this legislation might have on churches and religious organizations in terms of their teachings and with regard to the hiring and firing of their staff. There is nothing in the Canadian Human Rights Act amendment that would affect that.

In relation to the matter of the churches, the amendment has been endorsed by the United Church of Canada, the Anglican Church, B'nai Brith, the Canadian Jewish Congress and the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, which is of special interest to some people in my constituency. The Canadian bishops are in step with the opinions of their church community and Canadians in general. The polls have shown that most Canadians support the amendment.

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

1:50 p.m.


Myron Thompson Reform Wild Rose, AB

Mr. Speaker, I moved here some 30 years ago from the United States. I have witnessed some terrible cases of intolerance and discrimination south of the border. When we moved to Canada one of the first things my wife and I noticed was the huge difference, and what a pleasure it was. I have found over the last 30 years that Canada is indeed a very tolerant society.

Does the member not agree that this kind of legislation questions the judgment of our society? By putting out this kind of legislation are we saying that we cannot trust Canadians as people to be non-discriminatory, that we will legislate it so they must be?

I believe Canadians are a tolerable group and that the House should have trust in the people of Canada. I would like a comment from the hon. member.

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.


Georgette Sheridan Liberal Saskatoon—Humboldt, SK

Mr. Speaker, Canadians are not tolerable but tolerant. We are proud of that tolerance and of our range of views.

My province of Saskatchewan is no different from any other part of Canada. One of our most famous native sons is a former prime minister, the Right. Hon. John Diefenbaker, who brought forward the first Canadian bill of rights to protect, among other things, ethnicity, which was of particular concern to him.

Canadians are right to look to their Liberal government for leadership on this issue, to stand up for the vulnerable and not to do the politically expedient thing, not to govern by 1-900 numbers like the Reform Party.

Canadians would be ill advised to rely on the Reform Party for any assistance on this very important issue. The members of this party are pen pals with Newt Gingrich and the American right. This is a party that would take us back to the days of "Father Knows Best". This is a party that when Pat Buchanan burps, its leader says "pardon me".

Canadian Human Rights ActGovernment Orders

1:55 p.m.

The Speaker

It being almost 2 p.m. we will now proceed to Statements by Members.

National Volunteer WeekStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.


Rose-Marie Ur Liberal Lambton—Middlesex, ON

Mr. Speaker, April 21 to 28 was National Volunteer Week in Canada. This week provided an opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate the contributions made by volunteers in every community across the country.

There are estimated to be over 10 million volunteers in Canada. They donated more than one billion hours of service each year at an economic value of $16 billion.

Volunteers work for many causes including literacy, the environment, community safety, health promotion, elderly outreach and children's welfare. All volunteers make a difference, a huge difference to our communities and our society.

Volunteer centres spearheaded a wide variety of events in many communities. I took part in a tree planting ceremony with the Lambton Elderly Outreach and visited mall displays in Strathroy.

I congratulate the many volunteers in my riding of Lambton-Middlesex who donate so many valuable hours and talents to make it a better community to live in, as do the millions of volunteers throughout Canada.

Job CreationStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.


Jean Landry Bloc Lotbinière, QC

Mr. Speaker, I am particularly delighted to draw your attention to a new idea developed by the Centre d'initiative pour l'emploi de Lotbinière-Ouest. This non profit organization run by volunteers works to create jobs for people between 18 and 40. Up to now they have lent venture capital to individuals.

Since March 22, groups of five or more working to create jobs in projects benefiting the community can get a loan of up to $10,000.

To date, this organization has made it possible to create or consolidate 221 jobs in my riding. With innovative ideas such as these, we will one day make our part of the country prosperous. Hats off to the Centre d'initiative pour l'emploi de Lotbinière-Ouest.

World Figure Skating ChampionshipsStatements By Members

1:55 p.m.


Ian McClelland Reform Edmonton Southwest, AB

Mr. Speaker, a city is more than bricks and mortar. The heart of a city is really the people who give life to a community. Edmonton is blessed with thousands of citizens who may always be depended on to come through for the city when the call is made.

The World Figure Skating Championships recently held in Edmonton provide yet another example of Edmontonians coming together to welcome the world. Under the leadership of Don Sprague, Edmontonians from all walks of life have come together to host the best and the most successful world championships ever.

