House of Commons Hansard #134 of the 36th Parliament, 1st Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was nato.


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3:30 p.m.


Keith Martin Reform Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, again it is a privilege to speak to Bill C-51, an act to amend the Criminal Code, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act. It is an omnibus bill.

Let me say this at the outset. When we look at the legislative agenda and when we look at this bill we realize the great potential that this bill has to deal with issues such as gambling, homicide, child prostitution, conditional sentences and organized crime. Does this bill actually take this issue with both hands and try to implement constructive solutions to deal with these important issues? No, it does not. That reflects the ongoing problem that we have in this House. The problems that are occurring in our country are at best being nibbled at around the edges and at worst are being ignored.

We simply are not getting our hands into the meat of the issue and presenting constructive solutions that are out there in this country and around the world which we could implement.

Bill C-51 deals with gambling. Does it deal with gambling as an addiction? Does it deal with the huge problems that gambling is wreaking on certain families? Does it deal with the increasing problem of gambling as a health issue? No.

What does the bill do? It deals with permitting casinos on cruise ships to remove the prohibition on dice games. Surely we have better things to do in this House of Commons than to deal with that issue.

We could be dealing with constructive issues on how to help people who are having problems with gambling, rather than seeing gambling as just another tax grab, which in fact it is in many areas. It is causing huge problems in many societies and some on aboriginal reserves.

Are we dealing with violent crime? Are we dealing with ways to prevent violent crime? Are we dealing with ways to prevent innocent Canadians from getting hurt? No, we nibble around the edges and put this pithy amendment that will ensure victims no longer have to die within a year for it to be called a homicide.

We certainly support that, but surely the government could have put forth more constructive solutions in this bill to protect Canadians. Surely the government could have developed ways to adopt the idea of the Liberal member who put forth a private member's motion. The member is from Toronto and her motion deals with consecutive sentencing for violent crimes rather than the concurrent sentencing that currently exists.

Those convicted of violent crimes too often receive concurrent sentences. What kind of message does that send to people who commit murder or violent offences? It tells them that if they kill one person or rape one person, if they commit assault causing bodily harm to one person, it is the same as if they do it six times.

The government could have dealt with that. It could have implemented the private member's motion but it chose not to. What an embarrassment.

Child prostitution is a huge problem in our country. Prostitutes as young as 11 or 12 are being procured. Many are being put on drugs as a way to force them into lives of prostitution. It ruins their lives or, worse, it kills them through violence or through the acquisition of AIDS.

What has the government done concerning child prostitution? It has invoked suggestions and amendments to ensure that wiretaps are allowed. Our party has been putting forward constructive solutions for years.

Why do we have mandatory minimum sentencing for anybody who is pimping children? Why could the government not take this bill and put forth mandatory sentencing for people who are hooking children on drugs, who are pimping 11 and 12 year old girls and boys, who are grossly abusing these children for life? Why could the government not put forth a bill to address that?

I encourage and implore the government to listen to the constructive suggestions that are coming not only from our side but from all parties. These are constructive solutions on child prostitution. I challenge the Minister of Justice, whom I know is very interested in this, to go out on the street. She should not speak to the people on top, she should find out what is happening on the street from the prostitutes, the people whose lives are utterly ruined by this scourge. She should go to Vancouver or Toronto. She should see what is occurring on the street.

Let us consider conditional sentencing. I cannot believe the government did not adopt the motion put forward by a government member who had a constructive private member's bill that dealt with consecutive sentencing for violent offences.

Let us consider organized crime. The public would be interested in knowing that an individual who is sentenced can get parole after one-sixth of their sentence is up.

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3:35 p.m.

An hon. member

They have to apply for consideration for parole.

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3:35 p.m.


Keith Martin Reform Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

But the fact that anybody can apply and receive a release after serving one-sixth of their sentence is appalling. What kind of message does it send to the RCMP and the police officers around this country when criminals can be out after serving one-sixth of their sentence after police put their lives on the line and worked hard to get the criminals arrested and convicted?

This bill ensures that people who are members of criminal organizations have to serve more than one-sixth of their sentence. Why are people involved in organized crime, racketeering, prostitution, scams and murder being released after serving one-sixth of their sentence? That is no way to give the Canadian people the confidence they require in the justice system in order for them to be able to say they feel safe in their country.

We are fully sympathetic with giving people a chance. We are fully sympathetic with understanding that some people can at times in their lives run afoul of the law and have a lot of angst about what they have done. But organized crime has little to do with having sympathy for a teenager who falls afoul of the law for a misdemeanour. It has little sympathy for somebody who has been abused during their life, who does something wrong and is convicted.

This has to do with people who commit murder. This has to do with people who take money from immigrants in our country and rob them for the promise of protection. This has to do with gross abuse of innocent civilians in our country. Those are the people we need to be hitting hard. Those are the laws that need to be made tougher and those are the people we need to be putting behind bars.

The bill deals with some issues, but it also misses some. The Reform Party is in favour of good constructive laws that protect Canadians from firearm violations. We do not approve of gun registration for the simple reason that it is going to make our streets less safe. It is taking money out of the functional arm of justice and putting it into something that is not going to make our streets more safe. If gun registration was going to make our streets safer then we would support it. But the cold hard facts support very clearly the notion that gun registration will not make Canadian streets safer.

We need to hire 350 RCMP officers in British Columbia, but they will not be hired because of a lack of funds. However, the government is pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into something that will not work.

The government had an opportunity to deal with crime prevention. I know the Minister of Justice has started up a very good program in Edmonton dealing with crime prevention and I compliment her for doing that. I think it is a move in the right direction. The member for Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe has been a leader in the national head start program, which she and her husband have put together, and she deserves to be complimented for that.

Those ideas and ideas from all opposition parties have been put forth for some time, including Private Member's Motion 261 that I introduced in May, which passed unanimously in the House. They need to be looked at, examined and adopted quickly, because we are simply not dealing with the root causes of crime.

For example, it has been proved that dealing with children in the first eight years of life can have a dramatic, profound and positive effect in making sure these children stay in school longer. It reduces crime by 50%. It reduces teen pregnancy by 60%. There is a net saving to the social programs because fewer of them are on welfare. It saves the taxpayer $30,000 per child. How can hon. members disagree with that? The proof is there from Moncton to Hawaii to Ypsilanti, Michigan where effective programs have been implemented to prevent crime.

Why did the government in Bill C-51 not utilize the good suggestions that have come from across party lines, from within its own caucus, and implement them in a constructive and coherent fashion across this country?

The government has an enormous leadership role. Although it is true that many of these programs should indeed be in the realm and the purview of the provinces, it is within the government's power to call together the first ministers of health, of justice and of HRD and ask them to bring to the table what programs they already have. Then they could find out what does not work and eject those programs. They could keep what works and integrate those programs into a national program.

Not one single province, not one premier, not one minister in any province has the power to do that. It is only the ministers who are sitting across from us today. Those ministers have the power, have the duty, have the responsibility to exert the leadership that has been bestowed upon them by the Canadian people. They and only they have the power to call those ministers together and hold that meeting that will have a most dramatic and profound effect on the lives, health, welfare and future of young Canadians today.

Let us get on with it. Let us not see a bill such as Bill C-51. Let us stick our hands into these issues and problems and implement solutions that have been proven beyond a shadow of a doubt to work and to save money. They are win-win situations across party lines.

Let us stop introducing politics into these issues and deal with the facts. If we dealt with the facts and if we managed to have some semblance of debate on the facts, we would be able to achieve to the greatest advantage the potential of members across party lines in this House.

I implore the government to look at the suggestions that are going to come from members in the Reform Party, that are going to come from members on the government side and from members of the other opposition parties. Look at those constructive solutions. Look at those solutions based on facts and implement them.

The government could also deal with the horrendous situations on aboriginal reserves. The member for Wild Rose and the member for Skeena have repeatedly brought up constructive solutions to deal with those situations.

I spent some time this summer working as a physician dealing with aboriginal people in emergencies. They had been beaten up, had overdosed, had attempted suicide, had been abused or sexually abused. The responsibility falls on the shoulders of the non-aboriginal leaders of this country and the aboriginal leaders in pursuing a course that in my personal view, and I am not speaking for the Reform Party, is leading their people absolutely nowhere.

They need to start dealing with the facts. They need to deal with the horrendous situations that are occurring on the reserves. They need to break the cycle of an institutionalized welfare state that we have implemented and which continues to shackle the aboriginal people in this country.

We need to ensure that the resources that are put forth by the department of Indian affairs are going where they are supposed to go. Many of my colleagues and I have aboriginal reserves in our constituencies. Aboriginal people have been looking for answers as to where the moneys have gone that they have generated and which have been given to them by the department.

Are these moneys being used for education? Are they being used for substance abuse issues? Are they used for training? Are the moneys being used on the Pacheedaht reserve in my riding to repair the septic tanks that are overflowing with sewage? The health department is aware of this yet nothing is done. People turn a blind eye. They stick their heads in the sand.

Money is given without accountability. Who do they abuse? They abuse the aboriginal people who have no recourse because when they go to the department they are told to go to their councils. When they go to their councils, a blind eye is turned on them again.

I do not know if many of the members on the other side understand the profound tragedy that is occurring and what their actions are doing to these people. The answer is to perform forensic audits on some of these reserves, not to go on a witch hunt, not to find a scapegoat, but merely to find answers so that the available resources are going to the people so they can stand up on their own two feet and take care of themselves.

The minister mentioned last week that her proposals and the way her government is pursuing this is a way to integrate and bring together aboriginal people. In my province of British Columbia the Nisga'a deal is going to do the exact opposite. It is going to be the wedge that will split aboriginal and non-aboriginal people apart. Aboriginal and non-aboriginal people have to come together in an environment of mutual respect and tolerance so they can work together to build a stronger constructive society where everybody can reach their fullest potential.

I have visited reserves where people are being shot. People are being sexually abused. They have no recourse.

Money that is supposed to go to them for educational purposes is somehow disappearing. It is alleged that it is going into the hands of the council. Does anybody look into this? No, no one does. Who pays for it? Certainly the taxpayer, but more importantly the aboriginal people on those reserves who in some cases are being abused by absolute and utter thuggery. Does anybody listen to them? No. Why? Because we are being hamstrung by political correctness and we are afraid to.

We have to overcome this fear, not for ourselves but for the aboriginal people who live in our country in conditions equivalent to third world conditions. I challenge any member on the other side to look at this.

Does Bill C-51 have anything to do with dealing with the violence that is occurring on the reserves? No, absolutely nothing. Does it deal with the rape, the sexual abuse, the abuse of children and the violence that is taking place? No, it does nothing.

Whose confidence do we lose? We lose the confidence of the grassroots aboriginal peoples. They are looking and pleading for leadership. They are crying out for help. And what do we do? We toss some money over to the council, to the Assembly of First Nations, a political body and not necessarily a body for the people.

Grassroots aboriginal people have been looking for years for people to champion them so they can stand on their own feet. They are not that interested in land claims but they do want to live in safety. They want jobs. They want to work. They want to keep their culture and have their language preserved. They want to be the masters of their destiny. They want what we want.

Why have we continued to pursue a course of separation and apartheid in Canada? Why have we done this? I ask members on the other side to look into their souls and find this out.

I know my time is over, but I hope the government members will work with us and all members in the House to make some constructive changes to justice for all people instead of sticking our heads in the sand and dealing with absolute pith.

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3:50 p.m.


Howard Hilstrom Reform Selkirk—Interlake, MB

Mr. Speaker, in regard to the native issues that have been going on around the countryside on the reserves, I have seen examples from being on many reserves in my day and currently visiting many during the time I spend in my constituency. After an election, people who had jobs on the reserves are arbitrarily fired the day after the election, obviously for having voted wrong or supported the wrong person. Hydro has been pulled out from a given residence. These are documented cases.

