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House of Commons Hansard #160 of the 35th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was organized.

Topics

Decontamination Of Military SitesOral Question Period

April 21st, 1997 / 2:25 p.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Bloc Laurentides, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is directed to the Minister of National Defence.

According to national defence department estimates, it will cost $242 million to decontaminate 21 of the 42 American radar bases on the DEW line. It is therefore likely that it will cost $484 million to decontaminate all the sites. We know that the United States will pay $100 million in damages to Canada for decontamination of these military sites.

By burying the waste, as the Inuit claims it is doing, instead of decontaminating it, which would eliminate all toxic substances, but which would also be more expensive, is the government merely trying to save money?

Decontamination Of Military SitesOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Acadie—Bathurst New Brunswick

Liberal

Douglas Young LiberalMinister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, the work that was to be done following the departure of U.S. military forces was considered, at the time, to be normal and reasonable. Obviously, the Government of Canada recognizes its obligations with respect to the environment and we recognize that we must take all means necessary to try to clean up the sites to which my hon. colleague is referring.

I would like to point out, however, that as a general rule the American government has never paid any compensation for problems that may have occurred following its departure from military installations.

As for the situation involving Canada, we have succeeded in negotiating an agreement whereby the American government will

pay US$100 million, which is a considerable amount and which is a first. Regardless of what the Americans do in this connection, the Government of Canada will respect its environmental obligations.

Decontamination Of Military SitesOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Bloc

Monique Guay Bloc Laurentides, QC

Mr. Speaker, by burying PCBs or other toxic substances, Canada is creating a veritable time bomb, which, very soon, will contaminate the water table and the fragile habitat in northern areas.

Should the minister not immediately impose a moratorium on burying wastes until his department has made a complete and exhaustive assessment of the environmental situation at military sites and found an ecological manner in which to destroy these contaminants?

Decontamination Of Military SitesOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Acadie—Bathurst New Brunswick

Liberal

Douglas Young LiberalMinister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, this is a phenomenon that several sectors of the government and of the private sector must address. It is now recognized that situations that were acceptable in the past are no longer tolerable.

The Government of Canada has undertaken to do as much as it can to protect the environment, both in the north and elsewhere in the country. The agreement signed with the United States, which has not yet been approved by Congress, will make it possible for us to do some of the work.

There is no doubt that the sites to which the hon. member is referring are not the only locations where there is a problem. The Department of the Environment, the provinces and the federal government are aware that there are several locations in the country facing the same problem.

While it is not just up to the Department of National Defence, I would like to reiterate that the Government of Canada will do its utmost in all circumstances to ensure the integrity of the environment in a contemporary situation such as the one with which we must contend and in the situations she has raised today in the House.

QuebecOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Reform

Chuck Strahl Reform Fraser Valley East, BC

Mr. Speaker, last week the separatist government and the Liberal Party of Quebec affirmed or claimed that Quebec alone can determine its future regardless of English, aboriginal or other minorities in that province, regardless of what the rest of Canada thinks and regardless of the rule of law as stated in Canada's Constitution. Mr. Johnson went so far as to say: "It is our right in Quebec to take over ourselves, our development and our destiny".

During debate on Bill C-95 earlier today the attorney general stated that he is the guardian of the Constitution and the rule of law. Has he communicated to Mr. Johnson and to the separatist government in Quebec that last Wednesday's rhetoric is unacceptable to the government and will not be acceptable in the coming election campaign?

QuebecOral Question Period

2:30 p.m.

Etobicoke Centre Ontario

Liberal

Allan Rock LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, we have shown over the period of the last period of years that to this government, actions speak louder than words. We have done better than talk about this. We have referred to the Supreme Court of Canada fundamental questions about the constitutionality of the position taken by the Government of Quebec which claims that it can proceed entirely without reference to the courts and the Constitution.

We believe that is wrong. As a result we have put to the Supreme Court of Canada in a reference questions to determine the answer: Can the Government of Quebec unilaterally act to separate from the rest of the country without reference to the Constitution?

We believe it cannot. We have put our position before the court. We have done the responsible thing with respect to the Constitution. We have asked the Supreme Court of Canada to rule that the Constitution applies throughout this country.

QuebecOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Reform

Chuck Strahl Reform Fraser Valley East, BC

Mr. Speaker, perhaps the minister should get his Quebec counterpart to join in the intervener stage to see if he could come to some agreement on that plan.

We are promised by the leader in Quebec that by 1998 we will have another referendum and that he will be going to the people at that time. Has the justice minister decided what he will do if such a thing occurs to ensure that the question is fair and that the unilateral declaration of independence does not have any weight in Canadian law?

We are unwilling on this side of the House to let the Quebec separatists manipulate the question, set the agenda and destroy the country-

QuebecOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Some hon. members

Sit down.

QuebecOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

The Speaker

I find the question to be hypothetical. If the hon. Minister of Justice cares to address it he may.

Child AbductionOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Bloc

Benoît Sauvageau Bloc Terrebonne, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of Foreign Affairs.

On April 10, the official opposition brought up the tragic case of Suzie Robitaille, whose children are still in Egypt, having been abducted by their father nearly two years ago. In this case, as in many others, the government is dragging its feet, even though one of the children is seriously ill. We have learned that Canada is currently involved in negotiating a bilateral agreement with Egypt concerning child abduction.

Does the minister commit to making signature of the bilateral agreement with Egypt conditional upon the settlement of cases in dispute, in particular the one concerning the children of Suzie Robitaille?

Child AbductionOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Winnipeg South Centre Manitoba

Liberal

Lloyd Axworthy LiberalMinister of Foreign Affairs

Mr. Speaker, first let me clarify that negotiations are under way. Officials are in Cairo right now negotiating a new consular agreement with Egypt that would allow us to have a better set of rules, disciplines and initiatives to protect Canadian rights.

Unfortunately, Egypt does not adhere to the Hague convention with respect to the abduction of children. It has not signed that covenant. Therefore, we have no standing in international law that would require Egypt to return the children.

We will continue to work as actively as we can with Egyptian authorities and impress on them the necessity to give Mrs. Robitaille her rightful place in court, to make sure that she has access to the children and, if at all possible, to adhere to the Canadian judgment, which is to return the children.

We will continue to do what we can, but we are limited by the fact that Egypt has its own laws and we must work within that legal framework. However, I can promise the hon. member that we will continue to work very closely with Mrs. Robitaille to do whatever we can to help her in this very difficult situation.

Child AbductionOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Bloc

Benoît Sauvageau Bloc Terrebonne, QC

Mr. Speaker, there is a law. Egypt is a signatory to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, and is not respecting that convention.

Given the health status of Mrs. Robitaille's eldest child, which continues to deteriorate, can the minister, at the very least, implement emergency repatriation measures for this seriously ill child?

Child AbductionOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Winnipeg South Centre Manitoba

Liberal

Lloyd Axworthy LiberalMinister of Foreign Affairs

Yes, Mr. Speaker, I intend to be in contact with my counterpart, the Egyptian foreign minister, within the next day or two to make these representations.

Gun ControlOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Reform

Jack Ramsay Reform Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, the justice minister has advised Mr. Sheppard of Calgary, Alberta that he will not be compensated for the loss of his private property. The justice minister's order in council which prohibited Mr. Sheppard's firearm forced this Calgarian and thousands more Canadians to turn over their property to local authorities without compensation.

How can the Minister of Justice seize property that was legally acquired and lawfully held without compensation?

Gun ControlOral Question Period

2:35 p.m.

Etobicoke Centre Ontario

Liberal

Allan Rock LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, in Bill C-68 the government took steps to take off the market those handguns which are small, easily concealed and cheaply manufactured. They are called Saturday night specials in the United States and they account for more police killings than any other form of firearm in that country. We also took off the market some military type assault weapons.

The government does not believe that Canadians want a country in which people can have access to military type assault weapons and Saturday night specials.

Gun ControlOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Reform

Jack Ramsay Reform Crowfoot, AB

Mr. Speaker, the justice minister failed to answer the question. Yes, he has taken this property from Canadians, but the question was why he has not compensated them. That property was legally acquired and lawfully held.