To all the competitors, to all the volunteers and to the citizens of our fine city I say well done and thank you. Again we have proven that Edmonton is indeed the city of champions.

Unemployment Insurance ReformStatements By Members

April 30th, 1996 / 1:55 p.m.


Gilles Bernier Independent Beauce, QC

Mr. Speaker, some provisions must be amended in the employment insurance bill, including the number of hours, which is too high for many workers to be eligible, and the intensity rule, which adversely affects workers.

As well, the contribution rate of employers and workers should be lowered, instead of accumulating surpluses in excess of $5 billion in the employment insurance fund, given that the current rate has a negative impact on the level of employment.

Lowering the rates would pump new money into the Canadian economy, which would result in the government reducing payroll taxes and encouraging the private sector to create more jobs. I urge the Minister of Finance to reflect on this.

ImmigrationStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Maria Minna Liberal Beaches—Woodbine, ON

Mr. Speaker, last September the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration announced a new partnership between the federal government and non-governmental organizations called the 3/9 pilot project.

The project was designed to help resettle additional refugees in response to the United Nations appeal for help for victims of the Yugoslav conflict. I am proud to say that Canadians answered the call and I will mention two cases only.

The congregation at the Sydney River United Church in Cape Breton helped to bring two Bosnian refugee families to Cape Breton. The Burdzovic family and the Pehar family have both settled in the Ashby area of Sydney.

The citizens of Biggar, Saskatchewan know what it means to offer a helping hand. The town, which has just over 2,000 people, has sponsored the Knezevic family. Local people organized a shower and about 250 people came with gifts. Mr. Knezevic is already working at a local greenhouse.

I commend all the sponsors that extended a helping hand to those in need. I welcome and wish the newcomers well.

Death Of A Cum Police OfficerStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Nick Discepola Liberal Vaudreuil, QC

Mr. Speaker, residents in my riding of Vaudreuil are still in shock following a terrible crime committed in the municipality of Senneville.

After stopping a vehicle for a routine check, Officer André Lalonde, from Montreal's police station 11, was ruthlessly gunned down by an individual who fled the scene.

This tragic murder of a police officer, the second one in five years in the Montreal urban community, has generated fear and dismay among the residents of my riding.

On behalf of the residents of Senneville and the riding of Vaudreuil, I want to offer our deepest sympathy to the family of the victim.

Cercle Molière Of St. BonifaceStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Ronald J. Duhamel Liberal St. Boniface, MB

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to pay tribute to one of the oldest French language theatre companies in Canada. The twist in this tale is that this company is not now, nor has it ever been, based in Quebec. The company in question, which is celebrating its 70th anniversary this year, is the Cercle Molière, a French language theatre in the heart of St. Boniface, Manitoba.

Established in 1925, the Cercle Molière has survived in French for 70 years despite all the obstacles, for which we are very grateful. Whether the plays are by Molière, Michel Tremblay or Gabrielle Roy, the great thing is that the whole community is actively involved, either as actors, unpaid workers or audience members.

The theatre is a mirror of the surrounding community, and I applaud the Cercle Molière for its contribution to the growth and development of Manitoba's francophones. Bravo.

Krever InquiryStatements By Members

2 p.m.


Jim Hart Reform Okanagan—Similkameen—Merritt, BC

Mr. Speaker, I rise on behalf of the constituents of Okanagan-Similkameen-Merritt because one of us, seven-year old Jarad Gibbenhuck, is a victim of the tainted blood tragedy. He is the youngest Canadian to be diagnosed with hepatitis C. He contracted the disease from a blood transfusion during an operation when he was just a baby. Last week Jarad made a trip to Toronto to meet with Justice Krever.

The Krever Commission of Inquiry on the Blood System in Canada is being stifled by the Liberal government. The Liberals are afraid that Krever has been too independent and too objective.

The Liberal Minister of Health has led his provincial counterparts into a reform of the blood system in Canada by appointing a tainted blood forum. Canadians are appalled by this manoeuvre to cover up and muzzle the Krever commission. Canadians are outraged by the legal mess the Liberals have allowed which prevents the release of Krever's findings.

Jarad returned to the Okanagan with a single message: Let Krever speak.

Nuclear WeaponsStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Bill Blaikie NDP Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, the time has come to end the presence of U.S. nuclear warships and of weapons testing in the Georgia Strait as the NDP has been proposing for many years now. The time has come to convert the Canadian Forces Maritime Experimental and Test Ranges at Nanoose Bay to a peaceful, environmentally sound and economically productive purpose.