The problem seems to be a lack of democratic accountability. That democratic accountability does not seem to be as much as what we have in our municipal, provincial and federal governments. Those governments are not perfect in accountability in regard to access to information and labour laws and those kinds of things, but I would ask the member to comment in regard to that type of democratic accountability. Is there room for improvement in all provinces in that regard?

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3:50 p.m.


Keith Martin Reform Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca, BC

Mr. Speaker, that question hits at a very important issue which many grassroots aboriginal people are concerned with. It deals not only with what is occurring now but what will occur in the future after land claims are settled. It deals with the issue of democratic accountability.

On Vancouver Island three grassroots bands have come to me, the Becher Bay band, Pacheedaht band and the Kwicksutaineuk band. These three bands and many others have been asking their members of parliament to find answers for them. The issue comes to accountability, not only for the way the bands are run but also for where the resources are going.

Right now many bands are run very well but many are not. Money is going to band councils and it is being put into the pockets of band council members. When band members ask where the money has gone, they receive a dismissive note or worse, they are abused. Some people have had their houses broken into. Some people have had violence committed against them and their families when they ask questions.

When those aboriginal people go to the department of Indian affairs, the minister slams protected on her letters and says “I do not see anything wrong here. Go to the RCMP if there is a problem”. The RCMP are unwilling to enter into this. They do not have the resources.

The bottom line is as my hon. friend mentioned. The grassroots aboriginal people are caught between a rock and hard place. No one is helping them out. If the minister of Indian affairs does not deal with this issue quickly, she will be in trouble because we will not stand for it any longer.

It is passing strange that members from the government are not even attempting to stand up on these very important issues on justice to ask even one question.

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3:55 p.m.


Michel Guimond Bloc Beauport—Montmorency—Orléans, QC

Mr. Speaker, as I am the first member of my party to speak to this bill, I will speak for the 40 minutes accorded me.

To talk on such a vast and interesting topic, I would need more than 40 minutes, but I will not invoke the Standing Orders of this House to seek unanimous consent to speak longer. I will try to limit myself to the 40 minutes allotted me.

Mr. Speaker, as you are considerate toward members, I would ask you to let me know when I have only five minutes left, as is the practice in this House.

First off, perhaps some of my colleagues opposite or elsewhere in this House are wondering why the Bloc Quebecois transport critic is speaking to a bill concerning major amendments to the Criminal Code and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and amendments to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act. The reason is quite simple. It is not just because I am a lawyer by training, but this bill contains a provision we find very interesting.

Without making any assumption about our party's position at third reading, I will say right off that this bill can be improved. We intend to make certain amendments in committee, which we believe will hold the government's attention and that of all the members of the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

Let me begin by discussing the general provisions of this bill, before getting to the one which is of particular interest to me.

This bill includes amendments to permit the operation of casinos on international cruise ships that are Canadian or in Canadian waters.

It also amends the Criminal Code to permit dice-games conducted and managed by a province. I am convinced that Loto-Québec will be very interested in that provision.

The bill also seeks to widen the scope of the offence of obtaining the services of a prostitute under eighteen years old.

It amends the Criminal Code to repeal the “year and a day rule” for offences involving homicide and criminal negligence causing death.

The bill modernizes the fraud and theft provisions in respect of valuable minerals.

It also modernizes the provisions concerning the offence of making likenesses of bank-notes.

It ensures that only officials with law enforcement duties can execute search warrants.

It provides for the authority to remove lawfully-installed electronic surveillance devices.

It provides sentencing measures dealing with the consideration of outstanding charges, the offender's ability to pay a fine and addressing technical matters.

It provides rules governing when conditional sentences run following the breach of a condition.

It brings deceptive telemarketing offences against the Competition Act under the forfeiture provisions for the proceeds of crime.

Finally, it provides a number of other technical amendments.

The bill also provides for amendments to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act that deal with aggravating factors in sentencing and the criminal liability of law enforcement officers engaged in their duties.

And, finally, it provides for amendments to the Corrections and Conditional Release Act that exclude those convicted of organized-crime offences from eligibility for accelerated parole review.

Because Bill C-51 represents an important victory for the Bloc Quebecois with respect to the operation of casinos on international cruise ships, hence my remarks this afternoon, we support the bill in principle.

We feel, however, that the bill does not go far enough with respect to money laundering, particularly as it does not remove $1,000 bank notes from circulation. We know that our colleague, the hon. member for Charlesbourg, introduced a private member's bill about this.

Our party also believes that the bill will not prevent the distressing repetition of cases like that of Joseph Lagana, who was released from prison after serving only one-sixth of his sentence.

My colleague, the member for Berthier—Montcalm, will have an opportunity to take this up later on in the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights.

To come back to the point that interests us, I ask the House to examine clause 7 of the bill, which would amend the act by adding the following after section 207 of the Criminal Code. I believe it is pertinent to read it:

207.1 (1) Despite any of the provisions of this Part relating to gaming and betting, it is lawful for the owner or operator of an international cruise ship, or their agent, to conduct, manage or operate and for any person to participate in a lottery scheme during a voyage on an international cruise ship when all of the following conditions are satisfied: a ) all the people participating in the lottery scheme are located on the ship; b ) the lottery scheme is not linked, by any means of communication, with any lottery scheme, betting, pool selling or pool system of betting located off the ship; c ) the lottery scheme is not operated within five nautical miles of a Canadian port at which the ship calls or is scheduled to call; and d ) the ship is registered

(i) in Canada and its entire voyage is scheduled to be outside Canada, or

(ii) anywhere, including Canada, and its voyage includes some scheduled voyaging within Canada and the voyage

(A) is of at least forty-eight hours duration and includes some voyaging in international waters and at least one non-Canadian port of call including the port at which the voyage begins or ends, and

(B) is not scheduled to disembark any passengers at a Canadian port who have embarked at another Canadian port, without calling on at least one non-Canadian port between the two Canadian ports.

I would start off by indicating that this clause suits the Bloc Quebecois for a number of reasons I shall try to explain. It is also supported unanimously by the greater Quebec City regional community. I will have the opportunity later to refer to certain stakeholders who have supported certain actions by the Bloc Quebecois in the Quebec City region culminating in what we have before us now, Bill C-51.

I would like to return to one point, and I think it would be appropriate to do so. Our party, the Bloc Quebecois, had introduced private members' bills on behalf of the regional team of Bloc Quebecois MPs. I refer to Bill C-415, an act to amend the Criminal Code (gaming and betting), which I have introduced. I think it would be relevant to see to what extent the government listened to what the Bloc Quebecois was calling for.

In the latest election campaign, and in the one held in 1993, some people wondered—and it was often our neighbours opposite, when we met them in all party debates—what the Bloc was doing there. There were even some simple-minded plays on words to the effect that the Prime Minister was serving us or that the Progressive Conservative leader, Jean Charest, was serving us. It was said that the Bloc Quebecois would block the system. A very intellectual remark.

We had, and we still have, a role to play. The victory we gained because the government listened to our voice on this amendment to the Criminal Code shows very clearly that members of the Bloc Quebecois, who represent 60% of the ridings in Quebec, play an important role in the defence of Quebec's interests.

Therefore, by introducing Bill C-415, I sought to amend the Criminal Code to make it possible for someone on an international cruise ship in Canadian waters to set up and operate a prescribed casino for the passengers on that ship under certain conditions. The bill also provides that a passenger on such a ship may enter such a casino and engage in gaming and betting.

I will not refer to the amendment to section 207.1 of the Criminal Code that I was proposing, but I will remind the House that I had proposed the casino close one hour before the ship called at a Canadian port. The government preferred to have the casino close five nautical miles before the ship called at a Canadian port. We have no problem there. I will have to ask my friends who are pilots on the lower St. Lawrence what an hour is in nautical miles.

Members will recall that in another parliament, the Bloc Quebecois introduced another private member's bill, which unfortunately died on the Order Paper with the election call on June 2, 1997.

I must take a few minutes to speak about the antiquated private members' bill procedure, inherited from the British parliamentary system, just as your function as speaker and ours as members of parliament were. There is this procedure for private members' bills, commonly known as private bills.

The procedure for selecting private members' bills to be debated in this House is totally archaic. This is incredible, when the year 2000 is almost upon us.

We are on the eve of a new century, a new millennium. Yet, we are still using the archaic procedure consisting basically in picking the name of the member whose bill shall be debated out of a hat. You did hear correctly, Mr. Speaker, out of a hat. I noticed you almost fell out of your chair, but I can see you are sitting back comfortably now.

Members' names are put in a hat and bills are picked at random. This is a monumental aberration. I think that, on the eve of the new millennium, we should be able to find a different method for selecting private members' bills. By definition, a private member's bill has been drafted by a member of parliament democratically elected by his constituents, regardless of his or her political affiliation.

I greatly value parliamentary work and I have respect for all my colleagues from both sides of the House. Every one of us has a legitimate right to sit here. We have all been democratically elected to this place. No one in Canada had a gun to their head when they voted. No one voted under the threat of machine guns. That is democracy.

That is why, every opportunity I have, whether in this House or in committee, I ask that our fellow citizens' wish to have us represent them to the best of our abilities be respected.

We are not perfect. And no member can claim to have a magic wand and to be able to perform miracles. We do our best and have strong beliefs. I am asking our fellow members of Parliament to respect us as individuals. There is no ambiguity about the Bloc Quebecois' role: we are here to promote Quebec's sovereignty, to show that the federal system does not work, and to protect the interests of Quebec.

We were elected in a fair manner. Considering that 60% of the ridings in Quebec are represented by Bloc Quebecois members, I think everybody should accept the results of the democratic vote.

Having said that, I want to ask you something, Mr. Speaker, since you are an active and well-known jurist in the region of Kingston and the Islands. I would like you to seriously think about how to improve the selection process of private members' bills. I am asking you to do that, and I do hope to hear from you on this issue.

To allow the operation of casinos on cruise ships was one of the issues on the electoral platform of the regional caucus of the Bloc Quebecois, before the June 2, 1997 election. The hon. member for Quebec, who is sitting here and who chairs our eight-member regional caucus, remembers very well that we got together and consulted various stakeholders and groups in the greater Quebec City area. We gained some experience as a regional caucus during the previous Parliament.

This had given us an opportunity, since 1993, to regularly meet with various people and groups. Proposing an amendment to the Criminal Code, so as to permit the operation of casinos on international cruise ships, was an integral part of our regional electoral platform. That is why people in the greater Quebec City area are glad that the Criminal Code will be amended after the various stages required in the House of Commons so that this irritant can be eliminated.

I think it would be appropriate to take a few minutes to explain what the particular problem was. The configuration of the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the St. Lawrence River affected international cruise ships, most of which operate casinos, which are one of the activities offered on cruises, as well as a lucrative source of income for ship owners.

We met with ship owners like those of the Holland America company on the MS Veemdam when it first put in at Quebec City. Two years ago, in September, the MS Westerdam of the same company also stopped over in Quebec City.

Ship owners told us that, if they could operate casinos on board, a lot more ships would choose the St. Lawrence-Great Lakes system for a stopover. As well, ships that already come here, could do so more often. This would develop many more stopovers.

Most of these ships have American passengers. The people listening to us are aware that the dollar went through a terrible crisis this summer, while the government sat back and did nothing. When it dropped as low as 61 or 62 cents, the Prime Minister said that this was not serious, that it would encourage tourists to visit the beaches of New Brunswick. He was more worried about his golf game, and kept his eye on the ball more than on the falling dollar.

Be that as it may, given the state of our dollar, we know that a great many American cruise ship passengers are heading for the splendour of the Gulf of St. Lawrence and its river and the Great Lakes. Naturally, these are boats whose depth and width permit them to pass through the locks.

