House of Commons Hansard #39 of the 36th Parliament, 2nd Session. (The original version is on Parliament's site.) The word of the day was quebec.


Minimum SentencesAdjournment Proceedings

6:45 p.m.


Bill Graham Liberal Toronto Centre—Rosedale, ON

Madam Speaker, I had the opportunity to raise the question some time ago with the Minister of Canadian Heritage about what measures the government is taking to protect culture in the country, in particular against the influence of its erosion in connection with what we loosely call globalization.

This is a matter which was raised by our committee and by the heritage committee and is of great concern to all Canadians. People in my own riding are very concerned about what measures we are taking in Ottawa to ensure that the cultural diversity and strength of the country remains in the face of what is going on outside our borders and throughout the world.

We know very well that in the province of Quebec people have succeeded in preserving a vibrant cultural life that is unique in North America, that enriches our country and that encourages us to also preserve and promote the use of French in the other provinces.

Cultural diversity when seen in the context of the integrated world in which we live is a very complex issue. When we look at the Internet, when we look at new means of telecommunications, we see on the one hand tremendous opportunities. We see opportunities for Canadians to participate in exporting our cultural products and with them our values and our sense of what we are about ourselves. On the other hand they serve also as a vehicle by which other cultural products and other visions of how the world is seen come into our society and come into our homes and influence.

Our neighbour to the south is the most important producer and largest exporter of cultural products in the world. It is naturally to the Americanization of the world of culture that we look with some concern and ask ourselves what our government is doing and what we as legislators can do.

The Minister of Canadian Heritage is to be particularly congratulated on having held last year a very interesting meeting of cultural ministers. It brought ministers from countries as diverse as France and Mexico, as well as others, to discuss how to work together to preserve the nature of cultural diversity in this world. This was in the interests of all citizens of the world, not just some. The minister followed the meeting with an interesting meeting with the UNESCO culture ministers. I know she has been pursuing this with some aggressive action.

We also know that the ability to protect culture today is linked to trade rules. There was the famous magazine case. We have had to look at the effectiveness of the articles in NAFTA and the free trade agreement which raise a form of cultural exemption which some people today are telling us does not work in the new environment in which we operate.

As I said before, we must recognize that the Americans are the most aggressive at pursuing the export of their cultural products and at resisting any suggestion that trade rules would reflect an opportunity for those of us who feel vulnerable in this area to protect ourselves.

We have allies in France and other countries but we still wonder what is taking place. That is why I am rising again today and taking this opportunity to ask the government what took place after the Seattle meeting.

We called for new measures in our committee report on the WTO. We called for the government to look at creating a new international cultural instrument. We recognize that this issue raises complex matters, differences between goods and services, but we believe that this must be accomplished in the WTO context and we look forward to knowing that the government continues to pursue this agenda aggressively and in the interests of all Canadians.

Minimum SentencesAdjournment Proceedings

6:50 p.m.

Pontiac—Gatineau—Labelle Québec


Robert Bertrand LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of National Defence

Madam Speaker, I thank you for this opportunity to follow up on the question raised on October 10 by the member for Toronto Centre—Rosedale.

I would like to quote from a speech the Prime Minister gave a couple of months ago on the current government's commitment to preserve Canadian culture. He said, and I quote “We must work together to protect this diversity. We must recognize that cultural goods and services are much more than mere goods. They deal with a fundamental and indefinable thing, our identity”.

Nobody can doubt the commitment of the current government to preserve and promote cultural diversity both in Canada and abroad. Since the government stresses the importance of this issue, as witnessed in the last throne speech, we will work to develop, at the international level, a new approach to support the diversity of cultural expression throughout the world.

As indicated in the government's answer to two standing committees, the heritage committee and the foreign affairs and international trade committee, the federal government is considering a new international instrument to promote cultural diversity. The purpose of such an instrument would be to set clear rules that would allow Canada and other countries to retain policies promoting culture, while respecting the rule governing the international trade system, and give cultural products access to export markets.

During the initial stage of the discussions, both here and abroad, on this new international instrument, Canada will keep on insisting, in every relevant international agreement, on maximum flexibility in order to reach its objectives with regard to cultural policy.

For several years now this government has been defending the importance of cultural diversity as an international policy issue, and we have tried to strike the right balance between participating in the “global culture” and leaving enough room for Canadian culture.