The threat of a nuclear accident, the environmental damage, the danger of collisions with other vessels and the costs to Canada are all reasons for rethinking Canadian participation in a project that so clearly incarnates the kind of thinking that endangers the planet.

Canada sometimes talks a good line at the UN but when it comes to NATO and bilateral agreements with the U.S. like the one on Nanoose Bay, we show how deeply a part of the nuclear problem we really are. A decision to convert the Nanoose facility would be a step in the direction of being part of the solution.

Gun ControlStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Bernard Patry Liberal Pierrefonds—Dollard, QC

Mr. Speaker, a terrible human drama, the senseless murder of police officer André Lalonde, has shocked all of Quebec. A member of the Montreal Urban Community's police force for 29 years, Mr. Lalonde was barely two months short of a well-deserved retirement. Today, his wife and two children must go on without him.

In the face of such a horrifying act, we must insist that our legal system deal fairly but firmly with the murderer of officer Lalonde. Our government has already shown its determination to fight violence and crime by passing the gun control bill last year. There will be other measures to complement the initiatives of our government, in order to assure Canadians that other families will not have to go through the suffering that the members of the Lalonde family are going through today.

I join with their friends and relatives in offering my deepest condolences.

Sexual AbuseStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Christiane Gagnon Bloc Québec, QC

Mr. Speaker, the Globe and Mail reported the sad story of a poor family whose four daughters aged 8 to 18 were regularly sold to strangers and subjected to rape and physical violence. This family lives in the Philippines, but it could just as well be in India, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia or China.

In these countries, and in many others, children are used daily for sexual purposes by a certain type of tourists from richer countries like Canada. These same tourists would never dare to engage in such behaviour here.

That is why this House must take a strong stand and condemn unequivocally these unscrupulous people. We need the tools with which to pursue and punish those who leave aside all respect for human dignity as soon as they set foot in another country and who shamefully abuse defenceless children.

Chief Rabbi Of IsraelStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Barry Campbell Liberal St. Paul's, ON

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House today to note the visit this week to Canada by the Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rabbi Israel Meir Lau.

Rabbi Lau, who is with us today in Ottawa, will be visiting a vibrant Canadian Jewish community. Rabbi Lau was born in pre-war Poland to a family of respected rabbinical scholars. A holocaust survivor, Rabbi Lau moved to Israel and dedicated himself to a life of service to his people and his faith.

Canadian Jews have made an enormous contribution to this country. Canadians have stood by Israel during its darkest moments and continue to work with Israel in the search for peace in the Middle East.

Rabbi Lau will be aware of the attempted bombing yesterday at Calgary's Jewish Centre. Happily, no one was seriously injured. I hope that when Rabbi Lau returns to Israel it will be with the knowledge that all Canadians condemn violent and hateful acts.

Anniversary GreetingsStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Sheila Finestone Liberal Mount Royal, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise in the House of Commons to bring two special greetings.

First, with the enduring friendship that binds our two democracies, greetings to the state of Israel on the occasion of its 48th anniversary of independence. A dynamic country which enjoys a long and rich history and which links Jews throughout the world, greetings of peace, security and prosperity as we celebrate Yom HaAtzmaout.

Second, this year marks a very special milestone in the history of Jerusalem, one of the world's most ancient and beautiful cities, a spiritual city central to three of the world's major religions. Jerusalem 3000 is being feted with many wonderful cultural and educational events here in Canada and in most major cities and countries around the world as well as in Israel.

As our Prime Minister said in his message quoting from the Psalms: "For my brethren and companions' sakes, I will say now, peace be within thee, Jerusalem".

Hag sameach-Yerushalim Shel Zahav. Happy birthday.

SeniorsStatements By Members

2:05 p.m.


Maurice Dumas Bloc Argenteuil—Papineau, QC

Mr. Speaker, today I would like to pay tribute to seniors for their involvement in and active contribution to seniors' associations. Not enough is said about their devotion and the importance of their work in Quebec and Canadian society. Nowadays, seniors can expect to lead a full life well into their golden years. They have my admiration.