The ship owners told us: “If we could operate our casinos until an hour before we land, that would add considerably to the port traffic, not only at Quebec City but also at Trois-Rivières and Montreal, and for certain ships, as far inland as Thunder Bay.

This is why the Liberal member for Thunder Bay, had already indicated to me when we sat on the Standing Committee on Transport that he approved of the private member's bill I had introduced.

Because of the particular geography of the St. Lawrence, the limit of international waters fell more or less off Anticosti Island. Those who know their geography are aware that a cruise ship had to close its casino when it was off Anticosti, when it entered Canadian waters. The first landing was only at Quebec City, two days later, so there was a two-day period when the casino could not open. Passengers complained, and the St. Lawrence—Great Lakes route suffered considerably as a result.

On the other hand, I would point out that the port of Halifax does not experience the same problem, nor does Vancouver. Once a ship has left English Bay, it is in international waters almost immediately. Only an hour after the ship has left port, passengers can start gambling again, because they are already in international waters.

We say: let us amend the Criminal Code. Loto-Quebec, among others, supported the Bloc Quebecois in this regard, as did the Quebec ministry of tourism. They did not see any threat to the operation of provincial casinos because ship passengers are a captive clientele.

Certainly, when the ship docks, the ship operator must, of course, close down the casino. We have no problem with that. That is perfectly normal.

I mentioned earlier that this bill had the unanimous approval of the region's stakeholders. I will name some of the organizations that supported the Bloc Quebecois' position in asking the government for an amendment to the Criminal Code to allow casinos to operate on cruise ships.

There is the Quebec City Region Tourist and Convention Bureau, the Secrétariat à la mise en valeur du Saint-Laurent, the Corporation of the Lower St. Lawrence Pilots, the Coopérative des artisans et des commerçants du quartier Petit Champlain, the Association des gens d'affaires de Place-Royale, the Quebec ministry of tourism, Loto-Québec, the Société de développement économique du Québec known as SODES, the City of Quebec, the Quebec Urban Community and the Port of Quebec.

I think it would be relevant for me to quote, for your personal edification, a letter signed by the chairman of the Quebec Urban Community, Denis Giguère, who is the mayor of Loretteville, I believe, and who wrote to the Minister of Justice on April 20, 1998. He said this:

Subject: Changes to the Criminal Code—authorization of casinos on the St. Lawrence

Madam Minister:

Over the past two years, the council of the Quebec Urban Community has tried on a number of occasions to make your predecessor aware of the importance of changing the Criminal Code to permit the rapid growth of the international cruise industry on the St. Lawrence and in eastern Canada. I have appended the letters sent to him and to your colleagues in the federal government.

On a number of occasions, it was rumoured in the media that the federal government was prepared to act on this issue and that the proposed amendments to the Criminal Code would be up for debate before the House of Commons in the near future. Unfortunately, nothing came of it, and no progress has been made on this issue. Several stakeholders suggested the reason for this delay was the lack of consensus among those in the tourist industry who are closely associated with development of the cruise ship industry. I do not think so.

That is Mr. Giguère, the president of the Quebec Urban Community, speaking.

On the contrary, this is a booming industry, and all of eastern Canada is benefiting from the spinoffs generated in our regional and provincial economies.

I am therefore asking once again, Madam Minister, that the federal government look into this matter as soon as possible and take appropriate action.

Thank you for your attention. Sincerely,

And it is signed “Denis Giguère, President of the Quebec Urban Community”. We received a copy of this letter.

I think that tourism industry stakeholders in the greater Quebec City area clearly supported our position, as confirmed by the government in agreeing to amend the Criminal Code.

My statement about the Quebec port authority supporting our approach is backed by an article published in Le Soleil on Saturday, April 25, 1998. The managing director of the port de Québec, Ross Gaudreault, held a press conference and the related article can be summed up as follows:

Quebec City appears to be on its way to becoming a choice port of call for cruise ships. A growing number of passenger liners berth at Quebec City earlier and earlier in the season—

This fact prompted the managing director of the port de Québec, Ross Gaudreault, to say:

—that the coming years should see a significant increase in the number of passengers stopping over in the old capital.

The article went on to say:

When cruise ships stop over, they generate very important economic benefits for the City of Quebec. This year, it is estimated that 45,000 passengers will visit Quebec City and will spend approximately $110 US each, not to mention crew members and the expenditures related to the ships themselves. In 1997, the economies of the Province of Quebec and of Quebec City benefited to the tune of approximately $5.9 million.

And I will stop here.

I wanted to explain why this Criminal Code amendment was so important for economic development. This bill effectively removes an irritant, and I think that the region will now be able to play its leadership role unimpeded and will be represented at conferences.

Every year in March, a major North American conference is held in Miami at which cruise lines decide on their destinations for the coming years. The Port of Quebec spokespersons, SODES or the various stakeholders representing the greater Quebec City area will be able to tell the cruise lines and ship owners that the irritant of not being able to operate casinos has now been removed by an amendment to the Criminal Code.

I do not want to go on too long, because I want to leave time for other colleagues to speak as well, but I will mention that we raised this issue again with the Minister of Justice in a letter we sent her on May 21.

On June 8, my colleague, the member for Québec, and I held a press conference attended by various regional stakeholders. And on June 9, we questioned the Minister of Justice in the House as follows: “In order to remove this obstacle to the expansion of the international cruise industry for once and for all, will the minister agree to take action and immediately introduce the required Criminal Code amendments, so that cruise ships can operate casinos in the Gulf of St. Lawrence?”

The minister's response was a very simple one. On June 11, she tabled this omnibus bill, which contained a provision that would allow casinos on cruise ships.

I would ask in closing: why is it important for the greater Quebec City region to obtain this amendment? We are convinced that the government will listen to this request because it is something on which unanimity can be readily obtained.

I found the 1996 statistics on the traffic at the port of Vancouver in my files. As I have already pointed out, we know Vancouver does not have a problem. As soon as the cruise ship leaves English Bay, within an hour it can open up its casino again. From our experience on several transport committees, we know what a boom there has been in recent years with the Alaskan cruises. When their passengers visit ports of call, they leave money behind in the economy, including that of greater Vancouver.

I will give some figures for the number of cruise passengers visiting the port of Vancouver in 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1996. In 1992, there were 449,239 passengers; in 1994, the figure had gone up to 591,409, and in 1996, 701,547. According to all the economic studies, they contribute a lot when they come ashore. Let us not forget that these are people who are rather well off.

Last week, the Vision of the Sea , the biggest cruise ship in the world, docked at the port of Quebec. It carries 2,400 passengers who pay some $10,000 US for a week's cruise. We must point out that these are not cruises within the reach of the ordinary American. The passengers are people well enough off to be able to afford $10,000 US for a week's cruise. When the cruise ship is in port and these passengers are wandering around on foot exploring the city, they each leave behind between $110 and $150 US.

If Vancouver had 701,547 such visitors in 1996, one can just imagine what that represents. I will get the numbers for 1997, but they were significantly higher. Unless I am mistaken, they were close to 900,000. I do not want to give the wrong numbers. I will get back to this if I have the opportunity to take part in the debate at third reading.

It is important for the economic development of a large region, particularly since the Quebec City region is positioning itself for a new type of cruises. Indeed, the Board of Trade and Industry of the Metropolitan Quebec is proposing to promote northern luxury and ecotourist cruises. Quebec City would become the regional boarding port for cruises along the Labrador coast, and perhaps even all the way up to Greenland.

Again, this could lead to some very interesting economic spinoffs, once this irritant is removed and it becomes possible to operate casinos in international waters.

I am pleased to have had this opportunity to address the bill. Members may can rest assured that we will be vigilant during the next stages of this legislation, and the hon. member for Berthier—Montcalm will be on the lookout during the discussions in committee.

While we do not oppose the principle underlying Bill C-51, we will still move amendments through our critic on justice issues, the hon. member for Berthier—Montcalm. We do hope the government will be receptive to our recommendations.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:30 p.m.


Bill Blaikie NDP Winnipeg—Transcona, MB

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to Bill C-51, an act to amend the Criminal Code, the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act and the Corrections and Conditional Release Act.

First I would like to draw the attention of the House, but more particularly the listening public, to the fact that what we have before us is an omnibus bill. An omnibus bill is the name given to a bill that contains many unrelated amendments. We usually get omnibus bills in the context of amendments to the Criminal Code, but it is not only in the context of amendments to the Criminal Code and related acts that we get omnibus bills.

I would remind the House that in the past the House has found particular omnibus bills to be quite offensive. That is to say, offensive in terms of parliamentary procedure and offensive in terms of the limited opportunity that it gives to the House to express itself on the various matters that are contained within the omnibus bill.

One of the most paralyzing and significant crises in Canadian parliamentary history happened over an omnibus bill. It was the omnibus bill brought in by a Liberal government in 1982.

In that case it was not an omnibus bill having to do with the Criminal Code, but an omnibus bill having to do with energy policy that prompted the bell ringing crisis in the early months of 1982 when the bells rang for 16 days.

Those members of the House who do not go back that far should know that the bells used to be a lot louder than they are now. They rang and they rang for 16 days, 24 hours a day, until that crisis was finally dealt with. That was over an omnibus bill.

I say to the government that, although there is not that kind of controversy around this omnibus bill, I still find that omnibus bills in and of themselves provide a great deal of difficulty for members of the House of Commons, particularly for the opposition because we are put in the position of having to vote for the whole bill or against the whole bill. As is often the case with omnibus bills, there are aspects of the bill that we support and aspects of the bill that we do not.

With respect to Bill C-51, there are a number of things which we support, such as the provision to widen the scope of the offence for obtaining the services of a prostitute under 18 years old, the provision to repeal the year and a day rule for offences involving homicide and criminal negligence causing death, the provision to modernize the fraud and theft provisions with respect to valuable materials and the provision to modernize the provisions concerning the offence of making likenesses of bank notes.

We support provisions to ensure that only officials with law enforcement duties can execute search warrants, provisions having to do with sentencing measures dealing with the consideration of outstanding charges, the offender's ability to pay a fine and those which address technical matters. We support the provision of rules governing when conditional sentences run following the breach of a condition and bringing deceptive telemarketing offences against the Competition Act under the forfeiture provisions for the proceeds of crime.

A number of these are housekeeping, modernizing, technical amendments, but there are a couple of elements in this bill that we believe are worthy of debate and contention. I refer specifically to the provision that would permit the operation of casinos on international cruise ships that are Canadian or in Canadian waters and the provision to permit dice games conducted and managed by a province.

After having listened to the hon. member from the Bloc Quebecois I think I understand a little bit better where this amendment having to do with the operation of casinos on international cruise ships that are Canadian or in Canadian waters comes from. It may well be, upon reflection, that there is an argument to be made for this amendment that is peculiar to the circumstances that Quebec City finds itself in with regard to international cruise ships and Canadian cruise ships.

I was grateful to the member for explaining the value that the province of Quebec and Quebec City sees in this particular amendment.

Having said that, I will concentrate on the provision that permits dice games conducted and managed by a province. I speak to this because I share the concern of a lot of Canadians and certainly my colleagues in the New Democratic Party, and presumably members in other caucuses as well, that all parties, wherever they have been in government, whether they be federal or provincial, over the last 10 to 15 years have succumbed in one way or another or are in the process of succumbing to the gambling game, to a form of gambling addiction which is not just to be found in those individuals who are addicted to gambling, but is to be found in governments that are addicted to the revenue from gambling.

This is a problem that crosses party lines. I do not rise in my place here to pretend that any one particular political party is somehow exempt from criticism in this regard. It is simply to register my own concern and the concern of my colleagues and, as I said, I would hope colleagues from other parties that as a country we are becoming a nation of casinos.