How can he say that he stands for the rights of Canadians when he takes their property from them without compensation? How can he do this? Will he answer the question?

Gun ControlOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Etobicoke Centre Ontario

Liberal

Allan Rock LiberalMinister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada

Mr. Speaker, the hon. member knows full well that, when we passed orders in council which took guns out of the hands of people, we compensated them for the cost.

For those that were prohibited, they were grandfathered. People were allowed to keep them and use them for the rest of their lives and to sell them to others in the same class of ownership.

The real difficulty this hon. member has is that he and his members are against gun control. The Reform Party, the Conservative Party and the NDP are against gun control.

The time will come in the not distant future when the people of Canada will have the opportunity to express themselves on the subject. On that occasion, this member, the other members of the Reform Party, the Tories-wherever they may be-and the NDP

are going to find out the cost of opposing what Canadians want: gun control.

St. Hubert Military BaseOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Bloc

Pierrette Venne Bloc Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, my question is for the Minister of National Defence.

On a number of occasions, we have called for the federal government to set up a fund to compensate for the negative effects of the closure of the St. Hubert military base and we have insisted that the region be treated just like other Canadian communities, where bases were closed, like Cornwallis, for example, which received over $7.5 million.

Could the minister confirm today his government's intention to provide compensation for the closure of the St. Hubert base?

St. Hubert Military BaseOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Acadie—Bathurst New Brunswick

Liberal

Douglas Young LiberalMinister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, when the military bases were closed or reduced, in certain regions, evaluations and analyses were done to assess the economic impact on the region.

Obviously, there were a series of closures that had significant impact. The hon. member mentioned Cornwallis, for example. In my province, however, the military base at Chatham was closed at a cost of 1,000 civilian and military jobs.

I think that, in all the reductions we have faced at national defence and in the Canadian forces, we have been as fair as possible and have applied similar criteria, as circumstances dictated, across the country, including in St. Hubert.

St. Hubert Military BaseOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Bloc

Pierrette Venne Bloc Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, I wonder whether the minister does not intend to use the upcoming campaign to announce the payment of compensation, which we estimate at several million dollars, for the loss of 1,400 jobs, when all we want is for the government to give St. Hubert what it is entitled to.

St. Hubert Military BaseOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Acadie—Bathurst New Brunswick

Liberal

Douglas Young LiberalMinister of National Defence and Minister of Veterans Affairs

Mr. Speaker, it is true that a number of communities were affected by the restructuring, and reduction in the number of military facilities across the country.

However, I think the Government of Canada made a major contribution in the St. Hubert region. I was there about ten days ago, and I saw the facility the Government of Canada set up in St. Hubert. We would have much preferred to have that, in northern New Brunswick, rather than limited economic spinoffs as the result of the closure of the Chatham base.

Manpower TrainingOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Liberal

Mark Assad Liberal Gatineau—La Lièvre, QC

Mr. Speaker, in Montreal a few hours ago, the Prime Minister and the Minister of Human Resources Development, signed an agreement in principle between the Government of Canada and the Government of Quebec on manpower development.

Can the parliamentary secretary explain to the House what this agreement in principle means for the men and women of Quebec?

Manpower TrainingOral Question Period

2:40 p.m.

Kenora—Rainy River Ontario

Liberal

Bob Nault LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Human Resources Development

Mr. Speaker, today is a very important day for Canada and the Government of Quebec.

As my colleague has said, today we have officially announced the historic labour market agreement in principle with Quebec.

We must consider how many years the discussions have been going on. There is a consensus in Quebec on labour market development. The importance of the agreement is considerable in that some $3 billion will be transferred to Quebec over the next five years. It will have immediate benefits for workers in Quebec.

I think we can say this is an historic occasion. We hope the agreement will be completed very soon and the active measures of the employment insurance system will go toward helping employees and employers put people back to work in the province of Quebec.

Rights Of VictimsOral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

Reform

Ted White Reform North Vancouver, BC

Mr. Speaker, the Minister of Justice knows very well the Reform Party is not against gun control. We are against the confiscation-

Rights Of VictimsOral Question Period

2:45 p.m.

Some hon. members

Oh, oh.