Minimum SentencesAdjournment Proceedings

6:50 p.m.

Progressive Conservative

Bill Casey Progressive Conservative Cumberland—Colchester, NS

Madam Speaker, I rise as a follow-up to a question I asked on October 21, a long time ago. A lot of things have happened in the aviation industry since then but my question is still valid.

My question on October 21 referred to a report written in 1993 and that report is still valid. It was based on the concept that if Canada had one major airline, we would have very little competition and no protection for consumers. That was valid in 1993 when the Competition Tribunal wrote it. It was valid on October 21 when I brought it up, and amazingly enough, we are right back where we started. The government is now considering what conditions it will apply in the event of a dominant carrier and one airline in Canada.

Considering that everything is the same as it was in 1993 and back in October, I would like the very distinguished parliamentary secretary to address my question about what is happening right now. What assurances are being demanded by the federal government and the federal minister in his negotiations with the successful dominant carrier in respect to divestiture of regionals, for example, to allow for competition throughout the country?

What protection is being given to discount airlines against this giant monopoly that we will have? What conditions is the minister demanding of the dominant carrier insofar as slot availability, ticket counter availability and all the other things necessary at airports across the country? What is he demanding from Air Canada in the interests of consumers? What demands is he making of Air Canada about price gouging?

We recently noticed that Air Canada increased the prices by 3% to address the increased fuel costs in Canada where there is no competition, but it did not apply the increases to international flights where there is competition. This is a very serious issue that is already coming to the table.

The minister, as we speak, is negotiating behind closed doors with Air Canada to determine what concessions will be made to protect consumers and what regulations will be devised to assist Air Canada to become the national airline that it wants to be, and that is a monopoly.

Just exactly what conditions is the minister demanding of Air Canada with respect to divestiture of regional airlines, price protection for consumers, protection for regional airports, protection for discount airlines and all the things that we need in the country to protect consumers and make sure that we have a good, viable format for airline passengers to travel in the country at competitive prices?

Minimum SentencesAdjournment Proceedings

6:55 p.m.

Thunder Bay—Atikokan Ontario


Stan Dromisky LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of Transport

Madam Speaker, the government has been entirely clear and transparent in its approach of using the Competition Tribunal, not only while the section 47 order is in place, but in the future.

On August 30 the government sought the advice of the commissioner of competition on how to address competition concerns under the most likely scenarios. The report was made public on October 26.

The government policy framework, which the Minister of Transport announced on October 26, proposes a permanent process for dealing with mergers and acquisitions involving Air Canada and Canadian Airlines in which the Competition Tribunal will play a major role.

The new review process foresees a proposal being tabled simultaneously with the Competition Tribunal, the Canadian Transportation Agency and the Minister of Transport.

The Competition Tribunal will make its findings known to the Minister of Transport. Armed with this information from the tribunal, the Minister of Transport will determine what additional conditions would be required to address transportation public policy objectives and the general public interest.

With this information as a guide, the Competition Tribunal and the Minister of Transport will proceed to negotiate remedies directly with the parties. The applicants will then revise their proposals to include undertakings to meet remedies negotiated with the tribunal and the conditions negotiated on behalf of the minister. This process will only be completed if the applicant has successfully demonstrated to the Canadian Transportation Agency that it was owned and controlled by Canadians.

The minister will complete the process by preparing a recommendation to the governor in council for approval. It is clear that it is not the Minister of Transport who will have the final say on major airline restructuring. It is the government itself.

Minimum SentencesAdjournment Proceedings

6:55 p.m.


Gordon Earle NDP Halifax West, NS

Madam Speaker, on October 21 of this year in the House the Minister of National Defence stated:

Scientific studies to this point have not indicated that depleted uranium and illnesses including cancer are in fact related.

Is the minister aware of what the famous epidemiologist, Dr. Rosalie Bertell, has to say about depleted uranium? She says:

DU is highly toxic to humans, both chemically as a heavy metal and radiologically as an alpha particle emitter which is very dangerous when taken internally.

Upon impact, the DU bursts into flames. It produces a toxic and radioactive ceramic aerosol that is much lighter than uranium dust. It can travel in the air tens of kilometres from the point of release, or settle as dust suspended in the air waiting to be stirred up by human or animal movement.