I have a casino in my own riding called Club Regent. If someone had asked me 10 years ago whether I would have ever thought that driving between my home and my constituency office I would have to pass a casino every day I would have said they were crazy, that it would never happen. Yet today that is the case.

I am sure a lot of my constituents are happy that it is there. It is a good location for them. People enjoy going there and there are people, many of whom I know as they are good friends, who seem to be able to go to the casino, not spend all that much money and just enjoy themselves. They have some kind of internal limit on what they spend and when it is done they are gone. Sometimes they win, sometimes they lose, but it is not destructive.

However, the fact is that for a lot of Canadians it is destructive. It is destructive of their economic and personal lives. I cannot help but think that in the end it is destructive of our collective well-being to have governments dependent in the way they have become on revenue from gambling, dependent so much so that they are always looking for opportunities to expand this revenue base.

Where can they build another casino? Can they add a hotel that would attract more business from outside the city, outside the province or outside the country? What can they do to induce more Canadians and more non-Canadians to come to Canada to gamble?

I do not know about other members, but when I grew up gambling was something that happened in Las Vegas. Gambling was something that happened in back rooms, with guys playing poker. It was frowned upon. It seemed to be something on the seedy side of life.

The provinces have taken this particular phenomena which was regarded in that way in the past and have elevated it to a major component of our fiscal and social life. I think that is a mistake. I think a lot of Canadians think it is a mistake. I think it is a mistake whether it is done by an NDP government, a Liberal government, a Conservative government, a Péquistes government or, God forbid, a Reform government.

I just wanted to put that concern on the record. It is certainly something that comes not just out of my own political tradition. In spite of the actions of particular NDP governments, there was certainly a long tradition of opposition to gambling in the CCF and in the NDP. I think it comes out of the social gospel. It comes out of the Protestant churches. My own church, the United Church of Canada, is still resolutely opposed to any form of gambling.

I think we are at the point where we need to do some rethinking of this collective addiction to gambling, rather than expanding upon it, which is basically what Bill C-51 does. Up until this point we have not allowed people to participate in throwing the dice. We saw a bit of throwing the dice when it came to constitutional matters back in 1992 or whenever it was when the former prime minister said he was throwing the dice, but I digress because I am quite serious about this.

I think to expand the parameters of gambling in Canada at this time is a serious mistake. We know that gambling disproportionately disadvantages the poor. We know that in many ways it is a tax on the poor. I feel that instead of looking to gambling for more revenues, instead of looking to a way of raising money that disproportionately disadvantages low income people, we should be looking to a real reform of our tax system which gives meaningful income tax breaks to Canadians of low income and looking at ways in which we could make those who have, and have much, contribute more to the general well-being.

At the moment we have a tax system which basically subsidizes those who have. If people have enough money to put $10,000 or $15,000 into RRSPs, if they can max out on their RRSP limit, the Government of Canada is subsidizing their pensions at the same time as it is saying to a lot of low income Canadians that they are going to have to get by on less and less. There will be no significant increases in CPP or OAS. But when it comes to subsidizing the retirement incomes of those who are affluent enough to max out on their RRSPs there seems to be no limit. I suppose this is some perverse fulfilment of the biblical saying that for those who have, much more will be added, and to those who have little, they will have even less. I am paraphrasing, but members know the teaching I am talking about.

I do not think we ought to see that fulfilled in the way that we have through the tax system we have now. So I make that point, but fundamentally I wanted to make the point that I think somewhere in the eighties we took a wrong turn. Government by government and province by province we conceded in the eighties, and the nineties, but it started in the eighties. Actually it started before that, in the late seventies with lotteries, but it progressed.

We can argue about when it started, but the fact of the matter is that somewhere along the line I think we made a serious wrong turn. I would hope that some day we might see the wisdom of seeking genuine alternatives to gambling in terms of raising revenue and return to a time when there was either none or a whole lot less government sanctioned gambling going on than there is now.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

4:45 p.m.


Steve Mahoney Liberal Mississauga West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise in support of this bill. I too would like to talk about some of the issues mentioned by the member who just finished speaking.

I find it interesting how much time we spend in this place debating justice issues and crime issues. It is particularly true since the emergence of the Reform Party and its attempts to overdramatize and frankly to frighten the Canadian public and people visiting this country, when Canada is by and large a safe place to live, a safe place to work and raise a family and a safe place to visit.

I would like to reassure people that our justice system, with some of its faults, is a fine system. It does provide proper justice to criminals. It does provide safety and security for families. When there are tragedies and victims are involved, there is a mechanism in place that will respond to those tragedies.

I also say to visitors, to people like Stafford and Lesley Woods who just arrived today from Europe that their stay in Canada, even though it will be with me, will be reasonably safe. They need not worry that they have landed in a country that the Reform Party would have them think is fraught with criminals, with organized crime, with gangs running around, with rape and pillaging taking place. That is simply not the reality experienced in this country.

I was also particularly interested in the comments by the member from the Reform Party who said that we should somehow take the politics out of these debates, to paraphrase those remarks. Yet in the year and a bit I have been in this place I have seen no one here who plays politics more with justice issues, more with crime and more in a tragic sense with victims of crime than members of the Reform Party.

It is interesting to hear them say how they would support some form of safe gun legislation or gun registry, yet they have been opposed to what some 80% of Canadians have supported, which is a gun control law that does make our streets safer.

Last week or the week before we dealt with the DNA bill which will provide a system of enhanced enforcement and control for police right across the country. It is a bill that police chiefs and police associations have supported in large number. The police believe and know—and my colleague from Waterloo who I believe served on the police commission would tell us—that a system of registering DNA in a proper data bank will assist them in doing their job. Yet that was opposed and members of the Reform Party played politics on that legislation.

Members stand up and say that we should not be on a witch hunt, yet I see nothing but witch hunts in this place. It has got to the point that you have to check underneath the cubicle door in the washroom to make sure no one is sitting there with his feet up and a notepad trying to catch something someone might say that could be raised as a point of privilege in an attempt to embarrass someone who might have been having a private conversation. It appears there is no safe place where we do not find members of the opposition lurking about attempting to catch and trick members of the government, to fabricate and come forward with a horrendous scandal.

It is scandal envy. Members opposite see what President Clinton is going through. They see the feeding frenzy of the media in the United States and the games played by members of the Republican Party in coming forward in the impeachment process. They ask “Why can we not have that much fun? Why not make up a scandal and get somebody? We can write down some notes, put a glass up to the office wall to see what we might hear. Imagine the fun we could have”.

All this is done instead of getting on with the business of running the country. This is done instead of dealing with issues of serious economic impact, such as the Asian crisis and the problems our finance minister was dealing with in Washington. We do not have questions about those issues. There has not been one question from the opposition dealing with the seriousness of the IMF situation, the stock markets around the world, and the Japan crisis. What do we have? Members say that we should not be playing politics.

It is more than just a joke, it is quite sad. Because in essence when we get a bill like this bill, which I agree is an omnibus bill that requires looking at a number of different amendments to legislation, members opposite want to play politics instead of dealing with the substantive issues.

I want to talk about the gambling issue. The member from the New Democratic Party had the unmitigated gall to cast aspersions around the country when the slippery slope of casino gambling was started by Premier Bob Rae in the province of Ontario and was exacerbated by this New Democratic Party premier. He put the entire economic future of the province of Ontario into the hands of gambling.

The casino in Windsor generates hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue. Casino Rama is doing the same thing. There is also the casino of casinos in Niagara Falls. Can we close them? Can we say to those communities “Sorry ladies and gentlemen, we have to take all the jobs away”. The slippery slope was started by the New Democrats and they should at least have the courage and the moral fortitude to admit it.

People in Windsor look across the Detroit River and see a city of several million people about to embark on the construction and opening of three, count them, three mega casino projects. What will those casinos do to the casino in Windsor? It has a serious problem in competing with them.

The rolling of the dice referred to in the bill that often colloquially is called craps is not allowed in our country currently. This bill will at least give Casino Windsor and the one in Niagara which are across the border from major U.S. metropolises that will be in the casino business, the opportunity to survive.

What is our option? It is tragic, because what has really happened here is that provincial governments, and Ontario being the mother of all provincial governments in size and in economic impact in this country, now rely on the revenues from gambling. In fact, with the cutbacks and the changes, Mike Harris has now closed all the charity casinos in the province of Ontario.

Imagine that. The little charity casinos. Hockey organizations, scouting movements, volunteer groups from all across the country and certainly in my community in Mississauga relied on those charity casinos. What damage were they doing? The provincial government came along and said “They are unregulated. They are out of control. The charities are not making enough money so we are going to embark on a process to build 44 new casinos in the province of Ontario”.

The provincial government called for proposals. Proponents submitted proposals and spent millions of dollars. Then without any thought to the impact of having closed all the charity casinos, it said to the volunteers and the charities “You can no longer earn money from this endeavour”. The United Way, all kinds of groups who rely on them are now before municipal councils saying “What do we do now? Give us a bingo licence. Give us some lifeblood. Give us some opportunity to survive”.

Mike Harris and the Conservative government following in the footsteps of the creators of the great casino migration in the province of Ontario, the New Democrats, have banned the charity casinos and cancelled the RFP for the 44 casinos that were going to open. The charities would have been able at least to apply to the Trillium Foundation for some of their revenue but the province told those charities to find some other way to survive. What are their options? Quite clearly they have to look inward. They have to look to their membership. Only so many bake sales and garage sales can be held in an attempt to raise that lost revenue.

There is enough shame to go around at least in the province of Ontario on the issue of casinos. But we now have no choice. Whether a member is in opposition, whether it was that member's party that brought this in or whether it was the government, we have to ensure that these establishments survive. They have become huge generators of economic wealth on which the provinces now rely for health care, for social care and even for education because of the amount of money that is going into them. Therefore, welcome to crap city. That is what we are dealing with in this country because the casino phenomenon will indeed expand.

Another part of the bill which I think the opposition has failed to recognize as being critical is what it will do in the area of domestic violence. One of the changes in this omnibus bill deals with something we identified through working with the province which is that those who are arrested as a result of domestic violence often try to contact the victims. We all know this.

Having been in politics for almost 20 years, I and I know many other people in this place deal with battered women, with families who have suffered through domestic violence and know from experience that the perpetrators, the people who have been charged, try to contact the victims in domestic violence cases. Why do they do that? It is because they want to change the victim's mind. Or maybe they get their lawyer to offer some kind of deal or do some kind of plea so that the woman will back off. Most of the time it is the woman who is suffering from this violence.

This bill says that cannot be done any more. This bill says that they cannot contact the individual they are charged with battering. A lawyer cannot be sent as some kind of missionary to convince the battered or abused individual, often a wife, a girlfriend or a common law wife. They can no longer interfere.

Why is that important? I spent nine and a half years as a member of regional council and city council in the region of Peel and Mississauga. We administered social services during that time and still do. My wife is currently a member of that council. We dealt at the ground level with the results. We saw the women, in most cases women, with black eyes and broken bones as a result of domestic violence.

In addition to the tragedy of domestic violence all too often we see that women will back off, either through coercion, fear for their children or their own personal safety. They refuse to proceed. It is a scourge on society that we should not tolerate as parliamentarians, as city, local and regional councillors, as MPPs or MLAs. We must attack domestic violence and eliminate it from society as much as we possibly can.

If Bill C-51 is worth supporting for one reason and for one reason only, it is this aspect of the bill. To vote against the bill will mean this change will not occur.

I ask members opposite to stop playing the games I hear going on in this place and to look at the benefits of the bill and how it will assist the broad base of society. It will improve the justice system in relationship to domestic violence. It will say to the perpetrators, as I said before, that they cannot contact the victims or through some surreptitious manner have their lawyers do it.

Hopefully this will help social workers and people who deal with the victims of domestic violence to shore them up and give them the courage they need to go forward so that a conviction can take place and we do something about ending domestic violence.