The Salon des aîné(e)s du Québec, which will be held in Quebec City from May 2 to 5, is an example of the involvement of senior citizens. Associations devoted to seniors have become essential tools for this age group. Their efforts to improve services available to seniors are commendable. "Coeur d'or" awards will be given

out at this event to seniors and organizations of the year. The five awards will be presented before some 500 presidents of seniors' groups invited specially for the occasion.

I wish the salon great success. Congratulations to the organizers, particularly general manager André Guillemette.

Calgary Jewish CentreStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.


Jan Brown Reform Calgary Southeast, AB

Mr. Speaker, Calgarians and Canadians are shocked, dismayed, appalled and sickened by the bombing of the Calgary Jewish Centre. On behalf of all of my colleagues I would like to extend our support for the intended victims of the bombing.

Thankfully I have received assurances from the centre that everyone is all right and that the centre is continuing today in its place of prominence in the Calgary community. Members of the Calgary Jewish community should be applauded for their perseverance and their refusal to be intimidated by these bigoted acts of violence.

At this point in time the police have no information regarding the motivation for the crime. I only hope that calm will prevail in the city. I call on Calgarians and Canadians to reserve their judgments until such time as it is known exactly who is responsible for this heinous attack on a valued community organization. The heavy arm of intolerance should not be met by intolerance but by the wings of Canadian justice.

The Calgary police are conducting their investigation into this deplorable incident. We wish them Godspeed in coming to a hasty conclusion and bringing the culprits to justice.

Cape Breton Development CorporationStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Elsie Wayne Progressive Conservative Saint John, NB

Mr. Speaker, the future of the Cape Breton Development Corporation rests with this government. The DEVCO miners and the Cape Breton community have asked the Prime Minister to keep his promise to Atlantic Canada to maintain and create jobs.

It is clear that the federal government has a particular responsibility in this regard. The federal government will not convince the private sector to create jobs in the maritimes if it moves in a direction to shut down an entire industry.

It is interesting to note that on October 7, 1993 the hon. member for Cape Breton-East Richmond, now the health minister, said: "If elected-the Liberal Party of Canada would want to increase production at DEVCO. With an increase in production, no downsizing would be executed".

What is the government's long term intention for the coal mining industry in Cape Breton? Is it just another false campaign promise or is it the government's intention to place an industry, 800 jobs and a community in jeopardy? I call upon the government to save these jobs and the industry.

HockeyStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.


Ovid Jackson Liberal Bruce—Grey, ON

Mr. Speaker, last Sunday night the remaining Canadian hockey teams in the hunt for the Stanley Cup were eliminated from contention. Canadian hockey fans should not despair. Though the remaining teams tout jerseys with cities like New York and Detroit on them, the majority of players wearing them were born and raised in Canada and played hockey on the ponds and the rinks of Canada.

Hockey is still our game. We set the standard for excellence. Hockey is part of our heritage. It brings families and communities together in places like Sudbury, Flin Flon, Trois Rivieres and Owen Sound.

Though the Stanley Cup will reside south of the border this year, we should not forget that most of the players who will thrill the fans are as Canadian as the maple leaf.

Long live hockey in Canada.

DiscriminationStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.


Brenda Chamberlain Liberal Guelph—Wellington, ON

Mr. Speaker, today Canadians are expressing shock and outrage over remarks made by a member of this House that he would fire an employee in order to please bigoted and racist customers.

Imagine the hurt and dismay that must be felt by Canadians who are members of minority groups, the disabled and their families because a member of this House wants to push them to the back of the room rather than deal with bigotry and racism. The behaviour he is advocating would violate the human rights act in his own province of British Columbia. Shamefully, the member who made those remarks is the Reform Party whip.

Reformers have shown us time and time again that they want us to go back to the days-

DiscriminationStatements By Members

2:10 p.m.

The Speaker

Colleagues, I urge you to stay away from any kind of personal attack like that.

ReferendumsOral Question Period

2:15 p.m.

Roberval Québec


Michel Gauthier BlocLeader of the Opposition

Mr. Speaker, again yesterday the Minister of Justice commented on the holding of another referendum on the future of Quebec, stating that the results would not be recognized. This is tantamount to saying the federal government does not acknowledge the right of Quebecers to determine their future democratically.

My question is for the Prime Minister. Does he agree with his Minister of Justice that the next referendum in Quebec would be merely consultative in nature and not recognized by Ottawa?