It is very small and can be breathed by anyone from babies and pregnant women to the elderly and the sick. This radioactive and toxic ceramic can stay in the lungs for years, irradiating the surrounding tissue with powerful alpha particles. It can affect the lungs, gastrointestinal system, liver, kidneys, bones, other tissues and renal systems.

The A-10 Warthog is capable of firing 4,200 rounds of this abomination every minute. The U.S. government has suggested that almost one million rounds of this radioactive toxic casing were fired in Iraq during the Gulf War. Iraq has witnessed explosive rates of stillbirths, children born with defects, childhood leukemia and other cancers, in particular near the Basara region where these shells were fired.

Dr. Bertell states the following about DU:

It is most likely a major contributor to the Gulf War Syndrome experienced by the veterans and the people of Iraq.

NATO launched a potentially devastating environmental offensive in Kosovo. It bombed the largest medical factory in Yugoslavia when it bombed the Galenika pharmaceutical complex, releasing highly toxic fumes. NATO bombed the petrochemical complex in Pancevo, releasing huge amounts of chlorine, ethylene dichloride and vinyl chloride monomer. The same day it hit an ammonia supply company.

In his response to my question on this issue at an earlier date, the government representative even admitted “Some of our NATO allies are using this type of ammunition”.

That says it all. We are a part of NATO and thus we are responsible for NATO's actions. It is up to the government to do the right thing and say no to the use of this deadly toxin in any and all of NATO's actions.

Furthermore, the Minister of National Defence should commit to Canadians that he will do everything in his power to ensure that NATO fully complies with the UN Balkan environmental task force investigation into depleted uranium use in Kosovo.

This was the essence of my question to the minister. What were we doing to ensure that NATO complies with that investigation? Anything less than the minister doing this is simply deplorable.

But this crisis is not relegated only to foreign soil. It is despicable that our government some years back had been silently disposing of toxic and lethal nuclear waste by firing it into our coastal waters off Halifax and therefore into our food system.

I ask that this government produce a complete and public accounting of all DU stocks, including every instance that DU shells have been fired in Canadian territory or by Canadians abroad. I further call upon the government to follow up on any public health risks or concerns with respect to those Canadians who may have been exposed to depleted uranium while serving our country.

I would hope that the parliamentary secretary, in response, would give an update as to the UN Balkan environmental task force investigation and what the minister has done to ensure that NATO complies so that the health and safety of human beings in Kosovo is respected.

Minimum SentencesAdjournment Proceedings

7 p.m.

Pontiac—Gatineau—Labelle Québec


Robert Bertrand LiberalParliamentary Secretary to Minister of National Defence

Madam Speaker, I am sure that everyone in the House would join me in expressing our gratitude and admiration to all Canadian forces personnel deployed in Kosovo.

Canada's contribution to the air campaign was significant and our NATO allies recognize the role played by our CF-18s. This conflict proved that the Canadian forces have the training and the equipment necessary to participate in an intensive and complex military campaign alongside our allies.

Multipurpose combat capable forces are the cornerstone of Canada's defence policy. Canada's operations in Kosovo demonstrate the real payoffs resulting from the investments the Canadian forces have made in equipment, such as precision guided munitions for the CF-18s, as well as our Coyote reconnaissance vehicles, Griffon helicopters and Bison armoured personnel carriers.

Today more than 1,400 Canadian forces personnel are deployed in Kosovo as part of the Kosovo force, KFOR. They are working hard to create a stable and secure environment through policing, implementing UN mandated arms control agreements, delivering humanitarian aid, restoring public services and helping to re-establish civilian institutions.

There have been concerns raised over the use of depleted uranium ammunition in Kosovo. It should be noted that Canada's CF-18s have never used depleted uranium munitions. Moreover, there are no plans to purchase or use such ammunition in the future.

None of the scientific work published to this day supports a link between exposure to depleted uranium munitions and illness in the gulf war veterans, including cancer and birth defects.

Ensuring the safety and well-being of the men and women in the Canadian forces is one of our highest priorities. An environmental assessment was conducted at all camps used by Canadian forces personnel in Kosovo to ensure that their living quarters are safe.

Minimum SentencesAdjournment Proceedings

7:05 p.m.

The Acting Speaker (Ms. Thibeault)

A motion to adjourn the House is now deemed to have been adopted. Accordingly, the House stands adjourned until tomorrow at 2 p.m., pursuant to Standing Order 24(1).

(The House adjourned at 7.06 p.m.)