That is not the only reason to support the bill. I suggest there are many others. There is the issue surrounding child prostitution. As well, the bill will benefit police enforcement. Why? Because it will permit police to use electronic surveillance to determine if a person has sought some kind of sexual favour from a minor. They can use that evidence to obtain a conviction. It is critically important and does not exist now. The bill will allow that to take place.

Members opposite might ask for a clause that toughens the punishment. The government has done that in other areas. This bill like all bills cannot be a panacea for all concerns in the justice system. We should not expect Bill C-51 to solve every problem.

No one in the House on either side, in any party, condones any kind of sexual offence against children. To suggest otherwise is playing politics. That brings me back to a private member's bill that we dealt with in this place earlier in the week, Bill C-284. There was an attempt to play politics with the issues surrounding amendments to the Criminal Records Act, the CRA, that deal with publishing the records of those who have been convicted of some form of sexual offence against a minor and are pardoned.

The solicitor general already has the discretion to disclose pardon records to bona fide organizations. Who are those organizations?

There are numerous examples of convicted people who have been paroled, finished their sentence or pardoned. I do not know of any who have been pardoned after being convicted of sexually abusing a minor, but certainly they complete their sentences and wind up at some point back in the community.

There are numerous examples of names being published, of photographs being published and of the communities in which they are to live being warned that these individuals are back. However it has been done appropriately. It has been done through the police force to ensure there is no abuse of anyone's rights.

That is one of the greatest things about this safe country of Canada, the country I welcomed Stafford and Lesley Woods to, the country I welcomed people from all over the world to. We are a safe country. We have a parliamentary democracy that allows us to put in place laws that will protect women and children, in fact our entire society.

The bill should be supported unanimously for many reasons, a couple of which I have outlined today.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:05 p.m.


Gurmant Grewal Reform Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise on behalf of the official opposition and on behalf of the people of Surrey Central to address the contents of Bill C-51. The legislation proposes changes to the criminal law in the areas of gambling, homicide, child prostitution, conditional sentencing, organized crime, mineral claims, provisions regarding the use of computers in copying currency, and other matters too numerous to mention here.

I listened very carefully to Liberal members. I will dissect the bill to show them its anatomy. The Liberals are doing six things with the bill. Let us remember that number. I will go over those six things very soon.

Like so much legislation we have dealt with in this session since our return to the House in September, the government has chosen to do as little as possible in the bill. In Bill C-3 the Liberals tied the hands of law enforcement agencies by denying them full use of DNA identification technology. The Liberals ignored victims of crime and the safety and security of Canadians to ensure the rights of the accused would be protected. The Liberals care more about criminals than about victims.

Last week we saw Bill C-53 on fast track in the House. The bill was rammed through the House at first and second reading in four working days. The Liberals fail to address problems with the government's small business financing program. It is another failure.

In the process of doing very little in terms of what they should do and could not do to improve the small business loans program, the Liberals ignored the recommendations of the auditor general and 90,000 members of the Canadian Federation of Independent Business.

Bill C-35 is another example. Last week the government did not go far enough in amending the legislation governing anti-dumping and anti-subsidy tools applied to imported goods. The Liberals again ignored the interest of businesses and Canadian consumers that are downstream from an import duty or countervailing duty being imposed on an imported product.

Liberals could have granted the request made by our frontline police officers regarding the use of DNA identification to fight crime. Liberals could have helped small businesses prosper and create more jobs in the country. They could have simply provided for downstream businesses and consumers to be considered earlier in the process that would affect them.

In Bill C-51 the Liberals treat each of the six Criminal Code amendments in a very shallow manner. What they are proposing in the bill is very weak and indeed very meek.

The title of the bill mentions that it will amend the Criminal Code and the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act. Looking at the title, one would think this means the Liberals were to do something about drug related crime, drug gangs or other things.

The first issue the Liberals say they are addressing in Bill C-51 is illegal gambling. Can we imagine the dismay of my constituents and I when we realized that in terms of gambling solutions the government is doing only one thing. It is allowing international cruise ships to operate casinos while sailing in Canadian waters. That is all it is proposing in the bill.

There is no cleaning up of numbers games, bookies, illegal gambling rackets or underground black market racketeers. There is nothing of that sort. Canadians do not even take cruise ships because they cannot afford it. Canadians are so heavily taxed and our dollar is so low that they stay at home on their holidays. They cannot leave this country with a 65 cent dollar. They can only travel as far as their 10 year old cars can take them.

The Liberal government is not fooling anyone. In my constituency of Surrey the provincial government has approved slot machines and gambling and the local municipal government has not. There is a contradiction between both governments.

In Bill C-51 the federal government has moved toward legalizing some form of gambling. Something is wrong when various levels of government contradict themselves. Would it not be nice and progressive if all levels of government complement each other rather than contradict each other? Do the Liberals forget what synergy means? Do they want to make two plus two equal three or five?

The second effort in Bill C-51 is the homicide amendment. It does away with a 19th century law which says that in order for a murder to be considered a homicide the death of the victim must take place within a year plus a day of the incident which allegedly caused the death.

We had a death recently in my constituency of Surrey Central. Sandor Nyerges was a deaf and mute 80 year old veteran of two world wars. He was attacked in a botched robbery attempt in his home. This brave, strong and determined Canadian was a survivor. He lived in the hospital for several days before he succumbed to his injuries.

It is a good thing that the Liberals are finally doing away with this 19th century law. Not all victims die immediately and we should make room for that in our criminal law. Why did Canadians have to wait for a full century for this law to be changed?

The third thing the government is doing with the bill is allowing the use of wiretapping to solve the crime of living off the avails of child prostitution, keeping a common bawdy house and using underaged prostitutes. Also the bill makes it a crime to communicate with anyone for the purposes of obtaining or attempting to obtain the services I mentioned.

North America has a serious drug abuse problem. In the lower mainland of British Columbia this problem is well known. Injection drug use is on the rise and prevalent. It is the most dangerous and serious of the drug use categories. It causes people to become sick, reckless and desperate. It is good that Bill C-51 is helping the law enforcement community to deal with this problem.

The Liberals could have gone further. They could have taken the opportunity to increase the penalties for those convicted of these offences. However the Liberals are not getting tough on crime.

The fourth thing the government is doing is changing the conditional sentence portion of the law. This amendment will ensure that while a conditional sentence is being served, the clock is stopped immediately once a breach of the conditional sentence takes place. The clock starts ticking again once the breach of the conditions is dealt with and a new sentence commences.

It used to be that a court hearing regarding the alleged breach of the conditional sentence had to take place within 30 days of the alleged breach. Not anymore. Bill C-51 will make the requirement for a court hearing of a breach to be held as soon as practical. This will make our law less harsh in terms of dealing with breaches of conditional sentences.

The Liberals did not take the opportunity to prevent the application of conditional sentencing to violent offences. The government missed another opportunity today to get tough on crime.

The fifth area the bill deals with is organized crime. No more can a mobster be considered for parole after serving one sixteenth of the sentence. There is a big change. Canadians do not want anyone being released on parole after serving one sixteenth or even one third of the sentence they have been given by the court. We do not give sentences by square root. It does not mean five years. Twenty-five years means twenty-five years, but here we are talking one sixteenth.

Gangland figures are already given the full benefit of our generous system of day parole, full parole and statutory release. The Liberals are leaving Canadians with a penal system designed to process criminals as fast as possible. The Liberals return the criminals to the streets as soon as possible so that they are not taking up space or time in our penal institutions.

Canadians know the Liberals are allowing minimal if any concern to be given to the possibility that the offender will commit more crimes or more offences.

The Liberals are more concerned about the rights of criminals and they are less concerned about the rights of victims and the safety of Canadian society.

The Liberal government should not be concerned about the rehabilitation of the criminal. It should be concerned about the criminal committing further crimes. Instead, the government is concentrating on aspects of how early a person convicted of a crime can be released. Again the Liberals are not getting tough on crime.

In the sixth category of changes this bill proposes, we have the catch-all category and the Liberals are going to do a number of housekeeping things. For example, Bill C-51 proposes to put a stop to using computers to copy currency. That looks good but in this category there are other measures but my time will not permit me to go into them.

In five of the six categories I have mentioned, the governing party in the House has disappointed us and let us down again. The Liberals are not taking concrete measures to protect Canadians, make our homes and streets safe and reduce crime through deterrence measures. Gambling, drugs, prostitution, organized crime, gangs and even homicide are a sad and threatening part of our culture.

Last week the British Columbian attorney general stated that our law enforcement agencies are losing the war against organized crime, gangs, drugs, prostitution, et cetera.

Most of us wish we did not have to deal with these things. Yet again, we want to deal effectively with the perpetrators of these crimes and reduce their harmful effects on innocent victims.

Speaking in terms of government and society, we can see that all over the world different governments approve of different things for their societies.

Some governments permit liberal use of dangerous drugs like heroin. In some societies prostitution is legal. Sometimes the results are very bad and harmful in those societies and sometimes not, as hard as that is to believe. For example, in some societies gambling is allowed.

The problem we encountered with these activities was that very often where one activity is treated as a crime it is often linked to other vices. In the same geographical area where gambling is legal they may have problems with organized crime and prostitution. Through education and prevention we can improve the way our society handles these vices. Our government should be proactive and not just reactive.

My colleague from Esquimalt—Juan de Fuca had the House pass a motion supporting a national head start program for our youth. The goal was to care for each child and ensure that the needs of each child are met. This would help our children to lead crime free, healthy and prosperous lives.

The people of Surrey Central want our federal government to exercise a leadership role in terms of getting tough on crime. The Liberals have not done so with Bill C-51 which we are debating in the House.

On this side of the House we hope the Liberals will want to strengthen Bill C-51 along the lines that I have been talking about at the committee stage and the bill's progress through this House.

Having said all these things, I will not be supporting Bill C-51 in the House.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:20 p.m.


René Canuel Bloc Matapédia—Matane, QC

Mr. Speaker, most definitely, when we open up our morning papers and read about crime, of course we feel we are under attack. When we see abused children and women, we say it makes no sense.

We live in a society where there should be no crime but we know very well that crime does exist—and we see far too many reports on it. I will ask my hon. colleague this later, but will there be less crime tomorrow, or next year, just because we strengthen an act? I am not sure of this.

We do need laws, of course. In my riding, a priest, Father Leblanc, gave a ride to someone and lost his life. I will say no more about this, because the case will be coming before the courts, but a good Samaritan stops and picks someone up, disappears, and is later found dead after a search.

My question does not address crime per se. Everyone is against crime, and agrees it must be stopped. But how? How can we eradicate it in a highly civilized society? I would love to see crime totally eradicated, or at least gradually reduced. I believe this can be done through prevention.

A child aged two, four or five years who is not loved already has great anger bottled up inside. It grows, and becomes part of his very being. At aged 12 or 14, he is teased by his classmates and he then gives vent to that hidden anger. If his teachers, his parents or his guardians do not equip him with any ways of overcoming it, that anger will be expressed even more strongly.

My point is that what is needed is prevention. How can it be that so much money is put into law enforcement and not into prevention? I am asking my colleague what means of prevention could be created to put an end to this?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.


Gurmant Grewal Reform Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, I give credit to the hon. member for the important question he has put forward. But it does not mean I necessarily agree with him in what he is saying.

Prevention is always good and prevention is better than a cure. We in this country are in a damage control mode as far as crime is concerned. We are not in a preventive mode.

The worst part is that I am surprised at how government members represent their constituents when they are not listening to them. All Canadians are demanding that our laws be tougher so that we can prevent crime.

Bills we see in this House do not have any teeth. The Canadian Police Association has demanded from this government DNA legislation so that it can solve more crimes and prevent more crimes from happening. But this government has not done that.

Our system is such that it is a motivation for the criminals to commit crime. It is not a deterrent to prevent crime.

In a newspaper article I read that there is rationing of gasoline in RCMP cars in my constituency. How can we control crime, how can we spend money and not get anywhere? This government is at fault.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.


Steve Mahoney Liberal Mississauga West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I would like to ask the hon. gentleman from the Reform Party how he can justify voting against this bill when in doing so, he is saying he is opposed to abolishing provisions that prevent prosecuting individuals for homicide or criminal negligence when more than a year and a day has passed. He is opposed to making it easier to prosecute people who obtain services from underage prostitutes. He is opposed to helping judges and police deal more effectively with offenders who breach a condition of a conditional sentence order. He is opposed to making people convicted of organized crime offences ineligible for accelerated parole review. By voting against this bill he is saying he is opposed to giving new powers to justices to order an accused who is detained pending a bail hearing not to communicate with any witness or other person.

I refer him to issues around domestic violence. He is opposed by voting against Bill C-51 to changes that will indeed help to eradicate domestic violence and resolve these other issues of grave concern to the safety of all people in this country.

Could the hon. member explain why he is opposed to those amendments, to those changes to the Criminal Code and why he is voting against those aspects?

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.


Gurmant Grewal Reform Surrey Central, BC

Mr. Speaker, I am so aggravated listening to the explanation by the member that it is hard to answer in the short time I have. Let me ask the hon. member why his party is not listening to Canadians. Why is it not listening to the Canadian Police Association? Why is it not listening to victims? Why is it determined only to listen to the criminals? Why can Liberal members not see with their own eyes prostitution, gambling, homicides? Criminals are committing crimes and getting away with it.

That is why we are not supporting this bill. This government does not listen to the people. It is not producing legislation that will work, that will give the RCMP and our police agencies enough tools to fight crime on the street.

When we go door knocking in campaigns we see the alarm signs on doors and windows. Not only are people not safe on their streets, they are not even safe in their own homes. That is why they use alarms. I ask this member to appeal to his government to put this in the bill.

Criminal CodeGovernment Orders

5:25 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. McClelland)

It being 5.30 p.m., the House will now proceed to the consideration of Private Members' Business as listed on today's order paper.

Scholarships Named After Olympic AthletesPrivate Members' Business

5:30 p.m.


John Solomon NDP Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK


That, in the opinion of this House, the government should consider establishing full tuition scholarships named after each and every Canadian Gold Medal Olympic athlete starting with the 1998 Winter Olympics to encourage talented young Canadian athletes to complete their education at Canadian universities while continuing to excel in their particular Olympic sport and with the consideration of naming the first of such scholarships after the Sandra Schmirler Rink of Regina.

Mr. Speaker, I am very pleased to rise in the House today to speak to this very important motion.

This motion was inspired by the incredible victory of the Sandra Schmirler rink earlier this year. In fact it was on Sunday, February 5, 1998 at the Nagano Olympics, a victory that was watched by virtually every resident of Saskatchewan and made every Canadian proud.

This team of Canadian women from Regina's Caledonia Curling Club had racked up six provincial championships and three world titles by the time they claimed their first ever Olympic gold medal for women's curling since it became a full medal sport at this year's winter Olympics.

These women have become heroes to a new generation of young Canadians dreaming of representing Canada in the Olympic games, in particular those in winter sports. The skip of this rink, Sandra Schmirler, the third, Jan Betker, the second, Joan McCusker, the lead, Marsha Gudereit, and the alternate, Atina Ford, are all Saskatchewan born individuals. They are all Canadians and they excel in their sport.

I believe we should be establishing this particular scholarship for many good reasons and I will get into them right now.

I believe it is time to consider what steps go into making Olympic calibre athletes in Canada and how we can promote excellence in athletics and academics in our country. Canadian universities have long had a policy that they will not provide athletic scholarships in excess of $1,500 annually and not at all to students entering first year.

I support the main thrust of that policy because it is intended to steer our university system away from some of the excesses of the American system in which more money and attention is sometimes devoted to athletic teams, especially in bigger and richer schools, than the academic performance of the students they subsidize.

The big schools raise fairly large dollars from their alumni and draw the best athletes. They have not always been the best students, but it leaves the smaller schools scrambling for funding for their academic programs, which is, after all, supposed to be their core business activity.

This is what Canadian universities have wanted to avoid. However, the generous U.S. scholarships are drawing some 1,800 Canadian students annually to study south of the border. For many young athletes it represents the chance of a lifetime.

For example, the NDP leader of Ontario, Howie Hampton, left Fort Frances, Ontario as a young boy on a hockey scholarship to go to an American university. He returned years later after completing a law degree in Canada to practise law in his hometown, after, of course, making a stop in Saskatchewan to share in some of the experience of the New Democratic government of the late 1970s.

When Mr. Hampton went back to Fort Frances he coached some local hockey teams. From there he was elected to Queen's Park to serve as attorney general and minister of natural resources, and is now leader of the Ontario New Democratic Party.

But the point is that those scholarships are the chance of a lifetime.

Canada has a $350 million education deficit with the United States in terms of foreign students and now some of the universities in our western Canadian provinces are trying to make changes to Canadian policy to stem some of the flow of our best athletes to American schools, because when the students go the alumni and parent donations follow.

We all know that the federal government recently made those contributions tax exempt under Bill S-9 in the last parliament, while slashing federal funding for post-secondary education student aid.

I would like to share with Canadians this incredible betrayal to Canadian education. The Liberal government in the last parliament passed Bill S-9. It was supported by the Reform Party, by the Bloc and by the Conservative Party. The NDP was the only party to suggest that this bill was only a bill for the rich and the wealthy and that it was totally unfair to our education system.

While the Liberal government cut education funding in Canada by $2 billion a year, it is allowing Canadians to make contributions to U.S. universities and post-secondary institutions and take a tax deduction in Canada. Now the tax system in this country is supporting the U.S. education system while we cut back our own students. This is the Liberal, the Reform, the Tory and the Bloc way.

Bill S-9 is an insidious bill. I think the Liberals in this House should be absolutely ashamed of themselves. The opposition parties should be ashamed of themselves for abandoning young people in this country for the sake of American institutions. I cannot believe it.

When I tell people about Bill S-9 they are shocked. We now have tax deductions in Canada for making contributions to U.S. universities and post-secondary institutions. Some people say there is reciprocity. However, the facts show that over 25,000 Canadian students go to the U.S. Following them are donations to U.S. campuses from their parents, family members and wealthy corporations. But just under 5,000 U.S. students come to Canada.

It is a five to one ratio. We are supporting the education system in the U.S. with Canadian tax dollars while we abandon our students, while we abandon our young people in terms of supporting their educational desires and needs. It is incredible.

My proposal is designed to create full tuition scholarships, paid for by the federal government out of public funds. If we can afford to subsidize U.S. universities we can afford to subsidize Canadian athletes and Canadian institutions. My sense is that this will assist young Canadian athletes and provide them with the proper academic qualifications they will require in the global economy.

This would help Canadian universities as well. It would keep some of our best athletes at home, without unduly taxing their own alumni fundraising efforts and without creating further disparities between Canadian universities such as we have witnessed in the U.S.

By naming the scholarships after Canada's Olympic gold medalists, starting as I have suggested with the Sandra Schmirler rink of Regina, we would serve the dual purpose of recognizing their accomplishments and taking advantage of their status as role models to inspire the next generation of Olympic calibre athletes.

The government could finance this proposal easily, by the way, out of the savings it could reap in tax expenditures if it reversed the odious provisions of Bill S-9 to which I referred a few moments ago.

I also want to take some time to express the concerns we hear every year at about this time in my Regina constituency office from students and their parents about the state of student aid in this country and about the outrageous levels of debt students are required to take on if they do what governments, industry and indeed the future of our economy demands they do, which is to acquire at least an undergraduate degree.

Post-secondary training has never been more essential to the future of our country and it has never been more expensive. The benefits accrue to industry, government and society as a whole, as well as students, but the associated costs and risks are being more and more assumed by only the students. In fact many recent changes to student assistance on the federal side, including some incredibly discriminatory provisions last year prohibiting bankruptcies for 10 years to anyone carrying a student loan, are being driven by the big banks, which hypocritically lobby against student grants and lower tuition and then make money from the interest charges on student loans.

It is no wonder the banks are among the targets of next week's week of action planned by the Canadian Federation of Students. I salute and support those efforts by the Canadian Federation of Students.

The big corporations are tying the hands of our young people because those corporations will not pay or assist in funding their education, which would benefit our own country, but we allow the Reichmanns and the Bronfmans to write off hundreds of millions of dollars, almost on an annual basis, against our tax system, and they can write it off in the regular term of one year. Our students are now handcuffed. They have to take 10 years to pay back the loans because we have burdened them with an average debt of $25,000.

To come back to where I started with this proposal, this morning I reread some of the news stories about Schmirler's win last February and was reminded of something she said at that time.

She was asked about being called the best-ever female curling team and her answer typified the Canadian ideal of sports personship that endeared her so much to the people in my province of Saskatchewan. She said “It does not matter if I believe it or not. We go out there, we play for fun and we play the best that we can, and we happen to play at this level. Yes, we have won quite a bit, but I even know that back in Regina there are plenty of good teams”.

“But are they the best?” she was asked. “It is a good combination for us and it has been right ever since the day we put this team together. The personalities click and we are not bad curlers to boot”.

Wherever they went the women talked of their families, of their communities and of their country. Their win was an accomplishment for them. However, it was not in boasting as an individual achievement, but more as an expression of the importance of teamwork within a supportive family and community environment.

Sandra Schmirler and her team represented the best values of Saskatchewan and they still represent the best values of Saskatchewan. We in Saskatchewan are very proud of our athletes for their values of family, of community, of hard work and of modesty.

We need more heroes like that. This is why I am proposing a federally funded, full tuition scholarship program to keep young athletes in Canadian universities to benefit Canada. I can think of no more fitting example than Sandra Schmirler and her rink to name the first fund after.

I happen to have a list of other gold medalists who I would like to see these scholarships named after. They are: Ross Rebagliati, a gold medalist in snowboarding; Catriona LeMay Doan from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, a gold medalist in the 500 metre long track speed skating event; Annie Perreault, a gold medalist in the 500 metre short track; Marc Gagnon, Derrick Campbell, Eric Bédard and François Drolet, gold medalists in the 5,000 metre men's relay short track; the women's curling team, as I mentioned, which won the gold medal; and Pierre Leuders and Dave MacEachern, gold medalists in the two-person bobsled.

We also won silver and bronze medals. At some point I would like to see this kind of a scholarship program extended not just to the gold medal winners but to those who receive silver and bronze medals in the Olympic Games.

In summary, I believe this is a very significant move which the government could make to assist some of the challenges that face our athletes in Canada and to make them Olympic calibre athletes.

I submit that we could pay for this probably 10,000 times over on an annual basis if we repealed Bill S-9, which literally drains money from our Canadian education system and gives it to the Americans. This is again a bill that was supported by the Liberals, the Reform Party, the Bloc and the Conservatives.

I think the more young people learn about this insidious legislation, which is costing them their birthright in terms of sufficiently funded post-secondary education, they are really going to make a serious decision come the next election and decide that maybe what they need is a government that will look at education from a very serious minded perspective and from a perspective that will be supportive for our young people because they are the future of our country.

I look forward to hearing the comments of my colleagues when they stand to speak to this motion. I will be happy to provide a five minute wrap up at the end.

Scholarships Named After Olympic AthletesPrivate Members' Business

5:40 p.m.


Steve Mahoney Liberal Mississauga West, ON

Mr. Speaker, I wish I could, in one sense, stand here and say to the member opposite that I am willing in whole or at least in part to support this motion because I think the intent is probably good.

It is unfortunate, however, when we politicize the Olympic games and our Olympic champions. Who will forget the pride that all Canadians felt, perhaps with the exception of one or two members of the Bloc who caused some difficulties with regard to the Olympics? I will not go into the great flag flap during this debate. Who can forget? Most of us stayed up until all hours of the night and morning to watch the events.

We all felt a great disappointment when Canada did not come home with hockey medals. However, when we look at the inclusion of the elite players of the National Hockey League, as exciting as the hockey could have been, might have been and should have been, the reality is that I never considered those individuals to be true Olympians in the same sense as the people the hon. member has mentioned such as Ross Rebagliati, Annie Perreault, Marc Gagnon and his team. There was excitement in their success and that of our bobsled team.

Probably we received more television coverage this time around due to the time change for curling. Some people made disparaging remarks about curling being an Olympic sport. It can be a demanding game requiring a tremendous amount of sacrifice and effort on behalf of the athletes.

The member suggests that the first scholarship fund should be named after Sandra Schmirler Rink of Regina. There is no question that we congratulate her and all the citizens of Saskatchewan. I may be wrong—and the member can correct me if he so wishes—but I believe Saskatchewan might have led the nation in medals at the Olympics. One of our smaller provinces turns out tremendously talented athletes who did—

Scholarships Named After Olympic AthletesPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


John Solomon NDP Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

And members of Parliament too.

Scholarships Named After Olympic AthletesPrivate Members' Business

5:45 p.m.


Steve Mahoney Liberal Mississauga West, ON

I do not know about that. Probably in the past that might have been true, thinking back to some of the member's predecessors like Tommy Douglas and some of the folk I knew quite well on a personal basis through my family connections. I will not go into disparaging remarks about the member opposite in relation to his level of talent.

While I believe his heart is in the right place in trying to come up with a plan that would establish a scholarship fund named after Canadians of which we are all proud, I believe in typical fashion his head is in the wrong place. The reason is that New Democrats very seldom take into account the economic impact of motions they put forward.

I give him credit that he suggested wrongly and in a partisan and political manner the way in which this might be funded. I do not believe he has done his homework. If he wants to bring forward a debate on whether or not those credits should be allowed for people investing in their children's education wherever the education may be, perhaps that is what he should do. Perhaps he could hear from the families making the investment to support their children in attaining higher education and higher levels of athletic excellence in some instances south of the border.

Very often we tend to have eight months of winter and four months of bad skating in Canada. There is a need at times for athletes to train in warmer climates. Therefore they go south to train at facilities which are not available here. Unless they are built indoors at a tremendous cost in most instances to the local taxpayer, those facilities are not available.

It is not as simple as the member opposite in the New Democratic Party would have it. He bashes big corporations and American institutions or the government, which NDPers attempt to do on an ongoing basis.

The Government of Canada does a number of things to assist athletes. During the last fiscal year under the athlete assistance program some 900 high performance athletes received financial support totalling more than $7.25 million. The taxpayer is supporting elite athletes in their attempts to improve their success rate, to bring home the gold, the silver and the bronze.

While we all revel in the success of our achievers who bring home some form of medal, is it not equally important to recognize those who compete, who try, who are a part of our team and perhaps do not succeed to the level where they bring home a medal?

There is a real danger of elitism if we are not careful in recognizing that our entire Olympic team should be supported. It should clearly be supported by all parliamentarians in all parties from all parts of the country. That has not been the case in the past.

The government has supported athletes to the tune of $7.25 million. Athletes receive living and training allowances, depending on the success and performance level, ranging from $185 up to as much as $810 per month. That can be a pretty major amount of money to assist an athlete who is training and working toward an education.

Other forms of scholarships exist which I will go into momentarily. The awards under the athlete assistance program are practical awards. They support the worthy. While the highest individual amounts awarded go to top Olympic and world championship performers, the largest number of awards go to athletes who have the potential to excel in high performance sport. That does not mean they are fortunate enough to be carrying a medal around their neck, but they have the potential to succeed.

I noted a story the other night which I believe was on CTV. I forget the name and I apologize to the individual. A young athlete was striving to make the national team as a diver. This is the kind of excellence. His parents were fundraising $12,000 to assist him in achieving his goal of making the national team and eventually the Olympic team. It is an extraordinary challenge for a family to undertake.

There are opportunities for fundraising. In spite of the comments of the members from the left spectre of the New Democratic Party, corporate Canada supports Olympic athletes. It supports young people trying to achieve greatness and trying to do better, whether to excel in the Olympics or to excel in sports in their home communities.

We also support them through Canada's millennium scholarship fund which was established in the last budget. It will award more than 100,000 scholarships annually to full time and part time students based on financial need and merit, not based on their ability to leap a bar, swim a course or play a particular game.

I support assisting our athletes, but to put in place a new level of scholarship without any concern about the cost to the taxpayers is more typically irresponsible NDP rhetoric. The member opposite has much to be proud of about the athletes in his province of Saskatchewan. All Canadians share that pride.

The member should take a look at the numbers and realize the government is supporting Olympic athletes and post-secondary education efforts on behalf of all students in Canada. As a result I am unfortunately unable to support the motion put forward by the member.

Scholarships Named After Olympic AthletesPrivate Members' Business

5:55 p.m.


Diane Ablonczy Reform Calgary Nose Hill, AB

Mr. Speaker, this evening we are debating a motion put forward by the member for Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre. It is a private member's motion which reads:

That, in the opinion of this House, the government should consider establishing full tuition scholarships named after each and every Canadian gold medal Olympic athlete starting with the 1998 Winter Olympics to encourage talented young Canadian athletes to complete their education at Canadian universities while continuing to excel in their particular Olympic sport and with the consideration of naming the first of such scholarships after the Sandra Schmirler Rink of Regina.

As the House knows this is not a votable motion. The House will not be making a decision on whether to move ahead on this motion. However, it is an idea which merits debate and consideration in the House. I commend the member for bringing it forward.

The speech from the government member opposite made me think of the Rodney Dangerfield line “I don't get no respect”. I am sure the member for Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre feels that way. I will probably say a couple of things that may not be construed as totally respectful, but we all have the highest respect for Sandra Schmirler and her rink.

I do not know about many others in the Chamber, but I remember rushing home last winter many times after my office work and my work in the House to watch the curling finals on the Olympic channel. It was a real pleasure and a real enjoyment to see Sandra Schmirler and the other Canadians on her rink from Saskatchewan be the best in the world, especially when it was the first time curling was part of the Olympic Games. It was a real highlight for all Canadians and I think for many of us here. The member's desire to recognize this achievement is certainly a very natural and very laudable one.

The member made some rather strong and gratuitous swipes at other parties in the House for suggesting that Canadians could save their money and decide to go outside the country to spend their education dollars. I think the United States was the one the member chose to attack. He then said later in his remarks that government actions would tie the hands of our young people with respect to their educational choices.

It is fair to say to the member that there is some inconsistency here. He does not want to tie the hands of young people in some ways, but he is quite happy to tie the hands of young people in other ways. Rather than imprisoning our young people in Canada by taxation policy or public economic policy, we should simply make Canadian educational institutions strong, good and competent so that they deliver a fine standard of education. Far from Canadians wanting to go outside the country for education, we would have people from many other countries flocking to Canada for the high quality of education. I think that would be a better goal to achieve.

In that regard I agree with the member that the government has wounded the post-secondary education system by its slashing and burning of support for post-secondary education. That is what it has done. It has taken away a full $1.5 billion each and every year from the post-secondary education system.

Then it gave back a pittance, $250 million a year or about one-sixth of what it took away, beat its chest and asked “Is this not wonderful?”. It forgot to mention that it trampled on provincial rights and jurisdiction in so doing because post-secondary education is the purview of the provinces. By setting up scholarship arrangements in that jurisdiction it simply trampled on federal-provincial relations. That has sown some bitter seeds that will bear bitter fruit for the federal government and for federal-provincial arrangements in a whole lot of areas where goodwill and good relations are vital.

It is extremely important that we support quality education in our country. Instead of slashing dollars from that sector government should find some dollars to slash from some of its other endeavours. It could cut some of the wasteful spending and duplications of spending we have pointed out many times on the record.

I am sure the member will respond to my concern that there is a double standard in attacking the wish of members of parliament from all parties except the New Democrats to give freedom of choice to our students and not to tie their hands in the matter of educational choices but to give them good reasons to stay in Canada other than you have to because we will not let you spend your money anywhere else.

It would be appropriate to address the idea of athletic scholarships as worthy of support. There are scholarships in many area of endeavour like science, engineering, music and literature. Most would agree that the answer to whether athletic scholarships are legitimate and desirable would be yes.

We want to encourage young Canadians to seek excellence in many diverse ways by drawing on the best that young minds and young bodies can achieve. Athletic excellence is a very important component of human endeavour. Athletic endeavour should therefore be encouraged and recognized.

Athletic awards of up to $1,500 are currently available to some students excluding freshmen at some Canadian universities. First year students are not eligible. The idea was to have students demonstrate some commitment to an educational program before scholarships would be available.

At a meeting of the Canadian Interuniversity Athletic Union in June some universities proposed increasing the amount from $1,500 to $3,000 and making first year students eligible. The motion did not pass at this meeting because many universities said that they did not have the necessary funds. We can thank the government for a lot of that difficulty.

The number of athletes receiving this type of assistance was estimated to be less than 200. There is a lack of dollars. I do not think it is because the super rich are being parsimonious with their support for a lot of these endeavours for helping our young people as the mover of the motion suggests. There has not been the commitment on the part of this government to make sure post-secondary dollars are protected and enhanced where possible.

The naming of scholarships after Olympic gold medalists is an interesting idea. Recognizing the achievements of our Canadian athletes in that way would have a lot of favour with the public. Our Olympic program is valued. Three Canadian cities are bidding to be the site of the 2010 Olympics, including my home city of Calgary. The decision as to what site in Canada will be designated as host city will be made next month. I salute my city of Calgary for the vigorous bid it is putting forward to host the Olympics.

The athletes who are looking forward to participating in the upcoming Olympics have the support and encouragement of all of us. Sometimes we think that what we do in the House is a bit of a marathon. I think our athletes who train and work so hard for these Olympic games and the cities and volunteers that host them are to be commended.

I think this is an interesting motion. I appreciate being able to speak on it. I thank the hon. member for putting it forward to the House.

Scholarships Named After Olympic AthletesPrivate Members' Business

6:05 p.m.


Paul Crête Bloc Kamouraska—Rivière-Du-Loup—Témiscouata—Les Basques, QC

Mr. Speaker, at the start of my presentation, I would like to thank the member for Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre for making it possible, with this motion, to finally hold a debate in this House on funding for competitive athletes in Canada.

The motion refers to study bursaries at the university level for top athletes. This proposal contains what I call the NDP illusion, in other words, the good news always has to come from the federal government, regardless of jurisdictions and responsibilities.

Education is a provincial matter. The differences between Quebec and other parts of Canada are very clear. For example, Quebec already has a system of loans and bursaries. Bursaries, which are based on financial need, are already available for students at both the college and the university levels. And they are available to everyone in all disciplines, regardless of performance.

The bursaries proposed in the motion are lot like the millennium scholarships. This is not the right sort.

Still, the member has clearly put his finger on the problem, a situation that requires examination, but his solution, in the end, is not a good one.

At the end of the summer, when I did my prebudget consultations, I met young parents, maybe 35 or 40 years old, who have young children who are active in high performance sports and could well compete nationally or internationally one day. These people are facing real financial problems. This is where we should look so we can assure parents of the help they need so they do not have to pay out themselves $2,000 or $3,000 or $5,000 a year for training for their child whose talents they want to develop.

One father, a bus driver, talked to me for an hour in my office about all the sacrifices he has to make and juggling he has to do to pay for his child's sports and studies. This includes skates and all sorts of equipment. It adds up to thousands of dollars very quickly.

The vision for the future has much more to do with ensuring that thousands of young people can reach their full athletic potential, take part in competitions, get the necessary support while they are growing, and seeing that their parents get that assistance.

During the pre-budget consultation, I made suggestions in that sense, proposing that tax credits or some other form of assistance be used to provide some relief to parents, given the financial efforts they are making to help their children.

I am very aware that parents often face a rather serious problem. On the one hand, there is the child's talent, while on the other hand, there is the question of whether the parents can afford to provide that support. Since we are all very proud when our athletes win, we should also be very proud to provide them with adequate training and financial support.

I want to say something to the Liberal member who said earlier that everyone in this House is proud of the achievements of Canadian athletes, except perhaps a few Bloc members. This is a petty attitude which does not at all reflect what happened here when our Olympic medallists came to meet us.

I do not think anyone went and asked Alexandre Depatie of Laval whether his parents were sovereignists or federalists. This is irrelevant when it comes to recognizing the quality of an athlete's performance. The important thing is to allow our athletes to develop their full potential and to congratulate them when they perform exceptionally well and make it all the way to the world championships.

The NPD's idea to raise the issue of financing, of helping elite athletes is a good one. This, however, is not the best way to go about it, as we saw when the heritage committee held hearings on professional and amateur sport.

The hearings on professional sports attracted a lot of people. Many members of Parliament came because of the presence of National Hockey League magnates. However, when we held our hearings on amateur sport, the audiences were a lot smaller. There were many empty seats. Yet, the problem that exists is a very important one.

Could a happy medium not be found between the tax credits offered for boxes at professional sports events and the financial assistance actually available to parents whose children show promise but who do not have the money to pay for equipment and travel so their kids can develop their potential?

This is not the only level of competition where there is a problem. Earlier, the Liberal member mentioned federal government programs to support outstanding athletes when they were selected for national teams.

People in my riding came to tell me that they had been selected to attend the World Cup in Germany, but were offered funding covering only 20% or 30% of the expenses they would actually incur. I saw folks who were unable to attend the World Cup because they did not have the money it took.

When it has been decided that someone has the skills and the ability to attend such an event, the funding should be adequate. There is perhaps nothing wrong with asking the athlete to contribute a portion, but it should be along the lines of 80-20, that is 80% funded by the government and 20% by the individual, by the student, not the reverse.

It is a bit insulting, when it comes right down to it. If your country has decided that you are talented enough to compete internationally and has selected you to represent it at these competitions, but you have a month, or a month and a half, to come up with $3,000, $4,000, $5,000 or $10,000 to pay for your trip, there is something wrong. These problems should be worked out in the next budget so that funding can be as fair as possible.

It hits home even more when put in perspective. For example, if the City of Quebec is selected as the site of the 2010 Games, now is when the athletes who will take part in those games are starting their training. Children who are now six, eight, ten years old will be 20 or 25 in 2010 and they will be the ones performing. I hope that Quebec will be able to have a team then, like all the other nations. This way, we will be able to say how proud we are of our young athletes' performance.

There is a detail missing in this proposal. It may sound technical, but it is nonetheless relevant. This motion refers to universities. Assistance could be directed not only to university students but also to college students.

In Quebec, we have vocational and professional colleges, commonly known as cegeps, where technicians are trained, individuals who will be available for employment when their training is completed. Their fields of study include computer science, wildlife management, animal health, biology and all kinds of other sectors. They can enter the labour force immediately upon graduation. Why would these students, and those in vocational training, not be eligible for this kind of program?

Why not help students training to become joiners or carpenters who also have athletic abilities to perform as athletes while at the same time being able to pursue their education in adequate conditions? I think this would be a good way to show that we value manual and technical work.

I am not suggesting the member's intent was to exclude these people. I just see in this debate a great opportunity to examine all aspects of the question and to raise all important issues.

Ultimately, and here lies the member's motion's greatest merit, the government will have to do something to help young athletes in Quebec and Canada who are taking part in international competitions. Care must be taken to change the current situation, where many young people give up, not because they cannot or will not compete, but because they do not have the financial support they need. In that sense, we must applaud the member's initiative in putting this issue forward.

Scholarships Named After Olympic AthletesPrivate Members' Business

6:15 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Mark Muise Progressive Conservative West Nova, NS

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to address Bill 374, a bill that would effectively establish and name scholarships after Olympic gold medalists.

Establishing scholarships for students would obviously be a huge benefit to all those considering attending university. Today's university students are struggling to cope with high tuition costs and excessive debt. The average university student graduating from university owes more than $25,000 and many students have been forced into bankruptcy. This is totally outrageous. Even before these students find their first real job they are straddled with a huge mortgage.

The Liberal answer to this problem was to create the millennium fund which is more of a monument to the current Prime Minister than a positive initiative. Only 7% of Canadian students will actually benefit from this fund.

Despite this bleak outlook students continue to pursue a university or college education because they realize it is their best opportunity at finding a decent job.

It is obvious our students require immediate assistance. They are mortgaging their futures without the hope of finding a decent job. Youth unemployment is at a staggering 15% nationwide and with the economic climate as it is today their hopes of finding a job are dwindling.

Reducing taxes would help stimulate greater economic growth, thereby providing greater employment opportunities for our youth. The government could further assist the economy by returning the EI premium surplus to workers and owners alike, where it rightfully belongs.

This bill would be beneficial to those students who are presently in university or who are contemplating entering in the near future. However, these scholarships would also serve other very important purposes.

Naming scholarships after Olympic gold medalists would be a wonderful way to pay tribute to those athletes who brought home Olympic glory. These athletes' hard work and dedication to their particular sport could serve as a reminder to our students of whatever accomplishments they set their minds to they could accomplish. Whether students are interested in sports or not these Olympic champions could serve as role models for our students. They epitomize the meaning of commitment. I am not necessarily talking only about commitment in sports. I am also talking about commitment needed to succeed in academics, business and in life.

Establishing and naming scholarships after Olympic gold medalists would also help bring recognition to our Canadian Olympic program. It would help remind all Canadians of the outstanding accomplishments of our athletes in international competition.

Canada's Olympic program needs visibility to encourage greater financial participation from the private sector. Our Olympic program is suffering from a serious lack of funding. Our athletes cannot focus their full attention on training because of a lack of training allowances. Our Canadian athletes need greater support if they are to achieve world class results and at present the government is not willing to provide the necessary funding for them to achieve this goal.

Only a few weeks ago one of Canada's bobsledders was forced to emigrate to the United States to try to make the U.S. team. The U.S. financially supports its athletes so they can concentrate on becoming the best they can be.

Canada still has much to be proud of in our Olympic athletes. Despite their financial limitations our athletes still manage to dazzle the world with a number of memorable performances that have resulted in Olympic gold.

Who can forget the Atlanta Olympics and Donovan Bailey, the fastest man in the world? For a moment in time his stunning victory captured the imagination of all Canadians and helped instill a sense of pride in ourselves that we as Canadians have not experienced since.

We often make fun of excessive American patriotism, however perhaps it is time Canadians began basking in our own history, in our own accomplishments. Canadians should be proud of who we are and what we have accomplished as a united country.

After all, let us not forget that we are still considered the best country in the world in which to live. Let us help instill some pride in our country and pride in our athletes.

We should not have to wait every four years during Olympic broadcasts to be reminded of the wonderful performance of gold medal winning athletes such as Nancy Greene, Barbara Ann Scott, Donovan Bailey, Gaétan Boucher and many others who have been named here.

Let us help keep the wonderful memories of their accomplishments alive and well by attaching their names to scholarships. Establishing and naming scholarships after Olympic gold medalists would serve a number of purposes I have previously mentioned.

I conclude by congratulating the hon. member for Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre for introducing this very interesting bill.

Scholarships Named After Olympic AthletesPrivate Members' Business

6:20 p.m.


Andrew Telegdi Liberal Kitchener—Waterloo, ON

Mr. Speaker, in my riding of Kitchener—Waterloo Oktoberfest will be starting this Friday and will be going for 10 days. I know all hon. members are most interested in enjoying our hospitality.

I will first make some comments on what the Bloc member said, that all Canadians from coast to coast, from the Atlantic to the Pacific, are incredibly proud of the achievements of our Olympic athletes.

We are proud of them for getting there, for participating at that elite level. We are also incredibly proud of them in terms of the medals they brought back to Canada. I think it is a point of real unity and it is a real understanding for Canadians from Quebec meeting people from B.C. and other parts of Canada, that intermingling.

The member for Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre's suggestion that a full series of full tuition scholarships for promising young Canadian athletes be established in the name of Canada's gold medalists is certainly a great suggestion and it is something that has response on all sides of the House. I can appreciate that he would want one of the scholarships to be named after curling gold medal winner Sandra Schmirler who thrilled many Canadians from coast to coast.

Every community greatly appreciates its own Olympic athletes. The late Victor Davis from my riding was one of the recipients at the 1984 Olympics.

I think all members of this House will agree that seeing Canadian athletes represent Canada on the world stage provides Canadians with a strong sense of national pride. Our high performance athletes are also excellent role models for all Canadians, particularly our youth.

Their achievements instil pride and inspire young Canadians to pursue excellence in sports and other endeavours.

The government is playing a great role. We are making great financial contributions. Let me also stress that it is the responsibility of all Canadians to make individual contributions.

Scholarships Named After Olympic AthletesPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.


John Solomon NDP Regina—Lumsden—Lake Centre, SK

Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the comments made by members tonight with respect to this motion. I thank the member for Churchill for seconding this motion. I thank as well the member for South Shore from the Progressive Conservative Party who supports this motion. That is a very important thing to do at this moment.

I assure the member for Calgary—Nose Hill from the Reform Party that this bill is not a double standard. It does provide an additional amount of support for our young people for their education. She says that if we repealed Bill S-9 it would tie the hands of young people. This will not tie the hands of young people. It will provide them with all kinds of opportunities.

There are 25,000 Canadian young people attending American universities and other institutions which is 500% more than the number of Americans attending our institutions. That was the case before Bill S-9, which provided tax deductions for making contributions to U.S. universities, was implemented in the House. I disagree with the member on that. It is something she should look a little closer at.

With respect to the Liberal Party, the member for Ottawa—Vanier mentioned that he thinks this is a good idea. I appreciate that. However, the member for Mississauga West who read the response from the government side did not read the motion. He is still fighting the 1995 Ontario provincial election. That was the indication I had from his remarks. They were quite provocative. He was speaking for his government and basically it missed the point.

It is not surprising that he attacked the New Democratic Party. He attacked athletes. He attacked young people. He attacked the unemployed. He is playing politics. He thinks this motion is something that is not worthy of consideration by this House. As a matter of fact, what is more political is that he and his government have cut back education, in particular post-secondary funding for education, to such an extent that there is a looming crisis in education for young people in terms of their opportunity to access it.

In order to buy some political capital the government institutes a new program called the millennium fund which may over a number of years provide additional scholarships for 6% or 7% of the eligible students. It excludes 93% or 94% of all students who may require some additional funding. The government in my view has intruded in the provincial scene with respect to the millennium fund scholarship program initiatives.

The Bloc made a correct observation when the member indicated that we have not included in the motion funding for cégeps or technical schools. That is a good idea that could be incorporated in this motion.

I thank members for participating in the debate. I appreciate their viewpoints. Although the motion is not universally embraced, I would ask for unanimous consent to allow this motion to be votable.

Scholarships Named After Olympic AthletesPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

The Deputy Speaker

Does the House give its consent that this motion be made votable?

Scholarships Named After Olympic AthletesPrivate Members' Business

6:25 p.m.

An hon. member